This particular picture on which Sam Weller's eyes were fixed by Thomas Nast. The American Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Passage Realised by Nast

As he was sauntering away his spare time, and stopped to look at almost every object that met his gaze, it is by no means surprising that Mr. Weller should have paused before a small stationer's and print-seller's window; but without further explanation it does appear surprising that his eyes should have no sooner rested on certain pictures which were exposed for sale therein, than he gave a sudden start, smote his right leg with great vehemence, and exclaimed, with energy, "If it hadn't been for this, I should ha' forgot all about it, till it was too late!"

The particular picture on which Sam Weller's eyes were fixed, as he said this, was a highly-coloured representation of a couple of human hearts skewered together with an arrow, cooking before a cheerful fire, while a male and female cannibal in modern attire, the gentleman being clad in a blue coat and white trousers, and the lady in a deep red pelisse with a parasol of the same, were approaching the meal with hungry eyes, up a serpentine gravel path leading thereunto. [Chapter 33, p. 193]

A magnificent townhouse — perhaps the Lord Mayor's residence, Mansion House — across the way contrasts the beggars in front and the sign "Good beds" above the window of the stationer's shop, into which Sam (recognisable by his waistcoat) gazes, as a nautical personage (if one may judge from the Sou'wester) looks both at the Valentines in the window and at Sam. The respectable, middle-class couple who have just passed the shop are echoed in the boy and girl (her arm about his shoulder) who are also gazing into the shop window — her poke bonnet is identical to that of the woman moving up the street with her husband. These contrasting figures of romance, the married couple and the boy and girl, achieve the same effect as Phiz's juxtaposing "The Trial" (Feb. 1837) and "The Valentine" (Feb. 1837). A noteworthy detail interpolated by Nast without textual authority is a caricature of Pickwick as a penguin (right), an odd figure to grace the cover of a Valentine indeed. Of Nast's other Valentine's the only one decipherable is the skewered heart immediately above the girl's head.

Related Material

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Formatting by George P. Landow. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Bibliography

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. The Household Edition. New York: Harpers, 1874.


Last modified 11 April 2012