The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, Chapter XXIV, "Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the Middle-aged Lady apprehensive, which brings the Pickwickians within the Grasp of the Law," p. 143.by Thomas Nast, in Charles Dickens's
The illustration appears in the American Edition of Charles Dickens's The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, Chapter XXIV, "Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the Middle-aged Lady apprehensive, which brings the Pickwickians within the Grasp of the Law," p. 143. Wood-engraving, 3 ⅝ inches high by 5 ¼ inches wide (9.3 cm high by 13.6 cm wide), framed, half-page; referencing text on the facing page; descriptive headline: "Jealousy of Mr. Magnus" (p. 143). New York: Harper & Bros., Franklin Square, 1873.
Scanned image, colour correction, sizing, 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.]
Narrative Context of the Illustration: The Farce Continues
This certainly was, to all appearance, very unaccountable behaviour; but the fact is, that Mr. Pickwick no sooner put on his spectacles, than he at once recognised in the future Mrs. Magnus the lady into whose room he had so unwarrantably intruded on the previous night; and the spectacles had no sooner crossed Mr. Pickwick's nose, than the lady at once identified the countenance which she had seen surrounded by all the horrors of a nightcap. So the lady screamed, and Mr. Pickwick started.
"Mr. Pickwick!" exclaimed Mr. Magnus, lost in astonishment, "what is the meaning of this, Sir? What is the meaning of it, Sir?" added Mr. Magnus, in a threatening, and a louder tone. [Chapter XXIV, "Wherein Mr. Peter Magnus grows jealous, and the Middle-aged Lady apprehensive, which brings the Pickwickians within the Grasp of the Law," pp. 142-143]
Commentary: Magnus's Fiancée turns out to be the Lady with the Back-hair
The Middle-aged Lady in the Double-bedded Room (November 1836) by Phiz. [Click on image to enlarge it.]
Although Pickwick, after the comic mixup of rooms in the Great White Horse Inn at Ipswich, wants nothing but to be spared further embarrassment, Dickens elaborates upon the farcical mixup in order to further embarrass his protagonist. Pickwick's acquaintance on the coach ride down, Mr. Peter Magnus, ironically has turned to life-long bachelor Samuel Pickwick for advice on how to propose marriage to Miss Witherfield. Following the advice of his recent acquaintance, Magnus succeeds, but is then mortified when he mistakenly assumes from their reactions that the lady and his new-found friend have had some sort of romantic relationship. The farce continues unabated as the lady and Pickwick adequately fail to explain themselves, and tell Magnus about their accidental encounter in her room the night before.
As in the previous illustration,, Nast shows no inclination to develop the background in detail; it is merely a functional (although somewhat spacious) room at an inn. However, he develops the crusty middle-aged bachelor, Peter Magnus, as singularly unattractive physically, although dressed in the latest fashion of the 1820s, in trousers (rather than breeches and stockings), cravat, wing-collar, and checkered waistcoat, in contrast to Pickwick's dressing in an earlier style. What Nast fails to deliver, however, is a sense of whether Miss Witherfield's crying fit is genuine or contrived. In other words, the illustration by itself does not reinforce the narrator's suggestion that the lady is trying to elicit her fiancé's sympathy.
In terms of the narrative-pictorial sequence, the farcical recognition scene sets up the brawl in the market-place after Magistrate George Nupkins has issued a warrant for the arrest of Pickwick, based on Miss Witherfield's testimony. She has approached the magistrate George Nupkins after the verbal altercation between Magnus and Pickwick at the inn because she erroneously believes that the two are about to fight a duel over her, and that the only way of preserving her fiance's life is to have Pickwick incarcerated. Phiz's three figures, though frozen in a tableau vivant at the inception of the complications, are more believable than the cartoon-like figures offered by Nast, who has elected to show Miss Witherfield hiding her face in her hands after she has recognized in her future husband's friend the trespasser of a few hours before.
Phiz's depiction of the same scene in the other Household Edition (1874)
Phiz revises his approach to the scene by rendering both figures more naturally in Standing before the dressing-glass was a middle-aged lady in yellow curl-papers, busily engaged in brushing what ladies call their 'back hair' (Chapter XXII).
Other artists who illustrated this work, 1836-1910
- Robert Seymour (1836)
- Hablot Knight Brown (1836-37)
- Felix Octavius Carr Darley (1861)
- Sol Eytinge, Jr. (1867)
- Hablot Knight Browne (1874)
- A selected list of illustrations by Harry Furniss for the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
- Clayton J. Clarke's Extra Illustration for Player's Cigarettes (1910)
- Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (homepage)
- Nast’s Pickwick illustrations
- The complete list of illustrations by Seymour and Phiz for the original edition
- The complete list of illustrations by Phiz for the Household Edition
- An introduction to the Household Edition (1871-79)
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers. Illustrated by Robert Seymour and Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman & Hall, 1836-37.
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Engraved by A. V. S. Anthony. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The Household Edition. Illustrated by Thomas Nast. New York: Harper and Brothers 1873.
Dickens, Charles. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. The Household Edition. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
Last modified 28 November 2019