What Tackleton Revealed to the Carrier by Luigi Rossi (93). 1912. 11.1 x 11 cm. Dickens's The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy Tale of Home (A and F Pears edition). 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: "He saw her with the old man " (quoted verbatim from the facing page).

Context of the Illustration: What John saw in the Gallery

He saw her, with the old man — old no longer, but erect and gallant — bearing in his hand the false white hair that had won his way into their desolate and miserable home. He saw her listening to him, as he bent his head to whisper in her ear; and suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery towards the door by which they had entered it. He saw them stop, and saw her turn — to have the face, the face he loved so, so presented to his view! — and saw her, with her own hands, adjust the lie upon his head, laughing, as she did it, at his unsuspicious nature! ["Chirp the Second," 82]

Commentary: A Case of Adultery?

Rossi completely reverses the Household Edition's orientation of the illustration of this same moment by Fred Barnard (see below). Rossi does not focus on the putative "lovers" Dot and Edward, and instead foregrounds the tense response of John ("the old man") to what Tackleton shows him transpiring in the gallery. In What Tackleton Revealed to the Carrier, Rossi has transformed a realistic, comic scene (Barnard's Suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery) in which the old school friends are chatting amiably, unaware that their meeting is being observed; now, realism gives way to Impressionism.

Rossi, who focuses on John's extreme reaction, obscures what is actually happening on the other side of the glass. He tenses his body and makes a fist, so that his whole pose betokens possible violence. I n the Barnard illustration these two men appeared merely amusing because their extreme reaction was clearly unwarranted; but here Rossi creates genuine drama out of the onlookers' serious, overwrought responses that generate considerable suspense. And the obscuring darkness of the night scene suggests strong John's frame of mind and  foreshadows possible violence towards the handsome young stranger who seems to be on intimate terms with John's young wife.

Other Relevant Illustrations of Tackleton's Revelation

Left: Doyle's version of John's long night of anguish, headnote illustration Chirp the Third, the direct consequence of the misunderstood scene in the gallery. Centre: Leech's version of the scene in which John wrestles with his conscience: John's Reverie (1845). Right: Brock's line-drawing focusses exclusively on Dot and Edward, and excludes the watchers: . . . saw her . . . adjust the Lie upon his head (1905).

Barnard's Household Edition revelation of the Old Stranger as a handsome youth, clasping Dot around the waist as Tackleton and John watch: Suffering him to clasp her round the waist, as they moved slowly down the dim wooden gallery (1878).

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 24 April 2020

Last modified 23 May 2020