Phiz's Version

decorated initial 'T'he reader may regard the project of setting the ruinous library to rights as analogous to the challenge that Dickens has set the reader to the mediate between the motives and movements of the large cast of characters and to see coherence in the apparently divergent plot-lines. Just as Tom Pinch must tame and organize the jumbled mass of texts, so the reader must discipline the loose, baggy monster (to borrow Henry James's description) of the Victorian picaresque novel into a meaningful shape. Tom Pinch, an organist who in the frontispiece (upon which Phiz was working at the same time as the July 1844 illustrations) signifies the artist, is given this commission by a mysterious benefactor through attorney Fips (glimpsed passing out of the door in "Mysterious Installation of Mr. Pinch"). The Herculean task involves the imposition of order and requires producing a catalogue so that others may access the knowledge contained in the ramshackle collection.

In a series of plates with details providing visual continuity Phiz graphs Tom's progress as organizer and librarian, the unknown employer's providing Tom with the remuneration he requires to set up housekeeping with his sister Ruth, a discharged governess. We first see the room in total chaos, the books forming a Babel-tower on the table just left of centre in "Mysterious Installation of Mr. Pinch" (March 1844), the realisation of the following passage:

Mr. Fips walked out. Tom, standing there among the books with his hat in his hand, was so confounded that John [Westlock, left] laughed heartily at him. (Ch. 39)

Phiz's images of before and after: Left: Mysterious Installation of Mr. Pinch. Right: Mr. Pinch is Amazed by an Unexpected Apparition.

The portrait of a lady (left), the bookshelf (centre), the padded chairs (left and right), and the vase on the small table (extreme right) are elements that will be repeated as the reader judges Tom's progress in imposing order on the dusty rooms over a period of six months. Significant emblems in this initial plate depicting the library include the cobweb (indicative of neglect and disuse), the candlestick and snuffer (signifying an absence of light, and therefore of reason), and the stopped clock. Behind the lively figure of John Westlock is a desiccated stem, implying an absence of vitality.

In "Mr. Pinch is amazed by an unexpected apparition" (June 1844), we see that Tom has been faithful to his commission. Now that Tom has restored order and made sense of the chaos, Old Martin chooses to resolve the mystery of the unknown benefactor by revealing himself in his true colours, not just to Tom but also to the reader. Not a weak, sickly, suspicious, and deluded old man, Old Martin is indeed "vigorous" and in control of his faculties (and, the reader suspects, the plot). In the illustration intended to accompany Ch. 50, the vase now contains blooms, the chairs are upright, the shelves well stocked, and the table's writing implements in good order and ready to use. The bookcase is surmounted by something not seen in the first plate, a classical bust of a blind patriarch or writer, perhaps Homer, Virgil, or Aesop (certainly somebody whose work according to the judgment of posterity has earned him such a memorial, in contrast to numerous busts of Pecksniff that one sees in the novel's earlier illustrations). That the figure represented is Aesop would be appropriate since his fables often involve the exposure of vice, the correction of faulty thinking, the abasement of the proud, and the principle of Nemesis. The textual moment realized is this:

He rose from his chair and half believed he saw a spirit. Old Martin Chuzzlewit, whom he had left at Pecksniff's, weak and sinking! Not the same, for this old man, though old, was strong, and leaned upon his stick with a vigorous hand, while with the other he signed to Tom to make no noise.

More of Phiz's images of before and after: Left: Martin Chuzzlewit suspects the landlady without reason. Right: Warm reception of Mr. Pecksniff by his venerable friend. [Click on thumbnails for larger images.]

That same false or misleading image of Old Martin is brought to mind by the skull cap he wears again in the first of the two July 1844 illustrations, "Warm reception of Mr. Pecksniff by his venerable friend" (Ch. 52). When last seen (in January 1843 illustration "Martin Chuzzlewit suspects the landlady without reason," the second of the first instalment's plates), the cap had implied that he was a dying biblical patriarch in the bedchamber scene at the Blue Dragon, where, exhausted and frail, he had been forced to rest as he and Mary Graham were passing through Pecksniff's village. The bust, bookcase, and painting last seen in Tom Pinch's learning who had commissioned him at the grand emolument of �100 per annum to put the library in order now established that room in the Temple in which Old Martin struggles to contain his indignation. Now, paralleling the foregrounded conflict, Tom struggles to keep the books from tumbling off their shelves, rear left. Although Dickens had specified which characters were to be in the scene, and had even suggested their disposition, he did not mention either the falling books or the skull cap, both of which therefore originated with Phiz.

