The Laying of the Foundation Stone.
14.3 cm high by 9.5 cm wide vignetted
Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit, Volume 7 of The Charles Dickens Library Edition, Chapter 35, "Arriving in England, Martin witnesses a ceremony, from which he derives the cheering information that he has not been forgotten in his absence," facing p. 576. Dickens's readers would not have been surprised at the coincidental arrival from the United States of Martin and Mark just as the local Member of Parliament is laying the foundation for the grammar school which Martin designed, but whose plans Pecksniff appropriated, his only contribution being four windows.
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In the meantime, the member addressed the company on the gratifying deed which he had just performed.
He said that since he had sat in Parliament to represent the Gentlemanly Interest of that town; and he might add, the Lady Interest he hoped, besides (pocket handkerchiefs); it had been his pleasant duty to come among them, and to raise his voice on their behalf in Another Place (pocket handkerchiefs and laughter), often. But he had never come among them, and had never raised his voice, with half such pure, such deep, such unalloyed delight, as now."The present occasion,"he said, "will ever be memorable to me: not only for the reasons I have assigned, but because it has afforded me an opportunity of becoming personally known to a gentleman—"
Here he pointed the trowel at Mr. Pecksniff, who was greeted with vociferous cheering, and laid his hand upon his heart.
"To a gentleman who, I am happy to believe, will reap both distinction and profit from this field: whose fame had previously penetrated to me—as to whose ears has it not!— but whose intellectual countenance I never had the distinguished honour to behold until this day, and whose intellectual conversation I had never before the improving pleasure to enjoy."
Everybody seemed very glad of this, and applauded more than ever.
"But I hope my Honourable Friend,"said the Gentlemanly member— of course he added "if he will allow me to call him so," and of course Mr. Pecksniff bowed — "will give me many opportunities of cultivating the knowledge of him; and that I may have the extraordinary gratification of reflecting in after time that I laid on this day two first stones, both belonging to structures which shall last my life!"
Great cheering again. All this time, Martin was cursing Mr. Pecksniff up hill and down dale. — Chapter 35, "Arriving in England, Martin witnesses a ceremony, from which he derives the cheering information that he has not been forgotten in his absence," p. 573.
Commentary: Phiz and Furniss Attempt the Same Scene
Having just returned from America, their passage paid through Mark's working as the ship's cook, Martin and Mark discover Pecksniff in a part town (possibly Portsmouth or Liverpool) about to complete the laying of two foundation stones for a new grammar-school. Thus, Pecksniff stands among other pillars of the community, awaiting his moment of recognition and popular endorsement of his status as a master builder, as as "cornerstone" of upper-middle-class society.
Although Fred Barnard in the Household Edition illustration Mr. Pecksniff. Placid, calm, but proud . . . . . gently travelling across the disc, as if he were a figure in a magic lantern, has attempted to show the reaction of Mark and Martin to Pecksniff's coincidental appearance in the high street of the port city, Furniss has clearly based his illustration on one in the original serial, Hablot Knight Browne's January 1844 steel-engraving Martin is Much Gratified by an Imposing Ceremony (Chapter 35), Martin's indignation at Pecksniff's having plagiarized his design being quite the reverse of "gratification." Therefore, any analysis of the Furniss illustration must take into account the original rather than the Fred Barnard version. In the January 1844 single-page illustration, organised around the triangular apparatus for positioning the corner-stone, the local Member of Parliament, standing on a stool to increase his height and dignity (and to assist him in projecting his voice above the heads of the admiring onlookers), gestures appreciatively towards the self-satisfied architect with his left hand as he holds a silver trowel with his right, while a middle-class crowd (largely male), including a beadle (right) and a schoolmaster in an academic gown with his respectable wife (left); Phiz has placed Mark and Martin well to the back on the left-hand side, ready to step forward and expose the architect as a thief, the plans he has appropriated under his arm, still rolled. The second trowel (centre foreground) implies Pecksniff's central role in the ceremony.
