". . . but as she has been there once, this morning, perhaps you'll excuse her" (1905), a half-page illustration for "Chirp the Third," 7 cm by 9.5 cm, vignetted (p. 205), is Brock's replacement for the final plate in the 1845 sequence, John Leech's The Dance, which somewhat improbably brings all the characters back on stage for a curtain call, so to speak, a scene that betrays Dickens's interest at the time in seeing the novella produced on the stage. Although they may well have been responding to different stage adaptations of the novella, both fin de siecle illustrators Charles Edmund Brock and Harry Furniss may have been reflecting upon Dion Boucicault's Dot, a spectacular adaptation which was popular throughout the last four decades of the nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic, the one coinciding with the production of both sets of illustrations being that at London's Garrick Theatre in December 1903. However, Furniss, a great afficiando of things Dickensian, might well have attended the 1906 production at Terry's Theatre, and seen the D. W. Griffith film in 1909.

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Passage Illustrated

But, now, the sound of wheels was heard again outside the door; and somebody exclaimed that Gruff and Tackleton was coming back. Speedily that worthy gentleman appeared, looking warm and flustered.

"Why, what the Devil's this, John Peerybingle!" said Tackleton. "There's some mistake. I appointed Mrs. Tackleton to meet me at the church, and I'll swear I passed her on the road, on her way here. Oh! here she is! I beg your pardon, sir; I haven't the pleasure of knowing you; but if you can do me the favour to spare this young lady, she has rather a particular engagement this morning."

"But I can't spare her," returned Edward. "I couldn't think of it."

"What do you mean, you vagabond?" said Tackleton.

"I mean, that as I can make allowance for your being vexed," returned the other, with a smile, "I am as deaf to harsh discourse this morning, as I was to all discourse last night."

The look that Tackleton bestowed upon him, and the start he gave!

"I am sorry, sir," said Edward, holding out May's left hand, and especially the third finger; "that the young lady can't accompany you to church; but as she has been there once, this morning, perhaps you'll excuse her." — Chapter Three, "Chirp the Third," p. 204-205.

Commentary: Tackleton the Frustrated Bridegroom

C. E. Brock, working in 1905, had several possible models for his extended program of illustration for the 1845 novella, but none offered him scenes involving Tackleton's learning that the long-lost Edward had just married May Fielding, robbing him of the young bride he expected to marry that morning. Subsequently, however, Harry Furniss provided a more theatrical interpretation of the culminating episode in the romantic comedy, Tackleton's Wedding Day! (1910). Wearing a flower in his lapel to signify his role as bridegroom, Edward Plummer (still in his nautical uniform) holds out May Fielding's hand to display the wedding ring, at which Tackleton stares in a mixture of shock and disgust. A masterful touch on Brock's part is giving May her own distinct reaction, perhaps fear at offending the curmudgeonly employer. Tackleton, too, wears a flower in his lapel, in preparation for the ceremony that now will not transpire. In contrast to Edward's abundant hair, having removed his hat to the woman he thought he was about to marry, Tackleton reveals thinning hair and a receding hairline indicative of middle age and underscoring his unsuitability as the bridegroom for the young woman, despite his obvious signs of affluence, the coat and silk hat. And yet there is no display of hostility on either side as Edward, now victorious, smiles benignly at his erstwhile rival.

Related Illustrations in Other Editions

Left: detail from John Leech's "The Dance"; centre, Fred Barnard's "After dinner, Caleb sang the song about the Sparkling Bowl"(1878); right: detail from Barnard's view of Tackleton in the Plummers' workshop. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Right: Harry Furniss's 1910 pen-and-ink drawing transferred to lithograph, Tackleton's Wedding Day! (1910). [Click on image to enlarge it.]


Bolton, H. Philip. Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

___. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books, illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.

___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.

___. 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.

___. Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Dickens, Charles. The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home. Illustrated by John Leech, Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Edwin Landseer. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1845.

Last modified 19 October 2015