The Cricket" — Tailpiece for "Chirp the Second" uncaptioned, unindexed thumbnail illustration by Luigi Rossi (95). 1912. 4 x 9.5 cm. Dickens's The Cricket on the Hearth. A Fairy Tale of Home, A and F Pears, 95.

Context of the Illustration: John's response to what he saw in the Gallery

"A moment!" said Tackleton. "Can you bear to look through that window, do you think"

"Why not?" returned the Carrier.

"A moment more," said Tackleton. "Don’t commit any violence. It’s of no use. It’s dangerous too. You’re a strong-made man; and you might do murder before you know it."

The Carrier looked him in the face, and recoiled a step as if he had been struck. In one stride he was at the window, and he saw ——

Oh Shadow on the Hearth! Oh truthful Cricket! Oh perfidious Wife! ["Chirp the Second," 92]

Commentary: A Case of Adultery?

This is just one of three plates which do not appear in the "List of Illustrations" (11-12), and do not have captions beneath them. Here Rossi uses an image of a cricket as a tailpiece to mark the transition from the complications of "Chirp the Second" to the resolutions of "Chirp the Third."

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).

Rossi adds this enigmatic touch to the Household Edition illustration of Dot's supposed "betrayal" of her husband with the handsome young man by Fred Barnard; Rossi has just realized the same moment, but in a very different manner. He has not focussed on the putative "lovers" Dot and Edward, and instead has foregrounded 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.

Dickens has invoked the spirit of the guardian of domestic harmony, the Fairy Cricket, in suggesting that Dot is “perfidious.” The effusion prepares readers for John's agonizing all night before the cold fire about what he should do, and whether he should employ his shotgun on the adulterous youth disguised as the "Old Stranger." The cricket appears again in Rossi illustration of the Carrier with his gun, John Approaches the Stranger's Door with a Gun in his Hand (99). Whereas Tackleton tempts John to violence, the Cricket seems to be acting as a moderating influence. Although Dickens invokes the Cricket as "truthful" in having revealed the Stranger as a shadow on the hearth earlier, in The Apparition that the Carrier did not see (50), the pernicious toymaker and not the Spirit of the Hearth has suggested that John should respond to the situation with violence.

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).

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 18 July 2020