Felix O. C. Darley
11.4 by 10 cm vignetted
Dickens's The Pickwick Papers, as realised in Character Sketches from Dickens (1888).
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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We cannot distinctly say whether it was the prospect of the pipe, or the consolatory reflection that a fatal disposition to get married ran in the family, and couldn't be helped, which calmed Mr. Weller's feelings, and caused his grief to subside. We should be rather disposed to say that the result was attained by combining the two sources of consolation, for he repeated the second in a low tone, very frequently; ringing the bell meanwhile, to order in the first. He then divested himself of his upper coat; and lighting the pipe and placing himself in front of the fire with his back towards it, so that he could feel its full heat, and recline against the mantel-piece at the same time, turned towards Sam, and, with a countenance greatly mollified by the softening influence of tobacco, requested him to 'fire away.' [Chapter 33, Part 12, March 1837]
Although the first appearance of Samuel Weller in the text of the novel was as celebrated throughout the nineteenth century on both sides of the Atlantic as its realisation in Phiz's illustration for July 1836, the arrival of his father, Tony Weller, has not been the subject of later illustrations in the Diamond and Household Editions. Sam's father, the coachman Tony Weller, enters the story comparatively late, as a mere adjunct to Sam's composing a Valentine for a pretty housemaid. Moreover, in the original Phiz illustration The Valentine (March 1837), pipe-smoking Tony in his capacious waistcoat and coachman's hat and coat is a mere caricature rather than, as in Darley's photogravure, an individualized character.
Despite the humour he affords in his marital difficulties and antipathy towards the dissenting minister Stiggins, as seen in The Red-Nosed Man Discourseth, in the original program of illustration by Seymour and Phiz — as befits the episodic structure of a picaresque novel — Tony Weller appears only four times, and these are all concentrated in the second half of the story, between March and November 1837 in the original monthly instalments. Subsequent generations of readers to relished Tony's wiity observations and rough handling of the hypocritical Stiggins that his likeness appeared in busts, mugs, and on the covers of commercial products, as a virtual endorsement of a product as redolent of the jolly Regency era of pre-railway London and the Home Counties.
Darley depicts a philosophical and realistically drawn Tony Weller, proprietor of the Marquis of Granby Inn in Dorking, in a characteristic pose, consuming a tankard of ale. Although the veteran coachman might be in his own public house, he might also be in The Belle Savage, the London coaching inn where Tony Weller starts and ends his coach journeys. However, as he is introduced to the reader of The Pickwick Papers when his son, Sam, is composing a Valentine, the scene is much more likely the travellers' room at The Blue Boar Inn in Leadenhall Market, London.
Relevant Chapman & Hall (1836), Diamond Edition (1867), and Household Edition (1877) Illustrations
Left: Phiz's "The Valentine". Centre: Hablot Knight Browne's With a countenance greatly mollified by the softening influence of tobacco, requested him to "fire away.". Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s "Old Weller and The Coachmen" (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Although not nearly the favourite with readers that his son proved, Dickens and his illustrators recognized that Tony was amusing as an observer of the affairs of his son's employer and a vehicle for delivering the humour and nostalgia associated with such national institutions as the inconvenient stage coach, the comfortable coaching inn, and the ebullient coachman — all then rapidly disappearing in the dawn of the Railway Age. Whereas his fellow Americanillustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior, regarded Tony as a member of a comic and somewhat distorted species, depicting him with his comrades at the conclusion of the novel, Darley has depicted him as individual, soberly counselling his son against his own mistake: marrying. Sam's presence is implied by his coat (right).
Background to the 1888 Character Sketches
In 1888, Darley (or, more properly, Darley's estate) published with Porter and Coates thirteen elegant character studies in a collector's folder rather than a book, a selection which reveals not merely the fin de siècle taste in Dickens's works, but also those characters that continued to hold a fascination for the aged illustrator. In the American Bookseller for Christmas 1888 the Philadelphia publishers advertised two "folios" with view to the Christmas book trade:
No. One (6 illustrations) I. Sam Weller [as introduced by Hablot Knight Browne]. II. Tony Weller [drinking at The Marquis of Granby]. III. Fagan [sic] and the Oliver Twist. IV. Nancy, Oliver, Bill Sikes, and Bullseye. V. Mrs. Joe and her tickler on the rampage. VI. Pip teaching Joe his letters in the kitchen.