Despite Tom's efforts, however, two books have already fallen, and a third (untitled) is about to escape John Westlock's grasp: the two bearing titles, Moliere's Le Tartuffe [The Hypocrite] and Milton's Paradise Lost, comment ironically upon Pecksniff's situation. According to Michael Steig these embedded texts signify the duplicitous Pecksniff's finally receiving his just desserts. Like Satan in his last appearance in Paradise Lost, a stunned and shrunken Pecksniff cowers under the blow he is about to receive as the pointing hand of Martin Senior, like that of Urizen as the Creator of the Material World in William Blake's celebrated 1794 watercolour, conveys a sense of the figure's kinetic energy. The dramatic pose of Old Martin implies that, like the Old Testament's Jehovah, he is about to vent his wrath upon the unrighteous. Like William Blake's deity, by the power of his rod the old man will define the future by excluding Pecksniff, just as in the first plate (when we last saw him in his skull cap) he had excluded Mrs. Lupin. His coat streams out behind him as if, like the figures on the Sistine Ceiling, he is inspired by a wind of prophecy. In anger, he strides forward, a towering figure recalling the Old Testament's Jeremiah. Nothing like this sense of energy and this powerful connotation is communicated in Barnard's final illustration for the Household Edition of the 1870s.

Although Phiz's illustration reflects the general disposition of characters as described in Dickens's letter to the artist in June 1844 for the final instalment of the novel, due to be published at the end of that month, matters of costuming and setting, as well as of body language, he has left to Phiz's discretion. At the bottom of this letter, reproduced in the fourth volume of the Pilgrim Letters (1844-1846), p. 141, according to Steig, Phiz has added in pencil:

Mrs. Lupin & Mary — behind Martin's chair.

Yg. Martin on other side.

Tom & his sister.

Old man — Pecksniff

John Westlock & Mark[.] (Dickens and Phiz 77)

And, indeed, Phiz has disposed the figures as instructed, but some forward and others back in order (in contrast to Fred Barnard's "The Fall of Pecksniff") to create the illusion of depth. Mark is recognizable by his unkempt hair, jacket with large lapels, and waistcoat (this is one of those rare occasions in which he is not wearing a hat). Old Martin's raised cane points toward Young Martin, implying that the penitent youth has now displaced the hapless architect as the principal Chuzzlewit heir and favourite. The overturned inkwell about to fall on Pecksniff will only add to his sense of degradation, but it also reminds us that Old Martin will have no further need of ink once he has changed his will in favour of Mary and Martin Junior. Master of the dramatic, Phiz has chosen to capture the moment just before Old Martin strikes Pecksniff, perhaps thinking of the Bernini statue of "David," in which the biblical giant-slayer is caught in the act of discharging his sling, although the textual moment points to the cane's striking Pecksniff:

Old Martin, with his burning indignation crowded into one vehement burst, struck him down upon the ground with a well-directed blow. (Ch. 52)

The illustration, which would have appeared at the very beginning of the serial novel's last monthly number, establishes a sense of expectation that the eager reader can satisfy only by digging into the text to seek not merely an explanation for the scene but also its outcome. Implicit in the illustration, then, are the following questions which only a reading will answer: "Will Old Martin strike a defenceless man? Will Pecksniff be appropriately chastised? And will Old Martin replace Pecksniff with Young Martin as his heir?"

