Dunn addressing the Mob (May 1858) by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), twenty-third serial illustration for Charles Lever's Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Time, Part 12 (June 1858), Chapter XLV, "The Run for the Gold," facing page 362 [first regular illustration of Vol. II]. Supported Lady Augusta and her father in the background, Dunn eloquently defends the bank's solvency, but Phiz is much more interested in depicting the exuberant responses of the mob assembled outside the Ossory Bank at Kilkenny than he is in the voice that carries the scene in the text.

Bibliographical Note

This appeared as the twenty-third serial illustration for Charles Lever's Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Time, steel-plate etching; 4 by 6 ¾ inches (9.7 cm high by 17.3 cm wide), vignetted. The story was serialised by Chapman and Hall in monthly parts, from July 1857 through April 1859. The twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth illustrations in the volume initially appeared in reverse order at the very beginning of the twelfth monthly instalment, which went on sale on 1 June 1858. This number included Chapters XLV through XLVII, and ran from 353 through 384.

Passage Illustrated: Dunn's August 12th Speech to Counter "The Run for the Gold"

When the window opened, and Davenport Dunn appeared on the balcony, the wild roar of the multitude made the air tremble; for the cry was taken up by others in remote streets, and came echoing back, again and again. I have heard that consummate orators — men practised in all the arts of public speaking — have acknowledged that there is no such severe test, in the way of audience, as that mixed assemblage called a mob, wherein every class has its representative, and every gradation its type. Now, Dunn was not a great public speaker. The few sentences he was obliged to utter on the occasions of his health being drunk cost him no uncommon uneasiness; he spoke them, usually, with faltering accents and much diffidence. It happens, however, that the world is often not displeased at these small signs of confusion — these little defects in oratorical readiness — in men of acknowledged ability, and even prefer them to the rapid flow and voluble ease of more practised orators. There is, so to say, a mock air of sincerity in the professions of a man whose feelings seem fuller than his words, — something that implies the heart to be in the right place, though the tongue be but a poor exponent of its sentiments; and lastly, the world is always ready to accept the embarrassment of the speaker as an evidence of the grateful emotions that are swaying him. Hence the success of country gentlemen in the House; hence the hearty cheers that follow the rambling discursiveness of bucolic eloquence!

If Mr. Dunn was not an orator, he was a keen and shrewd observer, and one fact he had noticed, which was that the shouts and cries of popular assemblages are to an indifferent speaker pretty much what an accompaniment is to a bad singer, — the aids by which he surmounts difficult passages and conceals his false notes. Mr. Hankes, too, well understood how to lead this orchestra, and had already taken his place on the steps of the door beneath.

Dunn stood in front of the balcony, Lord Glengariff at his side and a little behind him. With one hand pressed upon his heart, he bowed deeply to the multitude. “My kind friends,” said he, in a low voice, but which was audible to a great distance, “it has been my fortune to have received at different times of my life gratifying assurances of sympathy and respect, but never in the whole course of a very varied career do I remember an occasion so deeply gratifying to my feelings as the present. (Cheers, that lasted ten minutes and more.) It is not,” resumed he, with more energy, — “it is not at a moment like this, surrounded by brave and warm hearts, when the sentiments of affection that sway you are mingled with the emotions of my own breast, that I would take a dark or gloomy view of human nature, but truth compels me to say that the attack made this day upon my credit — for I am the Ossory Bank — (loud and wild cheering) — yes, I repeat it, for the stability of this institution I am responsible by all I possess in this world. Every share, every guinea, every acre I own are here! Far from me to impute ungenerous or unworthy motives to any quarter; but, my worthy friends, there has been foul play — (groans) — there has been treachery — (deeper groans) — and my name is not Davenport Dunn but it shall be exposed and punished. (Cries of “More power to ye,” and hearty cheers, greeted this solemn assurance.) [Chapter XLV, "The Run for the Gold," 361-62]

