When he first came to look at the lodgings, he inquired most particularly whether he was sure to be able to get a seat in the Parish Church (Chapter 7). 1876. 13.2 cm high x 18 cm wide, framed. The half-page wood-engraving references a scene in Dickens's "Our Next-Door Neighbour," a sketch, originally unillustrated, which appeared in the Morning Chronicle on 18 March 1836. It did not appear in the John Macrone two-volume "First Series" of Sketches by Boz, but was added to "Our Parish" in the "Second Series," with the Cruikshank illustration (not one of the original Macrone plates of February 1836). "Sketches by Boz — New Series No. 1 in the 18 March 1836 Evening Chronicle contains what Dickens himself would later describe as a "streaky bacon" construction, with the anecdote about the practical-joking rowdies and the shocked landlord followed by a brief account of the pathetic death of a consumptive son, farcical comedy followed by pathos and youthful high-jinks by sentiment. Barnard has avoided the scene involving the practical joke, and has depicted the second renter, a far more sober and fastidious young man in an almost military style of fashion.

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Passage Illustrated

The next applicant for the vacant first floor, was of a very different character from the troublesome single gentleman who had just quitted it. He was a tall, thin, young gentleman, with a profusion of brown hair, reddish whiskers, and very slightly developed moustaches. He wore a braided surtout, with frogs behind, light grey trousers, and wash-leather gloves, and had altogether rather a military appearance. So unlike the roystering single gentleman. Such insinuating manners, and such a delightful address! So seriously disposed, too! When he first came to look at the lodgings, he inquired most particularly whether he was sure to be able to get a seat in the parish church; and when he had agreed to take them, he requested to have a list of the different local charities, as he intended to subscribe his mite to the most deserving among them.

Our next-door neighbour was now perfectly happy. He had got a lodger at last, of just his own way of thinking — a serious, well-disposed man, who abhorred gaiety, and loved retirement. He took down the bill with a light heart, and pictured in imagination a long series of quiet Sundays, on which he and his lodger would exchange mutual civilities and Sunday papers. — Ch. 7, "Our Next-door Neighbour," p. .


Boz's stories focused on the middle classes, looking at a London seldom visited in literature. This was not the London of aristocrats and grandhouses, but a city of ordinary people doing everyday things; the humour came not from grand farces, but from the minutiae of simple misunderstandings and comic situations. The stories were largely humorous, such as "The Bloomsbury Christening,": but there were also serious, poignant tales like "The Drunkard's Death." — Lucinda Dickens Hawksley, p. 14.

Since October 1835, when young publisher John Macrone proposed a collaboration between up-and-coming author Charles Dickens and long-established visual satirist George Cruikshank, the pair had been well matched as Cruikshank selected for illustration material from the Sketches that had already published in various London periodicals in order to produce the two-volume anthology of February 1836. Barnard, of course, had an intimate familiarity with all of Dickens's works long before he received the Chapman and Hall commission for the Household Edition in 1871, but he was also at a disadvantage in that he could not simply select for illustration the material already done — and done with extraordinary comic verve in some cases — by George Cruikshank, as was the case with this sketch's Series 2 illustration, Our Next-door Neighbour. Thus, Barnard realizes the rental room in a very precise and realistic manner (right down to the peacock feathers on the mantelpiece) but fails to communicate any sense of the piece's comedy.

In the Barnard illustration, the fashionably dressed, middle-aged landlord (a far more dapper fellow than Cruikshank's "old man") seems delighted to have so tidy and civilised a prospective tenant as he gestures at the view (possibly in the direction of the parish church) from the small window. The tasteful furnishings suggest that this is a premium rental, and the single gentleman seems quite charmed by the prospect of taking up residence there. The prepossessing single gentleman​borrows a number of items from the landlord in preparation for going to church on Sunday. But, in the Dickens universe, if something (or somebody) is too good to be true, it likely is. Appearances are never to be trusted. In this instance, the church-goer reveals himself a minor confidence man when the landlord knocks on his door at 10:00 A. M. as they have arranged the night before, after the young man has borrowed a clean shirt and a Book of Common Prayer since his luggage is yet to arrive "from the country":

He was called, and did not answer: he was called again, but there was no reply. Our next-door neighbour became alarmed, and burst the door open. The serious man had left the house mysteriously; carrying with him the shirt, the prayer-book, a teaspoon, and the bedclothes. [xx]


Ackroyd, Peter. Dickens: A Biography. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1990.

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

Dickens, Charles. "Our Next-Door Neighbour." Chapter 7 in "Our Parish." Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Chapman and Hall, 1839, rpt. 1890. Pp. 30-35.

Dickens, Charles. "Our Next-Door Neighbour." Chapter 7, "Our Parish."Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. Pp. 19-22.

Dickens, Charles. "Our Next-Door Neighbour." 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.

Hawksley, Lucinda Dickens. Chapter 3, "Sketches by Boz." Dickens Bicentenary 1812-2012: Charles Dickens. San Rafael, California: Insight, 2011. Pp. 12-15.

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

Last modified 2 April 2017