It was a wedding party and it emerged from one of the inferior streets near Fitzroy Square (frontispiece). 1876. 13.2 cm high x 17.8 cm wide, framed. The volume's frontispiece references a scene in Dickens's "Hackney-Coach Stands" (originally published in The Evening Chronicle on 31 January 1835 as "Sketches of London No. 1") and later as the seventh piece in Sketches by Boz in the second edition, August 1836. Barnard produced this wood-engraving specifically for the 1870s Household Edition, in which he takes into account the original illustrations by such artists as George Cruikshank and Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). The textual quotation that serves as the caption for this illustration of the youthful wedding party arriving at the cab stand at Fitzroy Square directs the reader to a particular textual moment in the volume. The equivalent illustration in the 1836 first edition of the sketches, short stories, and character studies is another street scene by Londoner George Cruikshank, 'Coach!'

Passage Illustrated: Bustling London Streets

We have been frequently amused with the intense delight with which 'a servant of all work,' who is sent for a coach, deposits herself inside; and the unspeakable gratification which boys, who have been despatched on a similar errand, appear to derive from mounting the box. But we never recollect to have been more amused with a hackney-coach party, than one we saw early the other morning in Tottenham-court-road. It was a wedding-party, and emerged from one of the inferior streets near Fitzroy-square. There were the bride, with a thin white dress, and a great red face; and the bridesmaid, a little, dumpy, good-humoured young woman, dressed, of course, in the same appropriate costume; and the bridegroom and his chosen friend, in blue coats, yellow waist-coats, white trousers, and Berlin gloves to match. They stopped at the corner of the street, and called a coach with an air of indescribable dignity. The moment they were in, the bridesmaid threw a red shawl, which she had, no doubt, brought on purpose, negligently over the number on the door, evidently to delude pedestrians into the belief that the hackney-coach was a private carriage; and away they went, perfectly satisfied that the imposition was successful, and quite unconscious that there was a great staring number stuck up behind, on a plate as large as a schoolboy's slate. A shilling a mile! — the ride was worth five, at least, to them. — "Hackney-Coach Stands," pp. ​39-40.

Commentary: A New Edition of Dickens for a New Generation of Readers

The frontispiece for the slender 176-page volume in the Household Edition reflects both Barnard's and Dickens's lifelong fascination with the London theatre scene. This particular volume was the thirteenth issued in the twenty-two volume set issued by Dickens's publishers after his death in 1870. Although the John Macrone two-volume set of 8 February 1836 constitutes the first edition of Sketches by 'Boz' Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People, this mass-produced, elegantly illustrated volume in the larger, double-columned, format (reminiscent of the 1850s journal Household Words) probably reached a much greater readership and was much more influential in shaping the tastes of a new generation of Victorian readers. And whereas the caricaturist George Cruikshank had employed copper-plate engraving, which necessitated placing the illustrations on separate pages, Fred Barnard utilised the advanced composite woodblock engraving to juxtapose text and illustration on the same page, as was consistent with the new modes of production and techniques and technologies of illustration of the late 1860s.

This large-scale woodblock illustration, probably composed of several blocks glued together, establishes this as a sociological commentary in a series of sketches, character studies, and short stories for which Fred Barnard's It was a wedding party and it emerged from one of the inferior streets near Fitzroy Square sets the keynote, epitomizing the careful delineation of the social life of the metropolis at street level, so to speak. Whereas Cruikshank elected to depict an earlier incident in the "Scenes" sketch, in which an adolescent maid-servant in pink ribbons suddenly opens the door at No. 5 (in Fitzroy Square, perhaps) and four small children in her charge rush to the street-kerb, screaming "Coach!" at the top of their collective lungs in Hackney Coach Stands, Barnard has chosen a textual moment that captures the fashions of that earlier period. Here, the groom, in blue topcoat, yellow waistcoat, white trousers and matching white Berlin gloves stops at the street-corner and raises his hand to hail the cab. It is a scene full of exuberant promise and youthful bonhommie, and therefore something of a contrast to a number of the shabby-genteel and sordid "Sketches" found elsewhere in the series.

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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Dickens, Charles. "Hackney-Coach Stands." "Scenes," Ch. 7. Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Chapman and Hall, 1839, rpt., 1890. Pp. 60-63.

Dickens, Charles. "Hackney-Coach Stands." "Scenes," Ch. 7. Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. Vol. XIII. Pp.38-40.

Dickens, Charles. "Hackney-Coach Stands." "Scenes." Sketches by Boz Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-Day People. Ed. Thea Holme. The Oxford Illustrated Dickens. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1957; rpt., 1987. Pp. 81-85.

Dickens, Charles, and Fred Barnard. The Dickens Souvenir Book. London: Chapman & Hall, 1912.

"Hackney Coach." Posted February 2004. Accessed 24 March 2017.

Slater, Michael. Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing. New Haven and London: Yale U. P., 2009.

Thornbury, Walter. Chapter 19, "Charing Cross, The Railway Stations, and Old Hungerford Market." Old and New London: A Narrative of Its History, Its People, and Its Places. London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1878. Pp. 123-124. British History Online. Accessed 26 March 2017].

Created 1 May 2017
Last updated 11 April 2023