Delicacies for Mr. Swiveller — Phiz's fifty-ninth illustration for the novel in Master Humphrey's Clock, Part 39. 3 ½ x 4 ½ inches (8.6 cm high x 11.3 cm wide). Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Provisions for the Invalid

Mr. Abel remained behind, very often looking at his watch and at the room  door, until Mr. Swiveller was roused from a short nap, by the setting-down on the landing-place outside, as from the shoulders of a porter, of some giant load, which seemed to shake the house, and made the little physic bottles on the mantel-shelf ring again. Directly this sound reached his ears, Mr Abel started up, and hobbled to the door, and opened it; and behold! there stood a strong man, with a mighty hamper, which, being hauled into the room and presently unpacked, disgorged such treasures as tea, and coffee, and wine, and rusks, and oranges, and grapes, and fowls ready trussed for boiling, and calves’-foot jelly, and arrow-root, and sago, and other delicate restoratives, that the small servant, who had never thought it possible that such things could be, except in shops, stood rooted to the spot in her one shoe, with her mouth and eyes watering in unison, and her power of speech quite gone. But, not so Mr. Abel; or the strong man who emptied the hamper, big as it was, in a twinkling; and not so the nice old lady, who appeared so suddenly that she might have come out of the hamper too (it was quite large enough), and who, bustling about on tiptoe and without noise — now here, now there, now everywhere at once — began to fill out the jelly in tea-cups, and to make chicken broth in small saucepans, and to peel oranges for the sick man and to cut them up in little pieces, and to ply the small servant with glasses of wine and choice bits of everything  until more substantial meat could be prepared for her refreshment. The whole of which  appearances were so unexpected and bewildering, that Mr. Swiveller, when he had taken two  oranges and a little jelly, and had seen the strong man walk off with the empty basket, plainly leaving all that abundance for his use and benefit, was fain to lie down and fall asleep again, from sheer inability to entertain such wonders in his mind. [Chapter the Sixty-sixth, 171-72]

The Single Gentleman's Generosity

Phiz affords some reinforcement of Dickens's "streaky-bacon" plot construction by underscoring the Dick's sense of wonder at the arrival of the generous gifts of the Single Gentleman. In haste, Abel and his mother unpack the hamper so that the puzzled delivery-man can depart with the empty container. The delighted Mrs. Garland seems to be sorting through the contents for comestibles that would appeal to the frouzy patient in his nightcap. Meantime, the Marchioness looks on in wonder that delicacies she has only seen in shopfronts actually exist in the real, domestic world of Dick's sick-chamber.

Related Resources

Scanned image and text 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.

Last modified 11 November 2020