The Posthumous Papers of The Pickwick Club, Chapter I, "The Pickwickians," page 11. Wood-engraving, 4 ⅛ inches high by 5 ½ inches wide (10.5 cm high by 13.5 cm wide), framed, half-page; referencing text on the facing page; descriptive headline: "A Pickwickian Debate" (p. 11). In the British Household edition, illustrated by Phiz and published the next year, there is no equivalent of this illustration, clearly based on the April 1836 plate by Robert Seymour.by Thomas Nast, in Charles Dickens's
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The Chapter's Headpiece and the Text Illustrated
Passage Illustrated: Pickwick's Characteristic Pose
What a study for an artist did that exciting scene present! The eloquent Pickwick, with one hand gracefully concealed behind his coat tails, and the other waving in air to assist his glowing declamation; his elevated position revealing those tights and gaiters, which, had they clothed an ordinary man, might have passed without observation, but which, when Pickwick clothed them — if we may use the expression — inspired involuntary awe and respect; surrounded by the men who had volunteered to share the perils of his travels, and who were destined to participate in the glories of his discoveries. On his right sat Mr. Tracy Tupman — the too susceptible Tupman, who to the wisdom and experience of maturer years superadded the enthusiasm and ardour of a boy in the most interesting and pardonable of human weaknesses — love. Time and feeding had expanded that once romantic form; the black silk waistcoat had become more and more developed; inch by inch had the gold watch-chain beneath it disappeared from within the range of Tupman's vision; and gradually had the capacious chin encroached upon the borders of the white cravat: but the soul of Tupman had known no change — admiration of the fair sex was still its ruling passion. On the left of his great leader sat the poetic Snodgrass, and near him again the sporting Winkle; the former poetically enveloped in a mysterious blue cloak with a canine-skin collar, and the latter communicating additional lustre to a new green shooting-coat, plaid neckerchief, and closely-fitted drabs. [Chapter 1, "The Pickwickians," p. 10]
Commentary: Pickwick Addresses the Club (after Seymour)
In choosing this subject for his first two illustrations, Nast had to confront the problem of how best to represent the chief Pickwickians. Should he do so in a manner consistent with the original illustrations of Seymour and Phiz, or should he place his own stamp on these-time honoured scenes and characters? He chose, as a comparison with a first edition immediately reveals, to adapt the illustration by Seymour), who shows Pickwick from the front in his opening plate, but Nast shifts the focus so that it is entirely upon his conventional image of the society's founder, rotund, bespectacled Samuel Pickwick. Pickwick gestures grandly with one hand under his coat-tails, exactly as in Seymour's introductory illustration, but Nast has moved in for the closeup, and depicts only two other Pickwickians with any conviction, the pair in the foreground, and merely sketches in four of the remaining members. Seymour took pains to group the entire club around the table, so that his Pickwick is a much smaller, and much less commanding figure. Perhaps Nast modified Seymour's interpretation of this opening scene in an effort to surpass it, and thereby establish himself in the minds of American readers, as a thoroughly contemporary illustrator. His Pickwick here is a dynamic giant among an audience of complacent smokers and drinkers. Nevertheless, Nast's Pickwick here and in the many illustrations that follow very much resembles the Pickwick of Seymour and Phiz.
Pickwick, as in the text having "mounted into the Windsor chair, on which he had been previously seated" (10), sketches his vision of the club's activities. Nast treats his subjects in a three-dimensional manner rather than in a purely caricatural mode, blending the new realism of the Sixties with the earlier, caricatural styles of Hablot Knight Browne and Robert Seymour, with whose original illustrations American readers had been long familiar thanks to such pirated editions as that published in Philadephia by Carey, Lea, and Blanchard in 1836 — in other words, even before serialisation in Britain was complete.
Relevant illustrations for Pickwick Papers (1836 & 1867)
Left: The original Robert Seymour steel-engraving which accompanied the initial monthly number and greatly influenced later illustrators' conceptions of the club members, Mr Pickwick Addresses the Club (April 1836). Right: The Sol Eytinge, Jr., characterisation of the group, The Pickwick Club (Diamond Edition, 1867).
- 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)
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. Pickwick Papers. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.
Last modified 14 July 2019