"Might you be married now?;" asked the captain, when he had had some talk with this new acquaintance
E. G. Dalziel
14 x 10.6 cm framed.
Dickens's Christmas Stories, the Chapman and Hall Household Edition, page 88 [See commentary below].
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For Captain Jorgan to sit anywhere in his long-skirted blue coat and blue trousers, without holding converse with everybody within speaking distance, was a sheer impossibility. So the captain fell to talking with the fishermen, and to asking them knowing questions about the fishery, and the tides, and the currents, and the race of water off that point yonder, and what you kept in your eye, and got into a line with what else when you ran into the little harbour; and other nautical profundities. Among the men who exchanged ideas with the captain was a young fellow, who exactly hit his fancy — a young fisherman of two or three and twenty, in the rough sea-dress of his craft, with a brown face, dark curling hair, and bright, modest eyes under his Sou'wester hat, and with a frank, but simple and retiring manner, which the captain found uncommonly taking. "I'd bet a thousand dollars," said the captain to himself, "that your father was an honest man!"
"Might you be married now?"asked the captain, when he had had some talk with this new acquaintance.
"Going to be?"said the captain.
"I hope so."
The captain's keen glance followed the slightest possible turn of the dark eye, and the slightest possible tilt of the Sou'wester hat. The captain then slapped both his legs, and said to himself —"Never knew such a good thing in all my life! There's his sweetheart looking over the wall!" [Chapter One, "The Village," p. 86-87]
A Message from the Sea: A Drama in Three Acts was written by the original novella's authors, Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, so that they might assert their dramatic copyright to their December 1860 Christmas story. They actually went so far as to publish their treatment (the eight-page text's title-page states that it was published by "G. Halsworth at the office of All the Year Round, 1861"). However, according to Bolton, it is not a full-blown dramatic adaptation, but a mere brochure, "an outline of the plot printed for dramatic purposes" (cited in Bolton, 414). Nevertheless, after the publication of the novella in the 1860 Extra Christmas Number of All the Year Round, the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, immediately mounted an unauthorised production for presentation on 14 January 1861 with C. H. Hazlewood's adaptation. Dickens and Collins threatened legal action against the Britannia's manager, Mr. Lane, with the upshot that the Hazlewood adaptation remained both unperformed and unpublished. Subsequently published in Dicks' Standard Plays, No. 459, was John Brougham's version, written for the American stage, and therefore outside the scope of Dickens's dramatic copyright. The cover of the Dicks' version is far more dramatic than the prosaic wood-engraving by E. G. Dalziel, who may have seen the pulp-paper publication prior to 1877.
The only other illustration of the novella occurs in the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910): Captain Jorgan by Harry Furniss is a decidedly more animated and engaging realization of the same moment in the text, when the Yankee sea-captain meets the younger Raybrock brother, Alfred, in the harbour at Steepways. Neither the American Household Edition nor the Illustrated Library Edition contains any picture to accompany this seafaring mystery, which was not attempted by the editors of the Diamond Edition volume of 1867. Perhaps neither the Illustrated Library Edition nor the American Household Edition contains an illustration for the 160 Christmas story because so little of the novella can be attributed exclusively to Dickens. Edward G. Dalziel's uninspired and unconvincing dual study of Captain Jorgan and Alfred Raybrock for the 1877 Household Edition may have influenced Furniss's choice of subject, although certainly not his manner of execution.
The version of the story in the British Household Edition is somewhat abbreviated, there being just three chapters: "The Village," "The Money," and "The Restituition," curiously designated "Chapter V" while the others are "Chapter I" and "Chapter II" respectively. As published in All the Year Round, A Message from the Sea in 1860 included a series of interpolated short stories by Harriet Parr, Wilkie Collins, Wilkie's brother, Charles Collins, Henry Chorley, and Amelia B. Edwards, under the heading "The Club-Night," the third chapter, which the Charles Dickens Library Edition like the Household Edition omits entirely, but again retaining Collins's "The Money" (chapter 2, at least partly written by Dickens) — adding "The Seafaring Man" (chapter 4), before the concluding fifth chapter, "The Restitution." Both Deborah A. Thomas and Lilian Nayder note the scholarly dispute about how much Dickens and Collins wrote, with Harry Stone arguing that even the introductory piece, "The Village," is probably not entirely by Dickens, and that Dickens's hand may be detected in "The Seafaring Man."
