Tony Weller ejects Mr. Stiggins
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
11.3 cm high by 9.5 cm wide, vignetted
Chapter 53 of Dickens's Pickwick Papers
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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It was a beautiful and exhilarating sight to see the red-nosed man writhing in Mr. Weller's grasp, and his whole frame quivering with anguish as kick followed kick in rapid succession; it was a still more exciting spectacle to behold Mr. Weller, after a powerful struggle, immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse-trough full of water, and holding it there, until he was half suffocated. [Chapter LII, "Involving a serious change in the Weller family, and the untimely downfall of the red-nosed man, Mr. Stiggins," pp. 458-59]
Commentary: A Comic Comeuppance
In the final instalment — Parts 19 and 20, which appeared in the November 1837 double number — Phiz has elected to depict a series of comic moments that not associated with Pickwick. These choices imply that Dickens had come to trust Phiz's choices of topics and scenes to illustrate. In Tony Weller ejects Mr. Stiggins, for example, the writer and illustrator act, as it were, as co-presenters of the comic comeuppance of the hypocritical dissenting minister and false "shepherd" of the Emanuel Chapel at Dorking, Surrey. At the borough's venerable Marquis of Granby public house on a tranquil, tree-lined street, coachman and publican Tony Weller, incensed with Stiggins's hypocrisy and manifest greed, gives the alcoholic "pastor" a drubbing and then immerses him in the pub's horse-trough, as a mock baptism, perhaps. The scene depicted occurs shortly after the sudden death of Sam Weller's "mother-in-law" (stepmother), a devoted member of Stiggins's congregation; vulture-like Stiggins hovers over Tony in hopes of securing a bequest, despite the fact that he was inadvertently the cause of her death, since his prolonged, sermonical rant while she was sitting on the grass in the rain listening to him for hours occasioned her catching a severe cold.
Sam, having repaired to his father's pub as soon as he received a letter at London's George and Vulture announcing her death, in the background of the illustration cheers on his incensed father. The coachman's assault seems to be triggered by the alcoholic preacher's helping himself to pineapple rum, sugar, and water on the strength of some sort of financial commitment to the Emanuel he feels sure that Tony's wife, Susan, just buried, has made in her will. Suddenly throwing the hot liquor in Stiggins's face, Tony proceeds to kick him vigorously from the bar, through the passage, and out into the street. Thus, the illustration culminates this operation of comic nemesis.
(Ironically, although his Christianity was compatible with middle-of-the-road Anglicanism throughout his life, in the next decade the author was a regular member of a Unitarian congregation in London.)
The sign above the entrance to the pub in Phiz's illustration designates Tony Weller rather than his wife, Susan, as the publican, reinforcing his connection to the real Moses Pickwick, a tavern-keeper who also operated a stagecoach business from Bath. Gargoyles supporting the ornamental lintel smile appreciatively at the unfolding drama and rough justice that Tony, their owner, exacts. The streaming funereal hatband, Stiggins's hat on the ground, and the overturned wicker basket (right) suggest the energy of Tony's attack. The illustration provides details about the setting — especially about the architectural features of the pub's facade — that the bare text alone does not, so that author and illustrator become, in effect, joint originators of this delightful scene of physical comedy and poetic justice. The red-nosed "shepherd" (a complete mockery of the "Good Shepherd" of the Gospels) appears to be almost comatose as he feebly grips the trough and positions his spindly legs to push himself back.
Although the text focuses on Tony's feelings and actions, the plate encompasses Stiggins's condition, Sam's ebullient response, and the most minute details of the physical setting that Dickens seems to have relied upon Phiz to express, including the pub's bay window of leaded panes and even a straw broom (left) to clean the sidewalk in front of the establishment. This latter detail may betoken Tony's settling his unfinished business with the predatory Stiggins, a catharsis for the long-suffering coachman and the reader alike. Thus, through his vivid realisation of Dickens's scene and his elaboration of the text Phiz enforces the reader's sympathy for the widower and contempt for the hypocritical pastor, who physically is no match for the massive coachman, who has had to restrain his indignation far too long. In this respect, the illustration also prepares the reader for Pickwick's denunciation of the lawyers Dodson and Fogg as "as a well-matched pair of mean, rascally, pettifogging robbers" (Ch. 53, p. 466) in Perker's law offices.
The Comparable Household Illustration of this scene (1873-74)
Left: The American edition's illustration by Thomas Nast that gives us the scene from inside the public house, Resuming his kicking with greater agility than before (1873). Right: Phiz's re-drafted version of the same scene for the Household Edition, Mr. Weller . . . . . immersing Mr. Stiggins's head in a horse-trough. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Other artists who illustrated this work in other editions, 1836-74
- Robert Seymour (1836)
- Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1861)
- Sol Eytinge, Jr. (1867)
- Hablot Knight Browne (1874)
- A selected list of illustrations by Harry Furniss for the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
- Clayton J. Clarke's Extra Illustration for Player's Cigarettes (1910)
- An introduction to the Household Edition (1871-79)
- Illustrators of Dickens's Pickwick Papers in the 1873 Household Edition
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File and Checkmark Books, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1836-37). Illustrated by Robert Seymour and Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman and Hall, 1837.
Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne. The Charles Dickens Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873.
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
Guiliano, Edward, and Philip Collins, eds. The Annotated Dickens. Vol. 1. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1986.
Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.
Lester Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.
Patten, Robert L. "The Art of Pickwick's Interpolated Tales." English Literary History 34 (1967): 349-66.
Steig, Michael. Chapter 2. "The Beginnings of 'Phiz': Pickwick, Nickleby, and the Emergence from Caricature." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. Pp. 24-50.
Vann, J. Don. "The Pickwick Papers, twenty parts in nineteen monthly instalments, April 1836-November 1837." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985. P. 61.
Last modified 2 December 2019