Harry Furniss, on the other hand, almost seventy years later and long after the era's social reforms that granted the franchise to the working classes (although not, as yet, to women), foregrounds a wealthy, fashionably-dressed young wife and her daughter who will be the beneficiaries of the new Liberalism, although at this point the Beadle (centre) is gesturing to keep them behind the rope and out of the area occupied by the community's leaders: the slender, swallow-tail-coated member of parliament (left of centre), the mayor and his wife (right of centre) — and Pecksniff, assisted by several schoolboys, fatuously displaying his plans (upper left). The animated M. P. serves as the impresario for this highly staged occasion which includes a band (upper left), and Furniss develops the onlookers (less numerous than in Phiz's composition) as individuals rather than generalised members of a middle-class crowd. Maintaining the old tower and flag in the upper right, perhaps to suggest the grammar school as a time-honoured national institution, Furniss has replaced the schoolmaster and his wife, although these are appropriate to the occasion of the laying of twin cornerstones for the municipal grammar-school, with an elaborately uniformed, corpulent Mayor and his lady (holding a large bouquet) right of centre, and gives the equally substantial Beadle, a uniformed parochial authority figure, a place of prominence and something specific to do: excluding from the ceremony's stage those who are not members of the municipal elite. In analysing Furniss's redrafted version of the Phiz illustration, one naturally wonders where Furniss has situated the normative characters with whom one enters and appraises the gathering: they are now at the right rear, immediately in front of the tower — a switched placement that coincides with the reversal of positions for the M. P. (now left centre, rather than to the right, as in Phiz's composition) and Pecksniff (formerly to the right, now at the forefront of the onlookers to the left). The overall effect of the Furniss illustration is energy and three-dimensional depth of field, with very large figures in the foreground and a diminutive Mark and Martin in the back to suggest the sheer size of the social occasion in which Martin, the designer of the building, is a rank outsider.
The Grammar School, 1840-1910, Phiz to Furniss
>Compulsory elementary education separated from Church of England control was legislated in England and Wales in the year of Dickens's death under the terms of the Endowed Schools Act (1869), so that the institution of the grammar school as a vehicle for a broadened middle-class education (emphasizing as before classical languages — but now including modern European languages, natural sciences, mathematics, history, and geography) was some forty years old by the time that Furniss executed some five hundred drawings for the sixteen volumes of Dickens's works. However, compulsory education for all children to secondary matriculation was quite another matter: England debated this question for several decades, but did not actually formally declare that all children should have access to a secondary education until 1902, just eight years prior to the publication of The Charles Dickens Library Edition. When Dickens wrote Martin Chuzzlewit, the grammar system had just been restructured under the terms of the Grammar Schools Act (1840) made it lawful to apply the income of grammar schools to purposes other than the teaching of classical languages, but change still required the consent of the schoolmaster.
Throughout the nineteenth century, the English grammar school was the middle-class equivalent of the public school, a boarding rather than a "day" school for the "classical" education of "gentlemen" and the preparation of candidates for the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Together the grammar school and the public school maintained the distinctions of the class system in England, assuring a steady supply of civil servants and leaders in church and state respectively to support Britain's empire. Neither system paid much attention to vocational and practical training. And, in either case, secondary schooling was still reserved for an academic and social elite in the United Kingdom until the end of Victoria's reign, and literacy from 1837 to 1902 continued to be what distinguished the bourgeoisie from the proletariat, who learned for the most part "on the job." These institutions together assured social inequality, but, as the grammar school was open to middle-class girls, the grammar school laid the groundwork for female emancipation and enfranchisement. The school that Martin Chuzzlewit designed for Seth Pecksniff probably resembled that at Leeds, and drawn by Percy Robinson for Relics of Old Leeds (1896).
Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1910
Left: Hablot Knight Browne's realisation of the laying of the corner-stone, Martin is Much Gratified by an Imposing Ceremony (Chapter 35, January 1844). Centre: Clayton J. Clartke's watercolour study of the mock-modest architect with the distinctive hairstyle, Mr. Pecksniff (c. 1910). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s portrait of Martin and Mark a year earlier, shortly before they leave Eden, Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Fred Barnard's realisation of the scene in which Pecksniff, plans in hand, passes the taproom window of the inn where the travellers are staying, Mr. Pecksniff. Placid, calm, but proud . . . . . gently travelling across the disc, as if he were a figure in a magic lantern (1872). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 30January 2016