Commentary: An Engaging Crowd Plate

Although Dunn is the focal character throughout his speech to the Kilkenny mob, Phiz renders him a tiny figure on the balcony, supported by Lord Glengariff and Lady Augusta. Below him, Phiz has sketched in the ornate facade of the Ossory Bank. His focus, then, is not the speaker but the ragtag audience, whose animation and jubilant cries and gestures all betoken the effectiveness of the speech. In other words, Phiz has not focussed upon the speaker, but on the parenthetical material by which Lever, like a dramatist giving stage directions, indicates the impact that the demagogic Dunn has upon his "kind friends," whose cheers punctuate the delivery ten minutes at a time. And, if Phiz loved scenes involving horses, he was at least as attracted to emotional crowd scenes. He depicts through postures and gestures, including the waving and tossing of hats how the Kilkenny "mob" (most of whom seem to wearing middle-class rather than working-class attire) receives his sentiments effusively. Clearly when, adopting the strategy of Mark Antony at Caesar's funeral speech in Julius Caesar, Dunn tells the multitude that he is not a lawyer and does not understand how his enemies could dare to try to break his bank, he is not being entirely truthful:

“I am no lawyer,” resumed Dunn, with vigor, — “I am a plain man of the people, whose head was never made for subtleties; but this I tell you, that if it be competent for me to offer a reward for the discovery of those who have hatched this conspiracy, my first care will be on my return to Dublin to propose ten thousand pounds for such information as may establish their guilt! (Cheering for a long time followed these words.) They knew that they could not break the Bank,—in their hearts they knew that our solvency was as complete as that of the Bank of England itself,— but they thought that by a panic, and by exciting popular feeling against me, I, in my pride of heart and my conscious honesty, might be driven to some indignant reaction; that I might turn round and say, Is this the country I have slaved for? Are these the people for whose cause I have neglected personal advancement, and disregarded the flatteries of the great? Are these the rewards of days of labor and nights of anxiety and fatigue?” [363]

Mob scenes, as we have noted, have always had a special attraction for Phiz, perhaps because he was fascinated by the singular psychology of a mob in which an emotion blows through all the figures like a prevailing wind, which is the wind of history. Several examples of how how conveys a uniform reaction by a disparate group include such Tale of Two Cities illustrations as The Likeness (July 1859) and The Sea Rises (October 1859) and The Rioters with their Spoils in Barnaby Rudge (14 August 1841). Phiz composed a similar kind of scene, with Steerforth as a rebel leader in Steerforth and Mr. Mell (July 1849).

Here in the scene at the town square in Kilkenny, the response of a varied mob of Irish characters, including a Colleen on the pony behind her father (right of centre) and the dancing fellow in fustian, holding his hat in one hand and Shillelagh in the other (down right). Whereas the human auditors exuberantly receive Dunn's platitudes, the pair of stolid ponies are curiously unmoved by the surrounding commotion. In fact, Phiz has worked in three such Shillelaghs and a dozen characteristically Irish hats, as well as a pig (suggestive of urban squalor). The trick of this leading Victorian illustrator in these varied scenes of mob sentiment is individualizing the figures by their postures and actions (such as the two boys who cheer Dunn from a lamp standard, left), a sort of e pluribus unum effect whereby a common passion inspires a collocation of individuals to react as one to Dunn's stirring speech in defence of the Orrory Bank.

Related Materials: Ireland's Troubles

Related Material: Financial Scandals

Working methods

Scanned image by Simon Cooke; colour correction, sizing, caption, and commentary by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose, as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.] Click on the image to enlarge it.


Brown, John Buchanan. Phiz! Illustrator of Dickens' World. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1978.

Lever, Charles. Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Day. Illustrated by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.

Lever, Charles. Davenport Dunn: The Man of The Day. Illustrated by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, June 1858 (Part XII).

Stevenson, Lionel. Dr. Quicksilver: The Life of Charles Lever. New York: Russell & Russell, 1939, rpt. 1969.

Created 31 July 2019

Last modified 6 July 2020