These attentions were directed, not towards him, but to a young lady, who just then appeared at the foot of the steps by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 353. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Patten notes that the "theory" that the tales are mere padding originated with Walter Dexter and J. W. T. Ley in 1936; "it has been accepted, with slight modifications, by Edgar Johnson, John Butt and Kathleen Tillotson, and the editors of the Pilgrim Edition of Dickens' letters" (349). Patten cites evidence that two of the nine short stories ("Prince Bladud" and the second bagman's) were not previously composed, but written expressly for the serial instalments in which they appeared. Further, "Dickens emphasizes the tales to a degree inconsistent with their being inserted merely as stopgap measures" and "there are in the novel indications that the interpolation of these tales was part of an artistic design" (350).

Thomas defends the stories as "dickens' concentrated experimentation with the link between short stories and the realm of the imagination," stipulating that eight of the nine reveal that Dickens was "deliberately working with the subject of some kind of imaginative deviation from everyday thinking" (20). She identifies such "deviations" as including the uncanny, "abnormally intense emotions" (20), "financial, physical, and marital ruin" (20), lunacy, psychopathic rage, a relentless desire for vengeance, "the supernatural animation of lifeless objects" (21), the supernatural, the preternatural, and the whimsical. In short, she defends the presence of the nine stories as exhibitions of Dickens's interest in examining abnormal mental states and his long-held belief in the power of what he termed "fancy, analogous to the remote-from-actuality quality that he believed flourished so freely in the fairy tales and tales of the uncanny familiar to him as a child" (21).


The Ghostly Passengers in the Ghost of a Mail. (Sept. 1837).

The original serial illustration entitled "The Ghostly Passengers in the Ghost of a Mail," with its archaic costume and caricature of the villain, the hero, and the distressed lady of romance, involved visually burlesquing the fiction of Sir Walter Scott. In redrafting the image for translation into woodcut, Phiz has rearranged the figures so that a more realistic and less alcoholic Jack Martin, through whose eyes the scene is described, appears to the left rather than the right. The lantern and package at the bottom left of the 1873 woodcut are centre in the 1837 engraving, and the heads of the muffled figures atop the coach are actually cut off as Phiz has reconfigured a vertically oriented plate (12.5 cm high by 10.5 cm wide) to a horizontal woodcut measuring 11 cm high by 13.7 cm wide. The redrafted version does not merely move objects around, however; rather, it models all five principal figures much more realistically so that, whereas only the lady in dress is uncaricatured in the 1837 engraving, in the 1873 woodcut even the villainous henchman in top boots (centre) is not distorted in either face or form (like his hideous 1837 counterpart), and his sword is of a much more believable scale. However, Phiz shows less of the Edinburgh-London mail coach, and places the guard in an odd position (right), whereas in the earlier plate he is loading his blunderbuss (left). In order to bring the figures forward, Phiz has eliminated the open door of the carriage (despite the text's specifying it), but he has retained the eighteenth-century costumes: "large, broad-skirted, laced coats with great cuffs and no collars; and . . . great formal wigs with a tie behind" (343). Thus, in balance the overall effect of the redrafting is not unpleasing as the focal character is more natural, and therefore more normative than the Jack Martin of the September 1837 engraving. Since the illustration occurs some ten pages later than the passage illustrated, Phiz has had to assume that the reader of the Household Edition would not simply be able to compare the image with the text on the facing page, but rather would have to thumb through the book to review the text realised.

Passage illustrated:

"'This," said the guard, pointing to an old-fashioned Edinburgh and London mail, which had the steps down and the door open. 'Stop! Here are the other passengers. Let them get in first.'

"As the guard spoke, there all at once appeared, right in front of my uncle, a young gentleman in a powdered wig, and a sky-blue coat trimmed with silver, made very full and broad in the skirts, which were lined with buckram. Tiggin and Welps were in the printed calico and waistcoat piece line, gentlemen, so my uncle knew all the materials at once. He wore knee breeches, and a kind of leggings rolled up over his silk stockings, and shoes with buckles; he had ruffles at his wrists, a three-cornered hat on his head, and a long taper sword by his side. The flaps of his waist- coat came half-way down his thighs, and the ends of his cravat reached to his waist. He stalked gravely to the coach door, pulled off his hat, and held it above his head at arm's length, cocking his little finger in the air at the same time, as some affected people do, when they take a cup of tea. Then he drew his feet together, and made a low, grave bow, and then put out his left hand. My uncle was just going to step forward, and shake it heartily, when he perceived that these attentions were directed, not towards him, but to a young lady who just then appeared at the foot of the steps, attired in an old-fashioned green velvet dress with a long waist and stomacher. She had no bonnet on her head, gentlemen, which was muffled in a black silk hood, but she looked round for an instant as she prepared to get into the coach, and such a beautiful face as she disclosed, my uncle had never seen — not even in a picture. She got into the coach, holding up her dress with one hand; and as my uncle always said with a round oath, when he told the story, he wouldn't have believed it possible that legs and feet could have been brought to such a state of perfection unless he had seen them with his own eyes.

"But, in this one glimpse of the beautiful face, my uncle saw that young lady had cast an imploring look upon him, and that she appeared terrified and distressed. [The Household Edition by Chapman & Hall, Chapter 49, p. 343-44]

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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Formatting by George P. Landow. [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. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874; New York: Harpers and Brothers, 1874.

Last modified 11 March 2012