The provenance of the chapters is not significant in that, in his 1877 illustration, Edward Dalziel has chosen to realise an obviously Dickensian moment featuring the young fisherman, Alfred Raybrock, and his fiancée, Kitty, and the loquacious Salem sea captain Jonas Jorgan against the backdrop of the quaint North Devon fishing village of Steepways, in a region through which Collins and Dickens themselves travelled to soak up local colour for the story.
According to Bentley et al. in The Dickens Index, the central figure in the composition and the dominating voice of the novella, Jonas Jorgan, who delivers the message from the sea (that is, in a bottle) to the young fisherman Alfred Raybrock, is based on Dickens's friend "Captain Elisha Ely Morgan (d. 1864) of the American merchant service, a man known and loved by many in the world of art and letters" (136), including painter J. M. W. Turner. The real-life Yankee seafarer, born in Connecticut, made his fortune in whaling; Dickens told Hannah Brown that his Jonas Jorgan was "exactly like the man." He is also the ideal Collinsian amateur sleuth who with good humour and indirection gets to the bottom of the mystery of the missing money — and of the brother, Hugh, lost at sea. His "Chuzzlewitticisms" and Yankee expressions render him irresistibly engaging, especially in contrast the rather pallid Alfred.
Neither stolid figure in the Dalziel illustration is of much interest — nor has the illustrator been successful in conveying an impression of the maritime backdrop of the story, so that Steepways is behind the viewer, and the two figures effectively block the view of the harbor on the English Channel. While his staid characterization of Alfred Raybrock relies heavily on the fisherman's hat, Dalziel is technically faithful to the textual description of the yankee skipper, even down to the incongruous Wellington boots:
That he was; and so outspeaking was the sailor in him, that although his dress had nothing nautical about it, with the single exception of its colour, but was a suit of a shore-going shape and form, too long in the sleeves and too short in the legs, and too unaccommodating everywhere, terminating earthward in a pair of Wellington boots, and surmounted by a tall, stiff hat, which no mortal could have worn at sea in any wind under heaven; nevertheless, a glimpse of his sagacious, weather-beaten face, or his strong, brown hand, would have established the captain’s calling. Whereas Mr. Pettifer — a man of a certain plump neatness, with a curly whisker, and elaborately nautical in a jacket, and shoes, and all things correspondent — looked no more like a seaman, beside Captain Jorgan, than he looked like a sea-serpent. 
Given Jorgan's prominence in the introduction, underscored by his position in the Dalziel and Furniss illustrations, one might reasonably expect that his racey yankee accent would dominate the entire narrative; in fact, as Thomas notes, this is "the first of the Christmas numbers with a framework written in the third person" (90), signaling a greater interest in plot than in characterization.
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.
Bolton, Philip. Dickens Dramatized. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books and The Uncommercial Traveller. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 10.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller and Additional Christmas Stories. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Junior. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All The Year Round". Illustrated by Townley Green, Charles Green, Fred Walker, F. A. Fraser, Harry French, E. G. Dalziel, and J. Mahony. The Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1868, rpt. in the Centenary Edition of Chapman & Hall and Charles Scribner's Sons (1911). 2 vols.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories from "Household Words" and "All the Year Round". Illustrated by E. G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller, Hard Times, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Il. C. S. Reinhart and Luke Fildes. The Household Edition. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. The Uncommercial Traveller. Illustrated by E. G. Dalziel. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877.
Scenes and characters from the works of Charles Dickens; being eight hundred and sixty-six drawings, by Fred Barnard, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz); J. Mahoney; Charles Green; A. B. Frost; Gordon Thomson; J. McL. Ralston; H. French; E. G. Dalziel; F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes; printed from the original woodblocks engraved for "The Household Edition.". New York: Chapman and Hall, 1908. Copy in the Robarts Library, University of Toronto.
Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.
Last modified 26 April 2014