Bob Cratchit in the 'tank' at Scrooge's
7.2 x 5.5 cm. vignetted
Dickens's A Christmas Carol, The Pears' Centenary Edition, I, 19.
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The door of Scrooge's counting-house was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk's fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn't replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed. ["Stave One," p. 18, 1912 edition]
The caption is a re-working of Dickens's text on the facing page, although "Wherefore (for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room) the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle" in the list of illustrations is given as "Bob Cratchit in the 'Tank' at Scrooge's" (p. 19). This is a highly musing, albeit peripheral moment in "Stave One," and one that Green has realised logically as he has Bob warming both hands at the candle, his quill pen tucked behind one ear. The scene, as in Dickens's text, is intended to elicit sympathy for Scrooge's employee and to demonstrate Scrooge's parsimony; at this point in the story he is neither "as good a master, [or] as good a man, as the good old city knew" (to paraphrase "Stave Five," p. 138), for he refuses to expend the small amount of money necessary to keep the countinghouse warm. Although Bob Cratchit had not been the significant subject of illustration in the first edition of A Christmas Carol, Being a Ghost Story in Prose (1843) — for his only appearance there is in the talipiece, John Leech's wood-engraving dropped into the letter-press entitled Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, or The Christmas Bowl — later illustrators have presented him as a foil to the dour, friendless Scrooge, for the cheerful clerk is very much a sentimental, caring family man who knows the value of both play and camaraderie.
Relevant Illustrations from the first edition (1843), the British Household Editions (1876 and 1878), etc.
Left: John Leech's scene of Scrooge's entertaining his clerk in his own parlour, Scrooge and Bob Cratchit, or The Christmas Bowl. Right: Fred Barnard's illustration of Scrooge's complaining about having to give Bob Christmas Day off, "It's not convenient," said Scrooge, "and it's not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you'd think yourself ill-used, I'll be bound?" [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's scene of Bob trying to keep warm in the counting-house, In the Tank. Right: Fred Barnard's frontispiece showing Bob carrying Tim home from church, He had been Tim's blood-horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: E. A. Abbey's enshrining Cratchit family values in Bob's toasting his dour employer, "Mr. Scrooge!" said Bob; "I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the feast!" [Click on image to enlarge it.]
Left: Harry Furniss's "Scrooge objects to Christmas" (1910), featuring a vignette of Bob in the tank; right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
_____. Christmas Books, illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
_____. Christmas Books, illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.
_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.
_____. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by John Leech. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843.
_____. A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1868.
_____. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being A Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by John Leech. (1843). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978.
_____. A Christmas Carol. Illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A & F Pears, 1912.
_____. A Christmas Carol. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: William Heinemann, 1915.
_____. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Last modified 6 May 2015