Old Curiosity Shop by Thomas Worth in the first Household Edition volume, published by Harper & Bros., New York (1872), 7: 4 1⁄16 x 5 ¼ inches (10.4 x 13.4 cm) framed.Chapter XII of Dickens's
Passage Anticipated: Leaving London at Dawn in June
Right: Harry Furniss's character study of Nell and her grandfather on the highroad: The Wanderers in his 1910 series.
It was the beginning of a day in June; the deep blue sky unsullied by a cloud, and teeming with brilliant light. The streets were, as yet, nearly free from passengers, the houses and shops were closed, and the healthy air of morning fell like breath from angels, on the sleeping town.
The old man and the child passed on through the glad silence, elate with hope and pleasure. They were alone together, once again; every object was bright and fresh; nothing reminded them, otherwise than by contrast, of the monotony and constraint they had left behind; church towers and steeples, frowning and dark at other times, now shone in the sun; each humble nook and corner rejoiced in light; and the sky, dimmed only by excessive distance, shed its placid smile on everything beneath.
Forth from the city, while it yet slumbered, went the two poor adventurers, wandering they knew not whither. [Chapter XII, 47]
Commentary: The Morning of the Trents' Departure
Right: The derivative title-page vignette for the American "New Illustrated Library Edition," Vols. VI and VII: The Wanderers and Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness (1876).
The plate, appearing at the head of Chapter One but dealing with the close of the twelfth chapter, underscores the odd relationship between the well-meaning but utterly incapable grandparent and his determined grandchild, who plays the custodial role as she attempts to escape from Quilp and keep her grandfather away from gambling. Nell 'must act as his guide, and, despite his lifetime of living in London, must guide them out of the western suburbs (as signified by the garden wall, right) and into the country.
In the original Phiz illustration, Nell and her grandfather are still in central London. Worth uses a deserted high road and a garden wall in place of the ruinous doorway (right), to suggest that the pair hope to enjoy a fresh start in life. Nell is taking them away from everything she has ever known, even though burdened by her physically and mentally decrepit grandfather, because she knows that the shop is about to be sacked by Quilp and his odious minions. But, especially to Dickens's first readers in Master Humphrey's Clock, the effect must have been one of intense defamiliarisation, as the lifeless street in no way reflects the Londoner's experience of the City, even at 7:00 A. M.
Phiz's iconic realisation of Nell's escape from London and the sexual designs of the odious dwarf: The Pilgrimage Begins (Part 8: 27 June 1840).
Another Pertinent Illustrations of the Wanderers (1867)
Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s depiction of the weary travellers, stopping to rest and looking back on Lodon in the distance: Little Nell and Her Grandfather (1867).
Relevant Illustrations from various editions
- O. C. Darley's Little Nell and her Grandfather (1888)
- O. C. Darley's Dick Swiveller and Quilp (1888)
- O. C. Darley's "Do I love thee, Nell," said he; "say do I love thee, Nell, or not?" (Frontispiece, Vol. 1, 1861)
- O. C. Darley's The Fugitives (Frontispiece, Vol. 2, 1861)
- O. C. Darley's "Marchioness, your health. You will excuse my wearing my hat . . ." (Frontispiece, Vol. 3, 1861)
- Kyd's Player's Cigarette Card watercolours, Nell (1910)
- Harry Furniss's lithographs, Characters in the Story (1910)
Scanned images and text 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.]
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Last modified 4 October 2020