Resting Among The Tombs by George Cattermole. 4 1/8 x 4 ½ inches. Wood-engraving. Chapter 53, The Old Curiosity Shop, Part 29. 21 November 1840 in serial publication (fifty-fifth plate in the series) in Master Humphrey's Clock, Part 32. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated

Full of these meditations, she reached the church. It was easy to find the key belonging to the outer door, for each was labelled on a scrap of yellow parchment. Its very turning in the lock awoke a hollow sound, and when she entered with a faltering step, the echoes that it raised in closing, made her start.

If the peace of the simple village had moved the child more strongly, because of the dark and troubled ways that lay beyond, and through which she had journeyed with such failing feet, what was the deep impression of finding herself alone in that solemn building, where the very light, coming through sunken windows, seemed old and grey, and the air, redolent of earth and mould, seemed laden with decay, purified by time of all its grosser particles, and sighing through arch and aisle, and clustered pillars, like the breath of ages gone! Here was the broken pavement, worn, so long ago, by pious feet, that Time, stealing on the pilgrims’ steps, had trodden out their track, and left but crumbling stones. Here were the rotten beam, the sinking arch, the sapped and mouldering wall, the lowly trench of earth, the stately tomb on which no epitaph remained — all — marble, stone, iron, wood, and dust — one common monument of ruin. The best work and the worst, the plainest and the richest, the stateliest and the least imposing — both of Heaven’s work and Man’s — all found one common level here, and told one common tale. [Chapter LIII, 153-54]

The Re-engraved Frontispiece from the Cheap Edition (1863)

Left: Harry Furniss's realisation of the same scene in the Charles Dickens Library Edition, Little Nell in the Old Church (1910). Right: Cattermole's painting of Resting among the Tombs rather than his original serial illustration was the basis for the only illustration in Chapman and Hall's Cheap Edition. In consequence of the reduced costs associated with printing an unillustrated volume, Dickens's publishers hoped to appeal to a less affluent clientele, but unillustrated volumes then had little popular appeal.

Other versions of this scene (1872, 1876, and 1910)

Left: Thomas Worth's illustration of Nell's taking the tour of the old church with the Bachelor, a dedicated antiquarian, offers her insights into the daily lives of people in the middle ages: He showed her how the warrior had worn those rotting scraps of armor (1872). Right: Charles Green's realistic revision of Cattermole's serial illustration, The child sat down in the old, silent place emphasizes Nell by reducing the number of mediaeval tombs and the enormous font, and opening up the situation by creating more light. THe effect is certainly less oppressive than Cattermole's, but also less reflective.

Related Material Including Other Illustrated Editions of The Old Curiosity Shop

Scanned image by George P. Landow; caption and commentary 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.]


Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock. Illustrated by Phiz, George Cattermole, Samuel Williams, and Daniel Maclise. 3 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1841; rpt., Bradbury and Evans, 1849.

_______. The Old Curiosity Shop. Illustrated by Thomas Worth. Nicholas Nickleby. Illustrated by C. S. Reinhart. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1872. I.

_______. The Old Curiosity Shop. Illustrated by Charles Green. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. XII.

_______. The Old Curiosity Shop. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. V.

Vann, J. Don. "The Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock, 25 April 1840-6 February 1841." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. 64-5.

Created 4 January 2006

Last modified 19 November 2020