A Rest by the Way; or, Little Nell and Her Grandfather Looking back on London by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). Wood engraving, 3 3/8 x 4 ¼ inches (8.5 x 10.7 cm). — Chapter 15, The Old Curiosity Shop. Date of original serial publication: 11 July 1840. Master Humphrey's Clock, no. 14, 172. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Escape to the Countryside

Then came the public-house, freshly painted in green and white, with tea-gardens and a bowling green, spurning its old neighbour with the horse-trough where the waggons stopped; then, fields; and then, some houses, one by one, of goodly size with lawns, some even with a lodge where dwelt a porter and his wife. Then came a turnpike; then fields again with trees and hay-stacks; then, a hill, and on the top of that, the traveller might stop, and-looking back at old Saint Paul's looming through the smoke, its cross peeping above the cloud (if the day were clear), and glittering in the sun; and casting his eyes upon the Babel out of which it grew until he traced it down to the furthest outposts of the invading army of bricks and mortar whose station lay for the present nearly at his feet — might feel at last that he was clear of London. [Chapter XV, 132]


In Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators, Jane Rabb Cohen points to this illustration as an example of the finest kind of book illustration:

Placed as they were intended to be, the best illustrations perform yeoman service. At the point, for example, when Nell and her grandfather look back on the London they have fled, the picture provides a physical and emotional pause needed by the readers as well as the characters (XV, 132) (fig. 49). The view of the city, which renders verbal description of what they see unnecessary, does not replace the narrative but becomes part of it. Moreover, by bringing Pilgrim's Progress to Nell's mind at this moment (XV, 122), Dickens adds historical, literary and moral perspective not only to this scene, but to the entire narrative. That Browne's portrayal resembles John Martin's well-known illustration of The Celestial City in Dickens's personal copy of the Bunyan allegory adds yet another dimension, albeit an extrinsic one (fig. 50). Had this woodcut been placed at the beginning of the number, as etchings then had to be, both its immediacy of impact and its gradual resonance would have been seriously impaired. [71]

The illustration that marks the entry of the Trents into their wayfaring adventures in the English countryside, which entirely lacks Phiz's trademark character comedy, is full of subtle details. . The noble oak, often identified with the English character as in the Royal Navy march "Hearts of Oak" (written by William Boyce and David Garrick, and first performed in public on New Year's Eve, 1760), quietly dominates the central space, and serves to separate the weary travellers from sprawling London on the horizon. Phiz contrasts a country-house (left) and cottage on the very outskirts (right) with the soaring dome of St. Paul's Cathedral, representing the busy life of the distant metropolis that Nell and her grandfather have fled for a vague country retreat. The grazing cows in the pond to the right contribute effectively to the picture's tranquil atmosphere.

Illustrations of Nell and Her Grandfather by Harry Furniss and Sol Eytinge

Left: Sol Eytinge’s Frontispiece for the 1867 Diamond Edition. Right: The Wanderers (1910) by Harry Furniss, who represents Nell and her grandfather looking away from London rather than back on it, emphasizes the figures rather than on the Romantic vista.

Related Resources Including Other Illustrated Editions

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.]


Cohen, Jane Rabb. "Part Two: Dickens and His Principal Illustrator. 4. Hablot Browne." (Part 1). Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio U. P., 1980.

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, 1840.

_______. The Old Curiosity Shop and Reprinted Pieces. 18 Illustrations by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. XII.

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

Created 10 May 2020

Last modified 12 November 2020