No. Two (7 illustrations) VII. Little Nell and her Grandfather in the churchyard. VIII. Dick Swiveller and Quilp. IX. Barnaby Rudge and Grip the raven. X. Hugh and Dolly Varden. XI. Old Rudge and John Willet. XII. Caleb Plummer and His Blind Daughter. XIII. Mine host of "The Nutmeg Grater" [Benjamin Britain, with Clemency Newcome].
Although the prints are uncaptioned, the advertisement gives the names of the characters and the books from which they come:
Porter and Coates' New Books. Character Sketches from the Works of Charles Dickens. By F. O. C. Darley. Folio No. 1, Size 19x23 $6.00 Containing six magnificent illustrations carefully reproduced from the original drawings. Old Weller, from Pickwick Papers. Barnaby Rudge, from Barnaby Rudge. Oliver Twist and Fagan [sic], from Oliver Twist. Joe Gargery and Pip, from Great Expectations. Mine Host of "The Nutmeg Grater," from The Battle of Life. Little Nell and her Grandfather, from The Old Curiosity Shop.
Folio No. 2, Size 19x23 $6.00 Containing seven magnificent illustrations carefully reproduced from the original drawings. Sam Weller, from The Pickwick Papers. Hugh and Dolly Varden, from Barnaby Rudge. Bill Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver, from Oliver Twist. Mrs. Gargery on the rampage, from Great Expectations. Caleb Plummer and his blind daughter, from Cricket on the Hearth. Dick Swiveller and Quilp, from Old Curiosity Shop. Old Rudge and John Willet.
But a few months before his death, Mr. F. O. C. Darley, the greatest American book illustrator, commenced what he intended should be the crowning monument of his artistic career — a series of drawings of some of the characters which Dickens has made immortal. Each novel was to be taken up in turn, and two or three of the most prominent characters selected which should faithfully represent the great series of familiar characters who owe their existence to the master mind of English literature. Mr. Darley's heart was in the work, and every detail was thought out, and drawn with a loving hand; and when the first sketches were shown to the critics all acknowledged that Mr. Darley had surpassed his previous efforts, and had thoroughly caught the spirit of Dickens himself. Sam Weller and his father were speaking likenesses, and Barnaby Rudge was never better drawn by any artist living or dead. In their way The Pickwick Papers, Barnaby Rudge, the Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and Christmas Stories had each furnished their quota to the great picture gallery, and the companion of the great work was eagerly anticipated, when Mr. Darley's sudden and unexpected death cut short his life's work, and almost the last thought of the dying man was his regret that he did not live to complete the Dickens illustrations, a regret which be shared by all who see the brilliant work which he had already done on them. [American Bookseller, 1888, p. 314]
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Bolton, Theodore. The Book Illustrations of Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1951). Worcester, Mass: American Antiquarian Society, 1952.
"Charles Dickens, Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Illustrated from Drawings by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon & Co." New York Times. 19 December 1863. http://www.nytimes.com/1863/12/19/news/charles-dickens-works-charles-dickens-household-edition-illustrated-drawings-fo.html?pagewanted=2
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Il. Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). London: Chapman and Hall, 1837.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Il. F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 18 vols. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Pitz, Henry C. "Chapter Three: Talent in the Valley."The Brandywine Tradition. New York: Weathervane, 1968. Pp. 20-32.
"Porter and Coates' New Books. Character Sketches from the Works of Charles Dickens by F. O. C. Darley. American Bookseller. New York and London: Nicolas R. Mohachesi, December 1888. P. 314. http://books.google.ca/books?id=ltFOAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA314&lpg=PA314&dq=darley's+character+sketches+from+Dickens&source=bl&ots=8aPYbypoTJ&sig=HMYXnLSdsdnWrMXsG2p4fdSrbHY&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2emuU-yJIqnf8gGG0IG4Cw&ved=0CDEQ6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=darley's%20character%20sketches%20from%20Dickens&f=false. Accessed 28 June 2014.
F. O. C.
Last modified 18 July 2014