13.8 x 7.6 cm framed
Dickens's Hard Times, Part Two, Vol. 5 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, facing title-page.
In the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss offers just a single character study — a grosteque caricature, in fact — of philanthropist Thomas Gradgrind in Hard Times for These Timnes, which initially appeared without any illustration in 1854 in Dickens's weekly journal Household Words. Furniss has apparently based the illustration on the reader's initial impressions of the mathematical, "hard-edged" Benthamite philosopher of the schoolroom scene that opens the novel, rather than on the later Gradgrind, much softened by subsequent experiences, including the breakdown of his daughter's marriage and his son's embezzling from the bank. [Commentary continued below.]
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"NOW, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!"
The scene was a plain, bare, monotonous vault of a school-room, and the speaker's square forefinger emphasized his observations by underscoring every sentence with a line on the schoolmaster's sleeve. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's square wall of a forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark caves, overshadowed by the wall. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's mouth, which was wide, thin, and hard set. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's voice, which was inflexible, dry, and dictatorial. The emphasis was helped by the speaker's hair, which bristled on the skirts of his bald head, a plantation of firs to keep the wind from its shining surface, all covered with knobs, like the crust of a plum pie, as if the head had scarcely warehouse-room for the hard facts stored inside. The speaker's obstinate carriage, square coat, square legs, square shoulders, — nay, his very neckcloth, trained to take him by the throat with an unaccommodating grasp, like a stubborn fact, as it was, — all helped the emphasis.
"In this life, we want nothing but Facts, sir; nothing but Facts!"
The speaker, and the schoolmaster, and the third grown person present, all backed a little, and swept with their eyes the inclined plane of little vessels then and there arranged in order, ready to have imperial gallons of facts poured into them until they were full to the brim.
THOMAS GRADGRIND, sir. A man of realities. A man of facts and calculations. A man who proceeds upon the principle that two and two are four, and nothing over, and who is not to be talked into allowing for anything over. Thomas Gradgrind, sir — peremptorily Thomas — Thomas Gradgrind. With a rule and a pair of scales, and the multiplication table always in his pocket, sir, ready to weigh and measure any parcel of human nature, and tell you exactly what it comes to. It is a mere question of figures, a case of simple arithmetic. You might hope to get some other nonsensical belief into the head of George Gradgrind, or Augustus Gradgrind, or John Gradgrind, or Joseph Gradgrind (all supposititious, non-existent persons), but into the head of Thomas Gradgrind — no, sir! ["The One Thing Needful," and "Murdering the Innocents," pages 1-2 in the second half of vol.5]
Relevant Illustrated Library Edition (1868) and Household Edition (1877) Illustrations
Left: Sol Eytinge Junior's "Thomas Gradgrind" (1868) and Fred Walker's "Stephen Blackpool Recovered from the Old Hell Shaft." (1868). Centre: C. S. Reinhart's "What did he then behold but his own metallurgical Louisa, peeping with all her might through a hole in a deal board" (1876). Right: Harry French's dramatic 1876 illustration of the Gradgrind's catching his children watching the circus in "Book the First. Sowing." (1877). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Feeling obliged to bolster the circulation of Household Words, early in 1854 Charles Dickens had written the type of serialisation he detested, a novel in compact weekly numbers (1 April-12 August), but his tenth full-length work, Hard Times, an assault on the factory system and urban blight, had proven and remained popular as a fairy tale for the Industrial Age. In subsequent editions, Dickens's short novel was illustrated — modestly, with just four wood-engravings by the leading New Man of the Sixties, Fred Walker in the Illustrated Library Edition of 1868, and, after Dickens's death, far more extensively in the American and British Household Edition by Charles Stanley Reinhart for Harper and Brothers, New York, in 1876, and by Harry French for Chapman and Hall the following year. Harry Furniss, then, had a substantial body of illustration to which to respond, despite the fact that in its initial publication Hard Times was one of the few Dickens novels to appear without visual accompaniment. As the sole illustrator for the Charles Dickens Library Edition, Furniss could probably have elected to produce a full program of illustration; instead, for volume five he provided thirty-two full-page pen-and-ink illustrations for The Old Curiosity Shop, and just a frontispiece for the second novel in the volume, perhaps because he was well aware that the novel as Dickens first presented it to his public was without any visual adornment or realisation. Uncharacteristically for a plate by Furniss, "Gradgrind" has a mere title and no indication as to which passage the illustrator had in mind.
In America, there was an edition which British readers likely never saw, issued by Dickens's American agents, Ticknor and Fields of Boston, and illustrated by their house artist, Sol Eytinge, Junior. This slender volume, published to coincide with Dickens's second visit to American shores, features an equally severe frontispiece of Thomas Gradgrind, a mere automaton rather than a flesh-and-blood father and husband. The 1876 Harper and Brothers edition of Hard Times, illustrated by American artist gone abroad C. S. Reinhart, offers a Gradgrind no less rigid and judgmental. Harry French's version is, by contrast, far more human and developed as, in the frontispiece, he calmly breaks the news to his daughter Louisa that she is the recipient of Bounderby's marriage proposal in "Louisa, My Dear, You Are the Subject Of A Proposal of Marriage That Has Been Made To Me", in which the American illustrator develops both characters in the context of a highly dramatic moment and a specific locale reflective of his subject's character, Gradgrind's study.
In contrast, Furniss decontextualizes Gradgrind, drawing attention to his oversized head and dressing him (apparently) in some sort of uniform. Looking right, Gradgrind enumerates on his fingers his Utilitarian principles, as he insists upon "Facts!" without any "Fancy." As befits the fairy-tale genre, this Gradgrind is a bit of an ogre as he dresses down "Girl Number Twenty," Sissy Jupe.
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. Barnaby Rudge and Hard Times. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop and Hard Times. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 5.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times and Pictures from Italy. Il. Fred Walker. Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman & Hall, 1868.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times and The Uncommercial Traveller. Il. C. S. Reinhart. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. With twenty illustrations by Harry French. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877.
Last modified 22 October 2013