And finally the Savage dropped down on one knee, and the maiden stood on one leg on his other knee [Page 127] by Charles Stanley Reinhart (1875), in Charles Dickens's The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Harper & Bros. New York Household Edition, for Chapter XXIII. 10.7 x 13.4 cm (4 ¾ by 5 ¼ inches), framed. Running head: "Merits of The Infant Phenomenon" (127). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: The Crummles' Company's Dance Routine

"They are going through the Indian Savage and the Maiden," said Mrs. Crummles.

"Oh!" said the manager, "the little ballet interlude. Very good, go on. A little this way, if you please, Mr. Johnson. That’ll do. Now!"

The manager clapped his hands as a signal to proceed, and the savage, becoming ferocious, made a slide towards the maiden; but the maiden avoided him in six twirls, and came down, at the end of the last one, upon the very points of her toes. This seemed to make some impression upon the savage; for, after a little more ferocity and chasing of the maiden into corners, he began to relent, and stroked his face several times with his right thumb and four fingers, thereby intimating that he was struck with admiration of the maiden’s beauty. Acting upon the impulse of this passion, he (the savage) began to hit himself severe thumps in the chest, and to exhibit other indications of being desperately in love, which being rather a prosy proceeding, was very likely the cause of the maiden’s falling asleep; whether it was or no, asleep she did fall, sound as a church, on a sloping bank, and the savage perceiving it, leant his left ear on his left hand, and nodded sideways, to intimate to all whom it might concern that she was asleep, and no shamming. Being left to himself, the savage had a dance, all alone. Just as he left off, the maiden woke up, rubbed her eyes, got off the bank, and had a dance all alone too—such a dance that the savage looked on in ecstasy all the while, and when it was done, plucked from a neighbouring tree some botanical curiosity, resembling a small pickled cabbage, and offered it to the maiden, who at first wouldn’t have it, but on the savage shedding tears relented. Then the savage jumped for joy; then the maiden jumped for rapture at the sweet smell of the pickled cabbage. Then the savage and the maiden danced violently together, and, finally, the savage dropped down on one knee, and the maiden stood on one leg upon his other knee; thus concluding the ballet, and leaving the spectators in a state of pleasing uncertainty, whether she would ultimately marry the savage, or return to her friends.

"Very well indeed," said Mr. Crummles; "bravo!" [Chapter XXIII, "Treats of the Company of Mr. Vincent Crummles, and of his Affairs, Domestic and Theatrical," 126]

Commentary: The Historical Jean Davenport and Fictional Ninetta Crummles

American audiences would have recognized Jean Davenport (born in 1829) as the original of Dickens's supposedly ten-year-old "Infant Phenomenon," although Dickens implies that she is at least fifteen when Nicholas and Smike encounter her in Portsmouth. Jean and her parents "visited North America in the late fall of 1838 and remained on the continent for close to a year, with stops in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, New Orleans, Kingston (Upper Canada), and Montreal. The tour was successful and so in the summer of 1840, the Davenports undertook a second lengthy tour of the colonies, this time with additional stops in the Caribbean and the Maritime colonies. The Davenports documented the company’s travels in scrapbooks of varying sizes and shapes, many of which exist today in the Manuscripts Collection at the Library of Congress" (Sweitzer).

Further 'Backstage' Scenes by Phiz, Darley, Eytinge, Reinhart, and Furniss.

Left: The Country Manager Rehearses a Combat (October 1838), in which Phiz introduces Nicholas, Smike, and the reader to the Victorian theatre behind the scenes. Centre: The Great Bespeak for Miss Snevellici, in which the reader must adopt the actors' perspective of the ragtag provincial audience. Right: Nicholas Instructs Smike in the Art of Acting, in which Nicholas's caricatured companion struggles to learn his minor part, despite his friend's best efforts (November 1838).

Left: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's 1861 lithographic frontispiece The Rehearsal (1861). Right: Harry Furniss's 1910 lithograph representing the same scene, Nicholas and Smike behind the Scenes, in the Charles Dickens Library Edition.

Left: Fred Barnard 1875 Household Edition​composite woodblock engraving of the melodramatic dance number: The Indian Savage and the Maiden. Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s portrait of the theatrical family, with the Phenomenon striking a pose: Mr. and Mrs. Crummles and The Phenomenon (1867).

Related material by other illustrators (1838 through 1910)

Scanned image, 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.]


Barnard, J. "Fred" (il.). Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby, with fifty-nine illustrations. The Works of Charles Dickens: The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1875. Volume 15. Rpt. 1890.

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. With fifty-two illustrations by C. S. Reinhart. The Household Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1875.

__________. "Nicholas Nickleby." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings by Fred Barnard et al.. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1908.

Schweitzer, Maria. "Jean Margaret Davenport." Ambassadors of Empire: Child Performers and Anglo-American Audiences, 1800s-1880s. Accessed 19 April 2021. Posted 7 January 2015. .

Created 20 April 2021