Dick Swiveller and Quilp, from 'The Old Curiosity Shop'
Felix O. C. Darley
11.4 by 10 cm vignetted
Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop, as realised in Character Sketches from Dickens (1888).
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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With this view, he drew back the lock very silently and softly, and opening the door all at once, pounced out upon the person on the other side, who had at that moment raised the knocker for another application, and at whom the dwarf ran head first: throwing out his hands and feet together, and biting the air in the fulness of his malice.
So far, however, from rushing upon somebody who offered no resistance and implored his mercy, Mr Quilp was no sooner in the arms of the individual whom he had taken for his wife than he found himself complimented with two staggering blows on the head, and two more, of the same quality, in the chest; and closing with his assailant, such a shower of buffets rained down upon his person as sufficed to convince him that he was in skilful and experienced hands. Nothing daunted by this reception, he clung tight to his opponent, and bit and hammered away with such good-will and heartiness, that it was at least a couple of minutes before he was dislodged. Then, and not until then, Daniel Quilp found himself, all flushed and dishevelled, in the middle of the street, with Mr Richard Swiveller performing a kind of dance round him and requiring to know 'whether he wanted any more?'
"There's plenty more of it at the same shop," said Mr. Swiveller, by turns advancing and retreating in a threatening attitude, "a large and extensive assortment always on hand — country orders executed with promptitude and despatch — will you have a little more, sir — don't say no, if you'd rather not." — Chapter XIII, p. 106-107 in the Penguin Edition; Household Edition, vol. 1, p. 149-150.
Whereas the original serial illustration, Mr. Swiveller's Pugilistic Skill, involves a Regency dandy raising his fist and a dwarf looking suspiciously like a caricature of Shakespeare's Richard the Third grabbing his assailant's leg with one hand while futilely attempting to defend himself with the other (his short cane unavailable as a means of defence), the seventh Darley character sketch shows the two separated. In Darley's reworking of Phiz's original, the London street, shown in aerial perspective, recedes into the distance, the tenements in the background containing shops at the ground level. In Darley's version an alarmed Mrs. Quilp is the sole spectator, and the door-knocker and entrance of the Quilp dwelling is absent, as are the three bystanders (right in the earlier plate). As a realist Darley has drawn his figures in the round and avoided caricature as he shows the aftermath of the assault captured in the original illustration. Dick makes a pugilistic gesture as he shifts his weight to his left foot, prepareds to strike again. Quilp is dazed, struggling to get up. So violent has the assault been that Quilp has apparently lost his shoe in the fray, and (according to Darley) is far more disoriented than the text suggests. However, Darley has undercut the physical comedy by making Quilp a real person rather than a caricature dwarf.
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Bolton, Theodore. The Book Illustrations of Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1951). Worcester, Mass: American Antiquarian Society, 1952.
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865. 3 vols.
Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. Household Edition. 22 vols. Illustrated by Charles Green. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. Vol. 12.
Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. (1841). Illustrated by Hablot Knight Brown, George Cattermole, Daniel Maclise, and Samuel Williams. London: Penguin, 2000.
Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop (1841). Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 5.
Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 17.
F. O. C.
Last modified 17 August 2014