Joe Willet and Dolly Varden
18 cm. by 12.2 cm.
From Character Sketches from Dickens, facing p. 66 (illustrating Barnaby Rudge)
Scanned image, caption, and commentary below by Philip V. Allingham
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Bernard W. Matz's Original Introduction to the Scene from Barnaby Rudge (A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty)
Barnaby Rudge is an historical novel, and, as the second title indicates, a story of the Protestant riots of l780. We believe it to be most accurate as regards its historical setting; indeed, evidence exists to prove this. But Dickens created some of his best characters in those who are not historical figures, and their personalities brighten what might otherwise have been a sordid picture. Barnaby and, his raven, the Vardens, the Willets, Miggs — all are of the Dickens mould; and the scene when Joe Willet bids Dolly good-bye, which Mr. Copping has illustrated, serves as a typical instance of the power and artistry which pervades the book.
Philip V. Allingham's Commentary
Even so charming and sympathetic a young woman as Dolly Varden, daughter of the London locksmith Gabriel Varden, could at times be a coquette, enjoying her power over such young men as the handsome Joe Willet, son of the proprietor of The Maypole Inn near Chigwell. For his choice of scene, Copping in this instance had a ready-made model from Phiz's original illustration for the serialized version of the novel, "Joe Bids Dolly Good-bye" (chapter 31, in part 17 of the serial in Master Humphrey's Clock (5 June 1841). The scene which Phiz had set theatrically in the forge (on the way to the parlour) in the locksmith's London home business, The Golden Key, with fireplace, anvil, and tools, contracts in Copping's version into an examination of the young couple. Indeed, the posing of the figures in similar, suggesting that Copping was interested in pictorial continuity rather than a radical reinterpretation. However, whereas Dolly (equally self-absorbed in both illustrations) plays with her hair-ribbon in Phiz's steel engraving, in Copping's lithograph she toys with her apron, suggesting this narrative moment:
'Is this all you say!' cried Joe.
All! Good gracious, what did the man expect! She was obliged to take her apron in her hand and run her eyes along the hem from corner to corner, to keep herself from laughing in his face; — not because his gaze confused her — not at all. [ch. 31]
Only after Joe has said a reluctant farewell to an undemonstrative Dolly does the reader become aware of the presence of Sim Tappertit, varden's self-centred apprentice, who in Phiz's plate seems delighted with the discomfiture and departure of his chief rival (upper left, behind the chimney in the Phiz plate). The focus in Copping's plate is thus not the irony of the situation nor the scene's place in the narrative-pictorial sequence, but rather the tender anguish, stoically disguised, of the handsome Joe Willet, the coquettish beauty of Dolly, both dressed very much in the upper-middle class fashions of the late eighteenth century. The viewer is reminded of the scene's labouring context by the vice (upper left) and the forge's hood, immediately above Dolly's elegant headgear, paid for by her father's trade.
Later, rescued by Joe from the Gordon rioters along with Mr. Haredale and his daughter, she marries Joe, who has lost an arm in defence of his country. The young husband and wife restore the ransacked inn to its former convivial state.
Matz, B. W., and Kate Perugini; illustrated by Harold Copping. Character Sketches from Dickens. London: Raphael Tuck, 1924. Copy in the Paterson Library, Lakehead University.
Last modified 12 April 2009