The Dismissal of Tom Pinch.
13.3 cm high by 9.7 cm wide, vignetted
Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, Vol. 7 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Chapter 31; illustration The Dismissal of Tom Pinch, facing p. 512. The manly bearing and serious, mature face of Pecksniff's architectural apprentice, contrasting the over-the-top outrage of Pecksniff, offer the reader a fresh perspective on the heretofore timid and acquiescent little clerk, who stoically withstands his pompous employer's accusations. Tom steadfastly keeps his own counsel, and does what he thinks best for young Martin and Mary Graham, even though doing so means losing his situation.
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"From fragments of a conversation which I overheard in the church, just now, Mr. Pinch," said Pecksniff, "between yourself and Miss Graham — I say fragments, because I was slumbering at a considerable distance from you, when I was roused by your voices — and from what I saw, I ascertained (I would have given a great deal not to have ascertained, Mr. Pinch) that you, forgetful of all ties of duty and of honour, sir; regardless of the sacred laws of hospitality, to which you were pledged as an inmate of this house; have presumed to address Miss Graham with un-returned professions of attachment and proposals of love."
Tom looked at him steadily.
"Do you deny it, sir?" asked Mr. Pecksniff, dropping one pound two and fourpence, and making a great business of picking it up again.
"No, sir," replied Tom. "I do not."
"You do not," said Mr. Pecksniff, glancing at the old gentleman. "Oblige me by counting this money, Mr. Pinch, and putting your name to this receipt. You do not?"
No, Tom did not. He scorned to deny it. He saw that Mr. Pecksniff having overheard his own disgrace, cared not a jot for sinking lower yet in his contempt. He saw that he had devised this fiction as the readiest means of getting rid of him at once, but that it must end in that any way. He saw that Mr. Pecksniff reckoned on his not denying it, because his doing so and explaining would incense the old man more than ever against Martin and against Mary: while Pecksniff himself would only have been mistaken in his "fragments." Deny it! No.
"You find the amount correct, do you, Mr. Pinch?" said Pecksniff. "Quite correct, sir," answered Tom.
"A person is waiting in the kitchen," said Mr. Pecksniff, "to carry your luggage wherever you please. We part, Mr. Pinch, at once, and are strangers from this time."
Something without a name; compassion, sorrow, old tenderness, mistaken gratitude, habit: none of these, and yet all of them; smote upon Tom's gentle heart at parting. There was no such soul as Pecksniff's in that carcase; and yet, though his speaking out had not involved the compromise of one he loved, he couldn't have denounced the very shape and figure of the man. Not even then.
"I will not say," cried Mr. Pecksniff, shedding tears, "what a blow this is. I will not say how much it tries me; how it works upon my nature; how it grates upon my feelings. I do not care for that. I can endure as well as another man. But what I have to hope, and what you have to hope, Mr. Pinch (otherwise a great responsibility rests upon you), is, that this deception may not alter my ideas of humanity; that it may not impair my freshness, or contract, if I may use the expression, my Pinions. I hope it will not; I don't think it will. It may be a comfort to you, if not now, at some future time, to know that I shall endeavour not to think the worse of my fellow-creatures in general, for what has passed between us. Farewell!" — Chapter 31, "Mr. Pinch is Discharged of a Duty which He Never Owed to Anybody; and Mr. Pecksniff Discharges a Duty which He Owes to Society," p. 517-518.
In the Pecksniff parlour the architect denounces Tom in front of Old Martin, even as on the facing page Pecksniff, hiding in a church pew, overhears Mary Graham reveal his true character, much to Tom's shock and surprise. As in the text, Old Martin is sitting by the casement window, and Tom has returned from the church, where he has had to lock the casement window through which Pecksniff had exited the building after being locked in by Tom earlier. Adopting a pose of sorrowful indignation, Pecksniff pays him for his services with the coins on the table, accusing Tom of doing to Miss Graham what he himself had tried do, for he had "presumed to address Miss Graham with un-returned professions of attachment and proposals of love" (517).
Furniss elects to realise the moment of Tom's dismissal in the parlour, rather than, as in the Phiz illustrations in the original serial, the apprentice's moment of departure on Pecksniff's steps in Mr. Pecksniff Discharges a Duty Which He Owes to Society (December 1843, Chapter 31). Whereas Fred Barnard in the Household Edition had dwelt upon the humorous aspects of Pecksniff's hypocritical behaviour here, Furniss treats the scene with grave solemnity as it presents the illustrator the opportunity to show Tom's stalwart and upright nature.
Pecksniff's theatricality and central position suggest that he dominates the scene, but Tom neither flinches nor retreats, standing his ground; meanwhile, Old Martin watches wordlessly, assessing the behaviour and character of each adversary. On a drawing-board behind the arch-hypocrite is a haloed angel or saint in a pious pose, underscoring Pecksniff's outward piety. The sideboard behind Tom and Pecksniff is surmounted by a bust of Pecksniff, implying his vanity and egotism. The substantial piece of furniture bears a loving-cup and rondel celebrating Pecksniff's character ("Good Fellowship, Pecksniff"), even as he reveals his true colours at last to Tom — and to Old Martin. In the plate, Tom's clenched left fist may imply his exercising restraint by not punching the humbug whom he has for years thought a good and decent employer. These are precisely the sorts of embedded details and commentary that Phiz was accustomed to employ in his illustrations, but that Fred Barnard and the other Seventies realists rejected.
Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1872
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's depiction of Tom Pinch's leaving Pecksniff's house, Mr. Pecksniff Discharges a Duty Which He Owes to Society (Chapter 31, December 1843). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s study of the virtuous clerk playing the organ, which he does both here and at the end of the book, Tom Pinch (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the same scene, in which Old Martin observes Pecksniff's hypocrisy and Tom's rectitude impassively, "Mr. Pinch," said Mr. Pecksniff, shaking his head, "Oh, Mr. Pinch! I wonder how you can look me in the face!" (1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the comic scene in the village church, when Pecksniff overhears Mary Graham denounce him to Tom Pinch, "I say," cried Tom, in great excitement, "He is a scoundrel and a villain! I don't care who he is, I say he is a double-dyed and most intolerable villain!"(1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 28 January 2016