A Sudden Recognition, Unexpected on Both Sides
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby
Source: Steig, plate 3; reproduced by permission of the author
Image scan and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[Return to text of Steig]
Although Wackford Squeers is a relatively minor character in the overall plot of the novel, Dickens simply could not resist the opportunity to reintroduce him as Smike's nemesis in the twelfth part:
He felt himself violently brought to, with a jerk so sudden that he was obliged to cling to a lamp-post to save himself from falling. At the same moment, a small boy clung tight round his leg, and a shrill cry of "Here he is, father! Hooray!" vibrated in his ears.
Smike knew that voice too well. He cast his despairing eyes downward towards the form from which it had proceeded, and, shuddering from head to foot, looked round. Mr. Squeers had hooked him in the coat-collar with the handle of his umbrella, and was hanging on at the other end with all his might and main. The cry of triumph proceeded from Master Wackford, who, regardless of all his kicks and struggles, clung to him with the tenacity of a bull-dog!
Dawdling in front of a clock shop, poor Smike is apprehended (literally, "collared") by Wackford Squeers and his son, and taken to Snawley's house in Somers Town to be held captive. According to Cohen (70), Dickens complained to his illustrator that Smike did not look nearly "frightened" enough nor Squeers "earnest" enough for his purposes in this scene. Certainly, compared to earlier representations of him, Squeers is not sufficiently "grotesque," his head being in proportion to his body in this plate, rather unrealistically large as in the April 1838 illustration.
Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.
Last modified 9 April 2002