The Fall of Mr. Pecksniff by Harry Furniss in The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) — from Chapter ​52, "In which the Tables are Turned, Completely Upside Down." 9.3 cm by 14.6 cm, vignetted), facing VII, 832. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

Passage Illustrated: Old Martin's Vengeance

"Horde of unnatural plunderers and robbers!" he continued; "leave him! leave him, I say! Begone! Abscond! You had better be off! Wander over the face of the earth, young sirs, like vagabonds as you are, and do not presume to remain in a spot which is hallowed by the grey hairs of the patriarchal gentleman to whose tottering limbs I have the honour to act as an unworthy, but I hope an unassuming, prop and staff. And you, my tender sir," said Mr Pecksniff, addressing himself in a tone of gentle remonstrance to the old man, ‘how could you ever leave me, though even for this short period! You have absented yourself, I do not doubt, upon some act of kindness to me; bless you for it; but you must not do it; you must not be so venturesome. I should really be angry with you if I could, my friend!"

He advanced with outstretched arms to take the old man’s hand. But he had not seen how the hand clasped and clutched the stick within its gras As he came smiling on, and [as Pecksniff] got within his reach, old Martin, with his burning indignation crowded into one vehement burst, and flashing out of every line and wrinkle in his face, rose up, and struck him down upon the ground. [Chapter 52, "In which the Tables are Turned, Completely Upside Down," 827: the picture's original caption has been emphasized]

Commentary: Improving upon the Treatments of Phiz (1844) and Fred Barnard (1872)

The object of Old Martin's pent-up and now unmitigated fury is the cowering, barely recognizable Pecksniff crammed into the lower left-hand corner, as young Martin attempts to restrain the old man and Tom Pinch (right) looks on dispassionately. Other readily recognizable figures in the dramatic tableau are Mark Tapley (right, above Pecksniff), Mrs. Lupin (beside Mark), John Westlock and Ruth Pinch (beside young Martin), and Mary Graham (between Tom Pinch and Martin). As in Phiz's Warm Reception of Mr. Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend (see below), the illustrator has created a visual finalé in which we meet most of the principal characters for the last time, the glaring exceptions being Montague Tigg and Jonas Chuzzlewit (both now dead) and the boozy sick-room nurse, Sairey Gamp, who, in fact, will shortly appear in the text, accompanied by Bailey and Paul Sweedlepipes.

Over the course of a number of illustrated editions of The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) a number of artists have assailed this climactic scene, so that Furniss had useful precedents in the original version, Phiz's Warm Reception of Mr. Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend (see below, and the Household Edition illustration by Barnard, The Fall of Pecksniff (see below). What Furniss seems to have been determined to attain was a balance between the chaotic and dynamic scene of the old patriarch in Phiz bringing the hypocrite to judgment and the more static, tableau vivant treatment of the same subject by Barnard. Although in the 1872 plate Barnard has brought together nine of the principals, the women are obscured entirely as Tom, the man whom Pecksniff unjustly vilified, stares down at the prostrate figure at the end of Old Martin's cane.

Furniss, then, seems to have striven to inject more action while revealing the faces of all nine characters, each in a unique pose and caught in the midst of the action, with the hat, books, and umbrella and the possessed old man as the vortex, and the cane raised to strike, as in Phiz, rather than merely prodding Pecksniff after the initial blow, as in Barnard. Furniss knew that he could improve upon Barnard's muted interpretation of his material, but faced a genuine challenge in excelling Dickens's original illustrator. In the final analysis, Furniss has equalled Phiz for sheer energy and clarity, but has lost some of the exquisite background detailing of the July 1844 illustration in order to focus the reader's attention on the left-hand register. A nice touch, however, is the fallen volume beside Pecksniff's respectable top-hat: the title of Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire, makes an embedded commentary on the crushing of Pecksniff's dreams of financial empire. The equivalent book in the Phiz illustration is Molière's comic masterpiece Tartuffe, in which the exploitative hypocrite is ultimately unmasked.

Related Materials: Background, Setting, and Characterization

Other Programs of Illustration, 1843-1923

Relevant Illustrations, 1843-1924

Left: Hablot Knight Browne's ​climactic scene of poetic justice, Warm Reception of Mr. Pecksniff by His Venerable Friend (Chapter 52, July 1844). Right: ​Harold Copping's contrasting study of the two deceivers,​ Mr. Pecksniff and Old Martin Chuzzlewit (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Barnard's realisation of the climactic scene in which Old Martin denounces and then thrashes the arch-hypocrite, The Fall of Pecksniff (1872).


Barnard, Fred, and M. Walton. Ten Characters from Dickens. Ten original pen & ink drawings, after Barnard: Dombey & Son; The Two Wellers; Mr. Pecksniff; Sydney Carton; Alfred Jingle; Mark Tapley & Tom Pinch; Mr. Peggotty; Mrs. Gamp; Rogue Riderhood; Mr. Pickwick. London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, 1879.

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_____. Martin Chuzzlewit. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1863. Vols. 1 to 4.

_____. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Junior. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

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Guerard, Albert J. "Martin Chuzzlewit: The Novel as Comic Entertainment." The Triumph of the Novel: Dickens, Dostoevsky, Faulkner. Chicago & London: U. Chicago , 1976, 235-60.

Hammerton, J. A. Ch. 15, "Martin Chuzzlewit." The Dickens Picture-Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrations with 600 Illustrations and a Frontispiece by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vois. London: Educational Book, 1910. XVII, 266-93.

Kyd [Clayton J. Clarke]. Characters from Dickens. Nottingham: John Player & Sons, 1910.

"Martin Chuzzlewit — Fifty-nine Illustrations by Fred Barnard." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, Being Eight Hundred and Sixty-six Drawings by Fred Barnard, Gordon Thomson, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), J. McL. Ralston, J. Mahoney, H. French, Charles Green, E. G. Dalziel, A. B. Frost, F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes. London: Chapman and Hall, 1907.

Steig, Michael. "III. From Caricature to Progress: Master Humphrey's Clock and Martin Chuzzlewit." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. , 1978, 51-85.

_____. "Martin Chuzzlewit's Progress by Dickens and Phiz." Dickens Studies Annual 2 (1972): 119-49.

Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985.

Created 4 February 2016

Last modified 23 January 2020