William with the Tray
8.0 x 5.5 cm, vignetted
Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 5, page 25.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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— When a knock came at [Redlaw's] door, in short, as he was sitting so, and roused him.
"Who's that?" said he. "Come in!"
Surely there had been no figure leaning on the back of his chair; no face looking over it. It is certain that no gliding footstep touched the floor, as he lifted up his head, with a start, and spoke. And yet there was no mirror in the room on whose surface his own form could have cast its shadow for a moment; and, Something had passed darkly and gone!
"I'm humbly fearful, sir," said a fresh-coloured busy man, holding the door open with his foot for the admission of himself and a wooden tray he carried, and letting it go again by very gentle and careful degrees, when he and the tray had got in, lest it should close noisily, "that it's a good bit past the time to-night. But Mrs. William has been taken off her legs so often" —
"By the wind? Ay! I have heard it rising."
"— By the wind, sir — that it's a mercy she got home at all. Oh dear, yes. Yes. It was by the wind, Mr. Redlaw. By the wind." ["Chapter One: The Gift Bestowed," p. 24-25, 1912 Pears edition]
The thumbnail of the college's cheerful maitre domo, William Swidger, is entitled E. A. Abbey in the 1876 Harper and Bros. Household Edition, and the 1878 British Household Edition illustrator, Fred Barnard. Surprisingly, the original design team led by John Leech did not include the jovial servant in the 1848 edition.in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 15), but is identified on page 25 by the following quotation: "'I'm humbly ifearful, sir . . . that it's a good bit past the time to-night" (p. 25). Green has agreeably described the "fresh-coloured, busy" (24) middle-aged servant, perhaps responding to the images of William provided by
Again, in its depiction of the chief servant of the Old College, this series of lithographs does not intersect with the melodramatic pen-and-ink drawings of Harry Furniss in the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition's anthology of Christmas Books. Whereas the focal character of previous series is Redlaw — relegating the Swidgers and Tetterbys to a few domestic scenes reminiscent of the Cratchits of A Christmas Carol, Green is acutely aware that part of his audience, the customers of the Pears Soap Company, would identify themselves much more with the Swidgers than the aloof, upper-middle class Redlaw. In this edition at the dawn of the twentieth century and the era of the Common Man, Green devotes five of thirty regular illustrations to the Swidgers and nine to the Tetterbys, with a special emphases on Milly Swidger and Mr. and Mrs. Tetterby as exemplary lower-middle-class married couple.
In this thumbnail, William deftly keeps the door open with his right foot as he brings in the tray holding Redlaw's supper, entering the lighted room from a darkened passage, exactly as Dickens describes in the passage immediately preceding the illustration, so that one encounters and "reads" text and illustration almost simultaneously. The other remarkable feature of the scene is the massive lock on Redlaw's door as the artist implies Redlaw's reclusive nature.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1878 and 1876 Household Editions
Left: Fred Barnard's group study of the Swidgers and Redlaw, "Merry and happy, was it?" asked the Chemist in a low voice. "Merry and happy, old man?" Right: E. A. Abbey's more cartoon-like study of the Swidgers, "I'm eighty-seven!" [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Dickens, Charles. The Haunted Man; or, The Ghost's Bargain. Illustrated by John Leech, Frank Stone, John Tenniel, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1848.
___. The Haunted Man. Illustrated by John Leech, Frank Stone, John Tenniel, and Clarkson Stanfield. (1848). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978. Vol. 2, p. 235-362, 365-366.
___. The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time. Illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A & F Pears, 1912.
___. 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.
___. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
___. The Haunted Man. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by Felix Octavius Carr Darley. The Household Edition. New York: James G. Gregory, 1861. Vol. 2, 155-300.
Last modified 26 June 2015