While I was speaking to him, I saw it open, and a man look in, who very earnestly and mysteriously beckoned to me.
Edward G. Dalziel
13.9 cm high by 10.5 cm wide, framed.
Dickens's "Trial for Murder," Christmas Stories (1877), p. 184.
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I was standing in my bedroom late one night, giving some directions to my servant before he went to bed. My face was towards the only available door of communication with the dressing-room, and it was closed. My servant's back was towards that door. While I was speaking to him, I saw it open, and a man look in, who very earnestly and mysteriously beckoned to me. That man was the man who had gone second of the two along Piccadilly, and whose face was of the colour of impure wax.
The figure, having beckoned, drew back, and closed the door. With no longer pause than was made by my crossing the bedroom, I opened the dressing-room door, and looked in. I had a lighted candle already in my hand. I felt no inward expectation of seeing the figure in the dressing-room, and I did not see it there.
Conscious that my servant stood amazed, I turned round to him, and said: "Derrick, could you believe that in my cool senses I fancied I saw a —" As I there laid my hand upon his breast, with a sudden start he trembled violently, and said, "O Lord, yes, sir! A dead man beckoning!" ["The Trial for Murder," p. 183]
The 1865 Christmas framed tale Dr. Marigold's Prescriptions contained the introduction and conclusion by Dickens himself — and much extraneous material by his staff-writers at All the Year Round. Although "The Trial for Murder," originally entitled "To Be Taken with a Grain of Salt," is often reprinted in volmes devoted to Dickens's short fiction and to Victorian ghost stories (with "Charles Dickens" given as the sole author, it is likely that the piece is a collaborative endeavour by Charles Dickens and his son-in-law, Charles Allston Collins, brother of novelist and Dickensian ampersand Wilkie Collins, who had not contributed any short stories whatsoever to Dickens's seasonal offerings since 1861.
The multi-part story as it originally appeared on 12 December 1865 was a collaborative effort by Dickens's staffers and their "Conductor." The staff-writers who produced five of Doctor Marigold's "prescriptions" are among the least known writers associated with Dickens and his weekly journals. Irish writer Rosa Mulholland (1841-1921) contributed "Not To Be Taken at Bed-Time"; Dickens's son-in-law, the painter and writer Charles Allston Collins, "To Be Taken at the Dinner-Table"; children's writer Hesba Stretton (the pen name of Sarah Smith, 1832-1911), "Not To Be Taken Lightly"; novelist and journalist Walter Thornbury (1828-1876), "To Be Taken in Water"; and Mrs. Gascoyne (probably the novelist Caroline Leigh Smith, 1813-1883), "To Be Taken and Tried." In his 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss seems to have felt that the Doctor Marigold framed story was among the more significant in the two decades of seasonal offerings, for whereas he did not even illustrate The Perils of Certain English Prisoners (1857, Household Words), he provided three illustrations for the Marigold framed-tales, yet only one, for example, for the "two-season" Lirriper stories. No other edition of Christmas Stories contains an illustration for this tale of the supernatural.
Dalziel has configured the tale of supernatural visitation and revenge as a species of "Dark Plate," with the ghost dressed entirely in black, and his face deeply shadowed, framed by the narrator in his patterned dressing-gown (right) and his curious but unknowing valet, brush in hand (left). Dalziel leaves the expression on the narrator's face a matter of conjecture for the reader. In fact, Dickens indicates that the servant, Derrick, has also seen the apparition, and is "amazed." Since the narrator reports that he joined Derrick in a stimulative ("and was to take one myself"), we must assume that the second appearance of the apparition has also shocked the upper-middle-class narrator.
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.
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.
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 8 May 2014