To Charles Dickens, Esq.
My Dear Dickens,

AMONGST the thousands who read and re-read your writings, you have not one who more warmly admires your genius than myself, and to say this, in confidence, to the world, I dedicate to you this story.
Your faithful friend,

Spezia, Dec. 20, 1862.

A Final Popular Novel: Barrington (1863)

His next major novel, Barrington (1862-63) Lever wrote at Spezia, Italy, where he had been British vice-consul since 1858. He was in fact able to transmit his drafts to his publisher, London's Chapman and Hall, through diplomatic pouches. Sutherland, after offering a brief synopsis of the plot, which hinges on the hero's receiving an eleventh-hour inheritance from India, concludes from its formulaic characters and its following the fortunes of a once-great landed Irish family, that Barrington offers "clear evidence of Lever's declining powers in his later career as he began to over-produce, in an attempt to regain his hold on the public" (49). Subsequently Lever turned out Luttrel of Arran (1865),which Phiz dutifully illustrated - his last collaboration with Lever. Rounding out his writing career with three further and unmemorable novels, Lever contributed some racy essays for Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine under the nom de plume "Cornelius O'Dowd." In 1867 he moved to Trieste to take up the the post of consul. Here, serving at his final diplomatic post, he died in 1872.

Chapman and Hall serialised Barrington in twelve monthly  parts from February 1862 to January 1863, publishing the volume just in time (as was the  custom) in time for the Christmas book trade, with the single volume dated 1863. Further  evidence of Lever's decline as a popular novelist is that this was his last to be presented in monthly numbers.

If Dickens had wondered whether splitting with Phiz after A Tale of Two Cities in 1859, the mediocrity of all but the equestrian plates for Barrington must have convinced Dickens that he had made the right choice: "When Dickens received Barrington and saw the tired, derivative illustrations, he must have been more than ever convinced that it was time for a new look for his novels. In 1863 he hired Marcus Stone to illustrate Our Mutual Friend" (Lester, 125).

Although the nickname "Phiz" is inextricably linked with that of "Boz" in the popular imagination, Browne had enjoyed a longer collaborative relationship with the Anglo-Irish novelist, some twenty-six years, as opposed to just twenty-two years with Dickens.  Moreover, after Dickens's breaking with him, Phiz had far fewer commissions; in fact after 1861, the greatest number of novels he illustrated in a single year was three (1865).

Related Material

Related material about Irish History


Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Lever, Charles. Barrington. With 25 engravings by Phiz [Hablột Knight Browne]. London: Chapman and Hall, 1863.

Sutherland, John A. "Barrington." The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction. Stanford, Cal.: Stanford U. P., 1989, rpt. 1990, 48-49.

Created 9 August 2002

Last modified 8 April 2020