"No more tea — none!" cried I. — staff artist William Newman's nineteenth composite woodblock engraving for Charles Lever's A Day's Ride: A Life's Romance, first published on 3 November 1860 in Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, Chapter XV, "I Lecture the Ambassador's Wife." 3 ¼ by 3 ½ inches (8 cm by 8.8 mm), framed, on page 701. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: At the Ambassador's Residence in Kalbbratonstadt

On entering the drawing-room, his Excellency presented me to an elderly lady, very thin, and very wrinkled, who received me with a cold dignity, and then went on with her crochet-work. I could not catch her name, nor, indeed, was I thinking of it; my whole mind was bent upon the question, Who could she be? For what object was she there? All my terrible doubts of the morning now rushed forcibly back to my memory, and I felt that never had I detested a human being with the hate I experienced for her. The pretentious stiffness of her manner, the haughty self-possession she wore, were positive outrages; and as I looked at her, I felt myself muttering, “Don't imagine that your heavy black moiré, or your rich falls of lace, impose upon me. Never fancy that this mock austerity deceives one who reads human nature as he reads large print. I know, and I abhor you, old woman! That a man should be to the other sex as a wolf to the fold, the sad experience of daily life too often teaches; but that a woman should be false to woman, that all the gentle instincts we love to think feminine, should be debased to treachery and degraded into snares for betrayal, — this is an offence that cries aloud to Heaven!

“No more tea, — none!” cried I, with an energy that nearly made the footman let the tray fall, and so far startled the old lady that she dropped her knitting with a faint cry. As for his Excellency, he had covered his face with the “Globe,” and, I believe, was fast asleep. [Chapter XV, "I Lecture the Ambassador's Sister," 701; pp. 137-138 in the Chapman and Hall edition]

Commentary: Accounting for Potts's Unaccountable Behaviour

The British ambassador, Sir Shalley Doubleton, at the conclusion of Chapter XIV offers Potts a cup of tea in the drawing-room to share confidences about his distinguished diplomatic career. Again, Potts is in error; this time, he mistakes the ambassador for an emissary from Downing Street (in other words, from the Prime Minister himself). Fortunately, when Potts insults the elderly wife of the ambassador, his host has already fallen asleep.

Quite unaccountably, but perhaps owing to having taken too much wine with his Cuban cigar on the patio, and therefore somewhat inebriated, Potts addresses the ambassador's sister (unknown to him previously) as "Old Woman." Martha Keats (yet to be identified as Miss Herbert's employer) later discretely advises him by hand-delivered note that she has not apprised her brother of Potts's intemperate language. The reader naturally wonders why she has adopted so forgiving a stance to such abuse.

Scanned images 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 photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Brown, Jane E., and Richard Samuel West. "William Newman (1817—1870): A Victorian Cartoonist in London and New York." American Periodicals, 17, 2: "Periodical Comics and Cartoons." (Ohio State University Press, 2007), 143-183. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20770984.

Lever, Charles. A Day's Ride: A Life's Romance. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. Illustrated by William Newman. Vols. IV-V (13 April 1860 through 23 March 1861) in thirty-five weekly parts. Only a dozen of these weekly instalments were illustrated: p. 541 (one), 549 (two), 573, 589, 605, 621, 637, 649, 661, 678, 701, and 714.

_______. A Day's Ride; A Life's Romance. Illustrated by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, 1863, rpt. Routledge, 1882.

_______. A Day's Ride: A Life's Romance. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873.

Lever, Charles James. A Day's Ride; A Life's Romance. http://www.gutenberg.org//files/32692/32692-h/32692-h.htm

Stevenson, Lionel. Dr. Quicksilver: The Life of Charles Lever. New York: Russell & Russell, 1939, rpt. 1969.

Sutherland, John. "Charles Lever." The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. Stanford, Cal.: Stanford U. P., 1989. Pp. 372-374.

Created 12 December 2021

Last updated 25 June 2022