In the Same Place
Felix O. C. Darley
10.1 x 8.5 cm vignetted
Dickens's Pickwick Papers, Riverside Edition, the second half of the second volume, facing page 53.
The debtors' prison in which John Dickens was incarcerated when his son Charles was just twelve — The Marshalsea — gave the writer plenty of personal experience on which to draw for Pickwick's misadventures in the Fleet Rison in The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. [Commentary continued below.]
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Here Mrs. Weller let fall some more tears, and Mr. Stiggins groaned.
"Hollo! Here’s this unfortunate gen'lm'n took ill agin," said Sam, looking round. "Vere do you feel it now, sir?"
"In the same place, young man,' rejoined Mr. Stiggins, 'in the same place."
"Vere may that be, Sir?" inquired Sam, with great outward simplicity.
"In the buzzim, young man," replied Mr. Stiggins, placing his umbrella on his waistcoat.
At this affecting reply, Mrs. Weller, being wholly unable to suppress her feelings, sobbed aloud, and stated her conviction that the red-nosed man was a saint; whereupon Mr. Weller, senior, ventured to suggest, in an undertone, that he must be the representative of the united parishes of St. Simon Without and St. Walker Within.
"I'm afeered, mum," said Sam, "that this here gen'l'm'n, with the twist in his countenance, feels rather thirsty, with the melancholy spectacle afore him. Is it the case, mum?"
The worthy lady looked at Mr. Stiggins for a reply; that gentleman, with many rollings of the eye, clenched his throat with his right hand, and mimicked the act of swallowing, to intimate that he was athirst. [Chapter 45, "Descriptive of an affecting Interview between Mr. Samuel Weller and a Family Party. Mr. Pickwick makes a Tour of the diminutive World he inhabits, and resolves to mix with it, in Future, as little as possible," page 53, second half of vol. 2]
The shades of the prison house lift somewhat in the comic interlude between the "red-nosed man," the hypocritical nonconformist minister Mr. Stiggins (centre), and his detractors, coachman Tony Weller (right) and his street-wise son, Sam (left). As Bentley, Slater, and Burgiss note,
'Without' and 'Within' refer to the City [of London's] boundaries are found as parts of names of streets and churches. Stiggins is Simon (St Simon the Zealot or perhaps Simon Pure) to all appearance, but Walker (cockney slang for 'humbug') in reality. [The Dickens Index, 226]
The difficulty for the illustrator lies in conveying this duplicity with subtlety, rather than rendering Stiggins an overblown drunkard. In the August 1837 instalment, Phiz depicted the very same snuggery scene in Pickwick Papers, The Red-nosed Man Discourseth, and forty years later in the Household Edition revised it in the realistic manner of the sixties as Mr. Stiggins, getting on his legs as well as he could, proceeded to deliver an edifying discourse for the benefit of the company (1874). In the American Household Edition, political cartoonist Thomas Nast realizes much the same scene, but far less naturally, in Mr. Stiggins raised his hands, and turned up his eyes (1873), exaggerating for a gross comic effect.
Darley's ensemble study realizes each of the characters which the pictorial tradition established by the book's second illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne, a tableau vivant manner, suggestive of a promotional theatrical photograph. As a realist, Darley perhaps takes the scene too seriously, for Stiggins is, as Ebenezer Scrooge would say, a "humbug": he is merely feigning illness, just as Sam is merely pretending to be solicitous for the dissenting minister's health. On the other hand, Darley's Mrs. Weller (left) is suitably concerned about the well-being of the Shepherd of the Brick Lane Flock — and her sardonic husband, every inch a coachman in his dress (even to the extent of carrying a long-handled whip indoors), suitably suspicious. Such satires of hypocritical clerics go all the way back to Chaucer's Monk and Friar in The Canterbury Tales, and were revivified by the advent of Methodism in the eighteenth century and teetotalism (1833). Perhaps the least satisfactory aspect of Darley's well organized composition is the snuggrey itself, for it contains no tables, flagons, tankards, or even bottles. The orderly environment is hardly that of the chaotic misery and slovenliness of Discovery of Jingle in the Fleet, elements captured so well by Phiz in his 1837 caricature of the sermonizing hypocrite, whom Darley nonetheless effectively realizes in this illustration and the Preparations for Supper frontispiece of 1861, set in the Dorking public house run by the Wellers. That Darley features Stiggins as the subject of two of his four illustrations for Pickwick Papers invests the reprobate with an importance disproportionate to his relatively minor comic role in the novel, but the mid-nineteenth-century American illustrator must have felt the satirical figure of Stiggins in shabby black clerical suit more pertinent to contemporary society than the farcical companions of the bumbling but well-meaning Pickwick.
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. F. O. C. Darley. Volumes 1 and 2 [originally four volumes in the 1861 Household Edition]. The Riverside Edition. New York and Cambridge, Mass.: Hurd and Houghton, and Riverside, 1872.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. Thomas Nast. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873.
Dickens, Charles. The Pickwick Papers. Il. Phiz. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
F. O. C.
Last modified 21 February 2014