An Especially Festive Gathering by Luigi Rossi (81). 1912. 10.3 x 15 cm. Dickens's The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy Tale of Home, A and F Pears, in which most of the plates have titles in the "List of Illustrations" (11-12) that do not correspond to the captions beneath the illustrations themselves. Here, for example, a quotation augments the short title, and points to the exact moment that Rossi has illustrated: "They changed the current of the conversation, and diverted the general attention to the Veal and Ham-Pie, the cold mutton, the potatoes, and the tart." (a condensed version of a passage at the top of the next page).

Context of the Illustration: Mrs. Fielding holds forth

As these remarks were quite unanswerable — which is the happy property of all remarks that are sufficiently wide of the purpose — they changed the current of the  conversation, and diverted the general attention to the Veal and Ham-Pie, the cold mutton, the potatoes, and the tart. In order that the bottled beer might not be slighted, John Peerybingle proposed To-morrow: the Wedding-Day; and called upon them to drink a  bumper to it, before he proceeded on his journey.

For you ought to know that he only rested there, and gave the old horse a bait. He had to go some four or five miles farther on; and when he returned in the evening, he called for Dot, and took another rest on his way home. This was the order of the day on all the Pic-Nic occasions, had been, ever since their institution.

There were two persons present, besides the bride and bridegroom elect, who did but  indifferent honour to the toast. One of these was Dot, too flushed and discomposed to  adapt herself to any small occurrence of the moment; the other, Bertha, who rose up  hurriedly, before the rest, and left the table. ["Chirp the Second," 82]

Commentary: A Muted Pic-Nic

Rossi does not focus on the querulous Mrs. Fielding, even though her candid remarks about her daughter's impending marriage contribute to the character comedy. In contradiction to the precedent created by Leech, Rossi minimizes her presence at the Plummers' pre-wedding pic-nic. He positions John's large bottles of beer and the leg of mutton (Tackleton's contribution) prominently on the Plummers' worktable, and he distributes the nine figures equally around it. The artist omits the much-discussed "Veal and Ham-Pie" (76), as well as Caleb's "wooden bowl of smoking potatoes" and the "nuts and oranges, and cakes" (77). As in the text, Mrs. Fielding, as mother-of-the-bride and pinnacle of the social pyramid, sits at the head of the table ("the Post of Honour"), right. Rossi distinguishes her, too, by her "genteel" (and presumably old-fashioned) cap and gloves. However, he offers no visual satire of her as John Leech and E. C. Brock do in their illustrations of her (see below).

The text confirms that Tilly is staring about her at the toys and dolls, but otherwise it does not offer us any guidance as to which character is where. Although we cannot see his face to confirm the identification, the figure just right of centre is probably the prospective son-in-law, Tackleton, and logically beside him would be May Fielding; however, as the white-haired figure with the pipe is probably Caleb, the woman between him and Tackleton could well be Bertha. We can be confident in identifying the standing figure holding a baby as Tilly Slowboy and the man seated between her and Caleb as John. The two remaining young women would therefore be Dot (in dark dress, right of centre) and May. In the background Rossi has faintly sketched in the great fireplace and various toys to suggest that this is same room he realised in Caleb Plummer's Working Room (56). The artist seems to use this tranquil group study to underscore the absence of a crucial character, the Old Stranger (Edward Plummer in disguise, as we are shortly to learn). Rossi, like Fred Barnard, actually shows him in What Tackleton Revealed to the Carrier).

Other Relevant Illustrations of Mrs. Fielding in State

Left: Leech's version of the scene in which the mother of the bride has her say: Mrs. Felding's Lecture (1845). Right: Brock's line-drawing focussing exclusively on Mrs. Fielding: Infallible domestic recipes and precepts (1905).

Illustrations for the Other Volumes of the Pears' Centenary Christmas Books (1912)

Each contains about thirty illustrations from original drawings by Charles Green, R. I. — Clement Shorter [1912]

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. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

_____. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by A. E. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

_____. The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy Tale of Home. Illustrated by John Leech, Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Edwin Landseer. Engraved by George Dalziel, Edward Dalziel, T. Williams, J. Thompson, R. Graves, and Joseph Swain. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1846 [December 1845].

_____. A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth. Illustrated by C. E. [Charles Edmund] Brock. London: J. M. Dent, 1905; New York: Dutton, rpt., 1963.

_____. The Cricket on the Hearth. Illustrated by L. Rossi. London: A & F Pears, 1912.

Created 22 April 2020

Last modified 23 May 2020