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The Card-room at Bath — twenty-eighth steel engraving for Charles Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club; two versions by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne) for the April 1837 (thirteenth monthly) number and the 1838 bound volume; Chapter XXXV, “In which Mr. Pickwick thinks he had better go to Bath; and goes accordingly,” facing page 382. The original illustration is 12.7 cm high by 11.5 cm wide (5 by 4 ½ inches), vignetted. The initial or A engraving of Plate 28, as Johannsen (1956) notes, has a sharper mantle and an elderly man in the background with Lord Dundreary whiskers, and the B plate clearly shows the cards on the table before Pickwick. After "Phiz, del in A1 there is no page number," whereas B2 in the 1838 volume edition has "Phiz, del," followed by the caption The Card Room at Bath (Johannsen, 52). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


  • The card-players
  • The Assembly Rooms' Rococo mirror
  • Angelo Cyrus Bantam, M. C. (left)
  • Passage Illustrated: The Master of Ceremonies introduces Pickwick to Card Devotees

    Poor Mr. Pickwick! he had never played with three thorough-paced female card-players before. They were so desperately sharp, that they quite frightened him. If he played a wrong card, Miss Bolo looked a small armoury of daggers; if he stopped to consider which was the right one, Lady Snuphanuph would throw herself back in her chair, and smile with a mingled glance of impatience and pity to Mrs. Colonel Wugsby, at which Mrs. Colonel Wugsby would shrug up her shoulders, and cough, as much as to say she wondered whether he ever would begin. Then, at the end of every hand, Miss Bolo would inquire with a dismal countenance and reproachful sigh, why Mr. Pickwick had not returned that diamond, or led the club, or roughed the spade, or finessed the heart, or led through the honour, or brought out the ace, or played up to the king, or some such thing; and in reply to all these grave charges, Mr. Pickwick would be wholly unable to plead any justification whatever, having by this time forgotten all about the game. People came and looked on, too, which made Mr. Pickwick nervous. Besides all this, there was a great deal of distracting conversation near the table, between Angelo Bantam and the two Misses Matinter, who, being single and singular, paid great court to the Master of the Ceremonies, in the hope of getting a stray partner now and then. All these things, combined with the noises and interruptions of constant comings in and goings out, made Mr. Pickwick play rather badly; the cards were against him, also. . . . [Chapter XXXV, "In which Mr. Pickwick thinks he had better go to Bath; and goes accordingly," 382]

    Commentary: Welcome to "Ba-ath," where Nobody is "old" and Everybody is fashionable!

    The setting of the novel's twenty-eighth illustration, which appeared in its thirteenth monthly part (April 1837), is significant in that Dickens took the name of his protagonist, according to Paul Davis, from that of the chief coach operator, and the proprietor of the White Hart coaching inn, Moses Pickwick, in Bath in Somerset. The resort had become fashionable when wars with France had kept the British aristocracy from European watering-places, but had already declined when Dickens visited Walter Savage Landor there a few years after including it in The Pickwick Papers. Its eighteenth-century population boom had been directly attributable to the publicising efforts of Richard 'Beau' Nash (1674-1762) who as Master of Ceremonies made the Pump Room (1706, rebuilt in 1795) a tourist destination. The present setting, the Assembly Rooms, designed by neoclassical architect John Wood the Younger, date from 1771. Dickens's Master of Ceremonies, Angelo Cyrus Bantam, undoubtedly owes something to Nash.

    Left to right: (a) The Pump Room Entrance. (b) Taking the Waters at the Pump Room, Bath (c) The Assembly Rooms. [Click on this image for larger pictures.]

    Having lost his court case, Pickwick resolves the raise his spirits by having a holiday at Bath ("Ba-ath," as Angelo Cyrus Bantam, M. C., of the Assembly Rooms is accustomed to say). At the whist-table Mr. Pickwick plays with the elderly spinster Miss Bolo and the Dowager Lady Snuphanuph, both of whom are regulars at the card tables in the Assembly Rooms. The younger woman, with her back towards the viewer in Phiz's first illustration for Part 13, is Mrs. Colonel Wugsby. Immediately to the left of the card table, the Master of Ceremonies, quizzing glass in hand, converses with the two Misses Matinter, Bath spinsters trying hard to look younger by dressing in the current fashion. Despite the excellent background details such as the gassolier and gigantic mirrors in rococo frames, Phiz's principal figure, Pickwick himself, does not seem accurately depicted in that he is not particularly nervous as he chooses which card to play.

    Pickwick, however, is a secondary figure in the card-room scene, for Phiz has given centre stage to the dandified Master of Ceremonies at the Assembly Rooms, Angelo Cyrus Bantam. His angular awkwardness does indeed suggest the strutting of a bantam rooster. Phiz's image of him epitomizes Dickens's as "a charming young man of not much more than fifty." He is a favourite among the mothers who are hoping to secure eligible bachelors as husbands for their daughters, and middle-aged spinsters in search of husbands for themselves, as the juxtaposition of Bantam with the fashionably Misses Matinter (left) suggests.

    The Pickwickians' Bath Adventures in Other Editions (1837-1910)

    Left: Thomas Nast's American Household Edition's engraving for the Chapter XXXV, Having taken a short walk through the city (1873). Right: Phiz's original steel engraving for Chapter XXXV (April 1837) The Card-room at Bath. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

    Left: Harry Furniss's version of Pickwick's card-game at Bath: for Mr. Pickwick at Cards — Losing (1910). Right: The British Household Edition's Bath illustration by Phiz of the card-room is less caricatural, and focuses on the Master of Ceremonies, "Poor Mr. Pickwick! He had never played with three thorough-paced female card-players before (1874). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

    Other artists who illustrated this work, 1836-1910

    Scanned images and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the images, and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


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    Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Adventures of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. 14 vols. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867. Vol. 1.

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    Johnannsen, Albert. "The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club." Phiz Illustrations from the Novels of Charles Dickens. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Toronto: The University of Toronto Press, 1956. Pp. 1-74.

    Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators. 1899. Rpt. Honolulu: U. Press of the Pacific, 2004.

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    Created 5 November 2019

    Last modified 27 March 2024