Headpiece for "Chirp the Third": John by the hearth with the Fairy" (1905), a half-page illustration, 8.6 cm by 9.8 cm, vignetted (175).

Context of the Illustration

And while the Carrier, with his head upon his hands, continued to sit meditating in his chair, the Presence stood beside him, suggesting his reflections by its power, and presenting them before him, as in a glass or picture. It was not a solitary Presence. From the hearthstone, from the chimney, from the clock, the pipe, the kettle, and the cradle; from the floor, the walls, the ceiling, and the stairs; from the cart without, and the cupboard within, and the household implements; from every thing and every place with which she had ever been familiar, and with which she had ever entwined one recollection of herself in her unhappy husband’s mind; Fairies came trooping forth. Not to stand beside him as the Cricket did, but to busy and bestir themselves. To do all honour to her image. To pull him by the skirts, and point to it when it appeared. To cluster round it, and embrace it, and strew flowers for it to tread on. To try to crown its fair head with their tiny hands. To show that they were fond of it and loved it; and that there was not one ugly, wicked or accusatory creature to claim knowledge of it — none but their playful and approving selves. [Chapter Three, "Chirp the Third," 180]


Here C. E. Brock synthesizes two scenes in the 1845 sequence, Richard Doyle's Chirp the Third (see below) and John Leech's John's Reverie (see below). These, and Brock's composition, in turn, possibly served as models for Harry Furniss in his 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition illustration The Vacant Stool (see below), which is less fanciful and more psychologically compelling than Brock's study of John and the Fairy Cricket. Luigi Rossi's theatrical interpretation in the Pears Centenary Edition, in contrast, spectacularly realizes John's vision of a solid Dot, knitting by the fire and surrounded by at least eight diaphanous, swirling fairies, as in the Dion Boucicault transformation scene in the popular theatrical adaption Dot! (1859). Brock may well have seen one or more of the theatrical adaptations of Dickens's novel since such plays as Boucicault's remained seasonal favourites on the stages of London and the provinces from the initial stage version by Albert Smith at The Adelphi in 1845. In particular, Brock might have seen and been influenced by several productions in the few years prior to the J. M. Dent publication of 1905, particularly the December 1903 version at London's Garrick Theatre. The fairy element was especially pronounced in Boucicault's adaptation, since the Anglo-Irish dramatist introduced an initial "Fairy Episode" involving Dickens's Fairy (Home) and Shakespeare's Oberon, Titania, Puck, and Ariel, and involved a spectacular reveal of the fairies of the hearth in the third act.

Above: Rossi's illustration of the revelation scene before the family hearth, John Peerybingle and the Household Spirits (1912).

Brock would have been aware of the original 1845 illustrations and the 1878 Household Edition illustrations, and therefore would have had several possible models from which to work for the scene of John's agonizing before the fire as to how he should address his wife's supposed infidelity with the young man disguised as the Old Stranger, whom John befriended on the road. Although the British Household Edition illustrator, Fred Barnard, had provided Brock with an image of Tackleton's showing the supposed lovers together in the gallery of his counting-house, Brock's realisation of this fairy-vision is an innovation. In the 1848 edition, Richard Doyle shows John in despair, a visual melodrama with his shotgun at his knee and the fairies swirl helplessly about him. In the same volume, John Leech treats the scene more realistically and more atmospherically, with John in the darkness of doubt as he contemplates using firearm propped against the fireplace. Leech's John wears a linen smockfrock indicative of his class and region, while Doyle's John wears britches and a fustian coat, providing a model for later illustrators. Like Leech, Brock includes the vacant stool, but places John before an illuminated rather than darkened fireplace grate. The realism of the kettle, stool, chair, and coal-grate is undercut by the fantastic, winged figure of the spirit of the cricket, who seems to bless John with her right hand as she gestures towards the sacred hearth with her left.

Relevant illustrations from various editions (1845-1910)

Left: Doyle's melodramatic treatment of John's anguish, Chirp the Third (1845). Centre: John Leech's depiction of the middle-aged carrier's wrestling with the revellation of adultery, John's Reverie (1845). Right: Harry Furniss's 1910 pen-and-ink drawing transferred to lithograph, The Vacant Stool (1910).

Other Illustrations for The Cricket on the Hearth (1845-1915)

Related Materials

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.]


Bolton, H. Philip. "The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)."Dickens Dramatized. London & Boston: Mansell & G. K. Hall, 1987. 273-95.

Boucicault, Dion. "Dot: A Drama in Three Acts. 10 April 1862. Add. MS. 53013 (E). Licensed 11/04/1859. The Lord Chamberlain's Manuscript Collection, The British Library, London.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

_______. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

_______. Christmas Books, illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

_______. 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 and The Cricket on the Hearth, illustrated by C. E. [Charles Edmund] Brock. London: J. M. Dent, 1905; New York: Dutton, rpt., 1963.

_______. Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

_______. The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home. Illustrated by John Leech, Daniel Maclise, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Edwin Landseer. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1845.

_______. The Cricket on the Hearth. Illustrated by L. Rossi. London: A & F Pears, 1912.

Morley, Malcolm. "The Cricket on the Stage." Dickensian 48 (1952): 17-24.

Orwell, George. "Charles Dickens." (1939) Critical Essays. London: Secker and Warburg, 1946 (first published in 1940 in "Inside the Whale" and Other Essays.]

Created 17 October 2015

Last modified 10 July 2020