Fred Barnard's Version

The rather static handling of the same subject in Barnard's "The Fall of Pecksniff" is consistent with the sixties style of illustration, particularly as exemplified by the work of George Du Maurier, who usually set up his pictures as if they were realisations of scenes of a play on stage. The illustration by then, however, had come to be more of an adornment to a volume rather than a complement to a serial text. Certainly, the later illustration does nothing to generate excitement and expectation, or to serve as an aide memoire. Generally such a comparison between the styles of two illustrations is not so easily made because Barnard tended to avoid scenes that his predecessor had chosen for a previous generation of readers. A clear exception is "The Fall of Pecksniff," a title which makes explicit the connection between the hypocrite's loss of "most favoured relation" status and Adam's loss of Eden in The Book of Genesis and Paradise Lost. The embedded caption above the fallen Pecksniff, "Fall of. . . ," may be the artist's attempt to relate Pecksniff's ignominious collapse to that of the Bastille, symbol of the infamous Ancien Régime in pre-revolutionary France.

Despite the fact that Barnard has set his scene in a private library, the viewer is hardly conscious of the volumes that line the shelves in the shadowy background, in contrast to the emphatic presence of books in Phiz's earlier rendition of the narrative moment. Whereas Phiz has caught his figures in motion, the walking-stick raised and about to strike the cowering figure, Barnard has brought the cane down, as if Old Martin is about to skewer to the man whom he has already (if we may judge by Pecksniff's rubbing his head) struck. Whereas Phiz has utilized the centre of the picture as the focus of attention, Martin Senior's head and outstretched hand, Barnard fills that space with the old man's gloved hand alone. Whereas the vengeful figure is slightly to the right of centre and shown in full in Phiz's plate, in Barnard's we see the old man in profile. Whereas Old Martin dominates the earlier illustration by virtue of his energy and position, in Barnard's plate our attention is divided between the two largest figures, Old Martin (left, or stage right) and Pecksniff (right, or just left of centre stage).

The figures from the text that Barnard has chosen as the supporting cast are largely male, Mrs. Lupin being present in the upper-left register only for the sake of identifying Mark, beside her. Old Martin puts a protective arm around Young Martin (left), confirming his new status as heir; John Westlock, arms akimbo, stands above Pecksniff in triumph, perhaps not as amused by the proceedings as his counterpart in Phiz's plate. A point of continuity is the face of Pecksniff, which Barnard seems to have copied from Phiz. In Barnard, unconcerned about the books in his charge as in Phiz's illustration, Tom (back to the viewer, right) calmly contemplates the fate of his former teacher, while Ruth, her arm in Tom's, is squeezed out of the frame, right. Barnard's interpretation lacks Phiz's animation and moral conviction. Although all his figures are more substantial and three-dimensional than those of Phiz, Barnard's supporting cast members are jumbled and lack purpose and individuality, and there is little in the later picture of compelling visual interest other than the principals themselves. The overturned stool is such a telling detail in Phiz's plate because, since such an item has been associated with Tom in an earlier plate ("Mr. Pinch and the new pupil on a social occasion"), it not only complements Pecksniff's being overturned as the dominating influence over the old man but also suggests that both Old Martin and Tom Pinch have refused to act as Pecksniff's footstool any longer. We find no such emblematic detailing in Barnard's 1870s composition.


Blake, William. "Urizen as the Creator of the Material World." Europe, A Prophecy. Title Page. Lambeth: Printed by W. Blake, 1794. Rosenwald Collection. Accessed 29 May 2007. william_blake_urizen_as_the_creator_of_the_material_world_1.html

Cohen, Jane R. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 1980.

Dickens, Charles. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated Sterling Edition [with plates by Phiz and Fred Barnard]. Boston: Dana Estes, n. d.

---. The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 4: 1844-1846. Ed. Kathleen Tillotson. Oxford: Clarendon, 1977.

Hammerton, J. A. Ch. 15, "Martin Chuzzlewit." The Dickens Picture-Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrations With 600 Illustrations and a Frontispiece by Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book, 1910. Pp. 266-293.

Harvey, J. R. "Dickens and Browne: Martin Chuzzlewit to Bleak House." Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1970.

Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978.

---. "Martin Chuzzlewit's Progress by Dickens and Phiz." DSA 2 (1972): 119-149.

Related Material

Victorian Web
Overview Victorian Book
Illustration Phiz (Halbot K.
Browne) Charles

Last modified 4 June 2007