Susan Nipper and Mr. Dombey by Harry Furniss in The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) — from Chapter XLIV, "A Separation," (9.5 x 14.7 cm; 3 ¾ x 5 ¾ inches, framed) occupies its own page, facing IX, 608. Caption: "It's not the first time I have heard it, not by many and many a time you don’t know your own daughter, sir, you don’t know what you’re doing, Sir, I say to some and all," cried Susan Nipper, in a final burst, "that it’s a sinful shame!" [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Susan Nipper assails Mr. Dombey for being an uncaring parent

Phiz's depiction of Florence's having to part with her assertive maid after Susan has confronted the father about his lack of empathy for his daughter: Florence parts from a Very Old Friend (November 1847).

"Is there anybody there?" cried Mr Dombey, calling out. "Where are the men? where are the women? Is there no one there?"

"I left my dear young lady out of bed late last night," said Susan, nothing checked, "and I knew why, for you was ill, sir, and she didn’t know how ill and that was enough to make her wretched as I saw it did. I may not be a Peacock; but I have my eyes — and I sat up a little in my own room thinking she might be lonesome and might want me, and I saw her steal downstairs and come to this door as if it was a guilty thing to look at her own Pa, and then steal back again and go into them lonely drawing-rooms, a-crying so, that I could hardly bear to hear it. I can not bear to hear it,’ said Susan Nipper, wiping her black eyes, and fixing them undauntingly on Mr. Dombey’s infuriated face. "It’s not the first time I have heard it, not by many and many a time you don’t know your own daughter, sir, you don’t know what you’re doing, Sir, I say to some and all," cried Susan Nipper, in a final burst, "that it’s a sinful shame!"

"Why, hoity toity!" cried the voice of Mrs. Pipchin, as the black bombazeen garments of that fair Peruvian Miner swept into the room. "What’s this, indeed?" [Chapter 44, "A Separation," 630]

Commentary: A Vigorous Approach to the Confrontation Scene

Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s version of the Ch. 44 scene for the forty-year-old American Diamond Edition, with which Furniss may not have been familiar: Mrs. Pipchin and Susan Nipper (1867).

Harry Furniss, working after the turn of the century, had several Victorian precedents that he might have consulted in drawing this confrontational scene. However, the Edwardian reacted theatrically to rather than emulated his chief artistic antecedent, Phiz's November 1847 scene depicting Susan Nipper's departure from the Dombey mansion. Whereas Phiz was being somewhat sentimental, Furniss expresses his admiration for the forthright maid with the sharp tongue, the black-eyed Susan. Indignant at her employer's severe neglect of his virtuous daughter, Susan sharply rebukes Mr. Dombey in his own study. Furniss suggests the sharpness of her admonition by her vigorous accusatory gesture. She is interrupted in her diatribe by the timely intervention of the odious Mrs. Pipchin (right rear), who comes to the emotionally insecure Dombey's rescue. A wonderful touch is Susan's shaking her apron (the sign of her servitude and inferior position as a female in the household) at her startled employer. Dombey twists uncomfortably on his divan, unable either to rise or defend himself from this just criticism.

Pertinent Scenes from The Household Editions (1873 and 1877)

Left: W. L. Sheppard's American Household Edition depiction of Susan's confronting Mr. Dombey in his own study: "That it's a sinful shame." (1873). Right: Fred Barnard's British Household Edition version of the same incident: "Do you call it managing this establishment, madam," said Mr. Dombey, "to leave a person like this at liberty to come and talk to me?" (1877).

Related Material, including Other Illustrated Editions of Dombey and Son

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. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by W. L. Sheppard. The Household Edition. 18 vols. New York: Harper & Co., 1873.

__________. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Fred Barnard [62 composite wood-block engravings]. The Works of Charles Dickens. The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877. XV.

__________. Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. IX.

__________. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). 8 coloured plates. Rpt. from the 1848 Chapman and Hall edition. London and Edinburgh: Caxton and Ballantyne, Hanson, 1910.

Created 7 January 2021

last modified 20 February 2022