"That's the sexton's spade." Chapter LIII of Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop by Thomas Worth in the first Household Edition volume published by Harper & Bros., New York (1872), 167: 4 ⅛ x 5 ½ inches (10.5 x 13.7 cm) framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Nell's Learning about the Sexton's Function

"Oh yes. And tall trees. But they are not so separate from the sexton’s labours as you think."


"Not in my mind, and recollection — such as it is," said the old man. "Indeed they often help it. For say that I planted such a tree for such a man. There it stands, to remind me that he died. When I look at its broad shadow, and remember what it was in his time, it helps me to the age of my other work, and I can tell you pretty nearly when I made his grave."

"But it may remind you of one who is still alive," said the child.

"Of twenty that are dead, in connexion with that one who lives, then," rejoined the old man; "wife, husband, parents, brothers, sisters, children, friends — a score at least. So it happens that the sexton’s spade gets worn and battered. I shall need a new one — next summer."

The child looked quickly towards him, thinking that he jested with his age and infirmity: but the unconscious sexton was quite in earnest. [Chapter LIII, 166]

Related Material about The Old Curiosity Shop

Scanned image 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.]


Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. Illustrated by Thomas Worth. The Household Edition. 16 vols. New York: Harper & Bros., 1872. I.

Created 4 May 2020

Last modified 26 November 2020