The Marchioness in the Chaise — Phiz's fifty-eighth illustration for the novel in Master Humphrey's Clock, Part 38. 3 ⅛ x 4 ½ inches (8.2 cm high x 11.3 cm wide). Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop, Part 35 (London: Chapman & Hall, 2 January 1841), Chapter 65, Vol. 2, 167. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Context of the Illustration: The Marchioness comes to the Rescue

He turned his head quickly enough then, and stopping the pony, cried, with some trepidation, "God bless me, what is this!"

"Don’t be frightened, Sir," replied the still panting messenger. "Oh I’ve run such a way after you!"

"What do you want with me?" said Mr Abel. "How did you come here?"

"I got in behind,’ replied the Marchioness. "Oh please drive on, sir — don’t stop — and go towards the City, will you? And oh do please make haste, because it’s of consequence. There’s somebody wants to see you there. He sent me to say would you come directly, and that he knowed all about Kit, and could save him yet, and prove his innocence."

"What do you tell me, child?"

"The truth, upon my word and honour I do. But please to drive on — quick, please! I’ve been such a time gone, he’ll think I’m lost."

Mr. Abel involuntarily urged the pony forward. The pony, impelled by some secret sympathy or some new caprice, burst into a great pace, and neither slackened it, nor indulged in any eccentric performances, until they arrived at the door of Mr. Swiveller’s lodging, where, marvellous to relate, he consented to stop when Mr. Abel checked him.

"See! It’s the room up there," said the Marchioness, pointing to one where there was a faint light. "Come!" [Chapter LXV, 166-67]

The Marchioness as an Agent of Nemesis

Phiz affords some reinforcement of Dickens's "streaky-bacon" plot construction by underscoring the exciting moment that follows hard on the heels of Marchioness's revelation of the Brasses' part in suborning the evidence against Kit Nubbles. She and Dick will prove instrumental in overturning Kit's conviction and punishing the Brasses for their complicity in Quilp's plot to eliminate Kit. Through his urging, the Marchioness implicates her master and mistress in the manufacturing of the case against Kit. However, afraid of Chucker, the Marchioness fails to come forward immediately when she reaches the Notary's — and Abel Garland drives off in the chaise before she get his attention. With no choice if she going to accomplish the task that Dick has set her, she runs after the carriage, grabs onto it, and energetically hoists herself into the rear seat. Although Phiz has hardly drawn the chaise to scale, be has captured Abel expression of surprise delightfully as she accosts him, and economically recounts what she knows of the involvement of the Brasses in Quilp's plot. The plate establishes the context through the streets and shops lightly sketched in, and the cobblestones beneath the carriage, but Phiz's chief concerns the driver's leaning away from the urchin, as if he suspects a trap, and the imploring gesture of the plucky servant.

The Real Marchioness: The Woman whom the Small Servant became

Michael Steig in his 1966 article in Dickens Studies, "Phiz's Marchioness," argues that the 1848 extra-illustration of this fascinating character is not merely Phiz's re-thinking of "the small servant" as an attractive and sensitive young woman. Rather, he argues, the picture reflects Dickens's interpretation of a character he once considered making the illegitimate child of Daniel Quilp and Sally Brass.

Phiz's re-conceived image of the small servant, an obviously much more adolescent version for the Cheap Edition (The Cheap Edition, 1848).

Michael Steig has analyzed the nature of the changes that Phiz effected to the images of the Marchioness to show that his appreciation of this character changed over the course of the novel's publication history in the 1840s:

For although the first two illustrations in which the Marchioness appears ("Mr. Brass at the Keyhole"), Ch. 35, and The Small Servant's Dinner, Ch. 36) show her clearly as a child, those depicting her after she and Dick become acquainted are oddly varied. In The Marchioness at Cards (Ch. 57, fig. I) she has a small, childish body and an old woman's face; in her particular clothing she resembles nothing so much as a stereotyped figure of a witch. In the next relevant illustration, the one in which Dick awakes to find her moved into his rooms (A Quiet Game of Cribbage, Ch. 64, fig. II), the Marchioness is dressed in the same outfit — tall milkmaid's bonnet, oversized slippers, and butcher's apron over her dress — but her neck and shoulders are bare, her face is much less haglike, and there is perhaps even a hint of a bosom. In the two other illustrations in which she appears — The Marchioness in the Chaise, Ch. 65, fig. III; and Delicacies for Mr. Swiveller, Ch. 66, fig. IV), the Marchioness's face looks more natural still. Descriptions must be somewhat subjective, but I think it is safe to say that Browne is trying to depict a face that is basically feminine, and definitely more than childish, but whose attractiveness has been marred by privation. In the first of this pair of engravings the Marchioness's face has a determined look that makes her seem a combination of child and woman; in the second, in which her expression is joyful, she appears decidedly adolescent. [Steig, "The Marchioness," 144]

Steig draws our attention to a number of embedded details in the 1840 steel-engraving (particularly the trunk, the medicine-bottle, and the playing cards) to support his contention that this is not a version of Mrs. Richard Swiveller, but a fresh representation of the Marchioness as she develops in the novel over the course of a year:

On her face is an open expression quite different from the haunted, ravaged look of the original illustrations. One's first thought is that this must be the Marchioness after she has gone to school and married Dick;but the details belie this impression, for she sits on a chest marked "D. Swiveller His Chest", and holds several playing cards in her lap, while two medicine bottles are visible inthe background. These details indicate that this is an illustration of that part of the novel in which the Marchioness nurses Dick through his illness and plays cribbage with herself to while away the time. (It corresponds to "A Quiet Game of Cribbage," in which, perhaps coincidentally the Marchioness looks most feminine.) There is no ambiguity here: the Marchioness is explicitly nubile, andyet, according to the setting, is "small servant" and not polished nineteen-year-old. Phiz has compensated for the uncertainty of his early illustrations with the directness ofthis one. Indeed, he overcompensates by eliminating allsigns (except the untidy hair and the oversized slippers) ofthe Marchioness's privation, and to that extent he distortsDickens. But the illustration as a whole may be taken to represent part of the artists's imaginative experiencing of Dickens's creation, a part which is given only fleeting and hesitant expression in the original engravings. [145]

Relevant illustrations from the Household Edition volumes (1872 and 1876)

Left: Thomas Worth takes a different approach, using a dark plate to suggest the sense of apprehension young Garland feels at following the Small Servant up the stairs: He suffered his companion to take his hand, and to lead him up the dark and narrow stairs (1872). Right: Charles Green's less whimsical Household Edition illustration focuses on the Marchioness's decisive action at the critical moment as she determines to bring Abel Garland to Dick's bedside in She had nothing for it now, therefore, but to run after the chaise (1876).

Related Resources

Scanned images and texts 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.]


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. Frontispieces by Felix Octavius Carr Darley and Sir John Gilbert. The Household Edition. 55 vols. New York: Sheldon & Co., 1863. 4 vols.

Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Steig, Michael. Chapter 3, "From Caricature to Progress: Master Humphrey's Clock and Martin Chuzzlewit." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 51-85.

_______. "Phiz's Marchioness." Dickens Studies. 2, 3: (September 1966): 141-46.

Vann, J. Don. "The Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock, 25 April 1840-6 February 1841." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. 64-5.

Last modified 12 November 2020