The Dean shows how to take the Bull by the Horns by Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne), July 1848. Steel-engraving. 8.5 cm high by 15 cm wide (3 ¼ by 5 ⅞ inches), framed, full-page dark plate for Roland Cashel, Chapter XII, "The Great Kennyfeck Dinner," facing p. 104. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Lever Shifts the Scene from a Legal to an Actual "Bull."

“I vote for a Picnic,” cried Mrs. White, “and Mr. Cashel shall cook us his Dinde à la Mexicaine.”

“An excellent thought,” said several of the younger part of the company.

“A very bad one, in my notion,” said Lord Kilgoff, who had no fancy for seeing her Ladyship scaling cliffs, and descending steep paths, when his own frail limbs did not permit of accompanying her. “Picnics are about as vulgar a pastime as one can imagine. Your dinner is ever a failure; your wine detestable; your table equipage arrives smashed or topsy-turvy —”

Unde topsy-turvy? — unde, topsy-turvy, Softly?” said the Dean, turning fiercely on the curate. “Whence topsyturvy? Do you give it up? Do you, Mr. Attorney? Do you, my Lord? do you give it up, eh? I thought so! Topsy-turvy, quasi, top side t'other way.”

“It's vera ingenious,” said Sir Andrew; “but I maun say I see no neecessity to be always looking back to whare a word gat his birth, parentage, or eddication.”

“It suggests unpleasant associations,” said Lord Kilgoff, looking maliciously towards Linton, who was playing too agreeable to her Ladyship. “The etymology is the key to the true meaning. Sir, many of those expressions popularly termed bulls —”

“Oh, apropos of bulls,” said Mr. Meek, in his sweetest accent, “did you hear of a very singular outrage committed yesterday upon the Lord Lieutenant's beautiful Swiss bull?”

“Did the Dean pass an hour with him?” whispered Linton to Lady Janet, who hated the dignitary.

“It must have been done by mesmerism, I fancy,” rejoined Mr. Meek. “The animal, a most fierce one, was discovered lying in his paddock, so perfectly fettered, head, horns, and feet, that he could not stir. There is every reason to connect the outrage with a political meaning; for in this morning's paper, 'The Green Isle,' there is a letter from Mr. O'Bleather, with a most significant allusion to the occurrence. 'The time is not distant,' says he, 'when John Bull,'—mark the phrase,—'tied, fettered, and trammelled, shall lie prostrate at the feet of the once victim of his tyranny.'”

“The sedition is most completely proven by the significance of the act,” cried out the Chief Justice.

“We have, consequently, offered a reward for the discovery of the perpetrators of this insolent offence, alike a crime against property, as an act subversive of the respectful feeling due to the representative of the sovereign.”

“What is the amount offered?” said Cashel.

“One hundred pounds, for such information as may lead to the conviction of the person or persons transgressing,” replied the Attorney-General.

“I feel it would be very unfair to suffer the Government to proceed in an error as to the affair in question; so that I shall claim the reward, and deliver up the offender,” replied Cashel, smiling.

“Who can it be?” cried Mr. Meek, in astonishment “Myself, sir,” said Cashel. “If you should proceed by indictment, as you speak of, I hope the Misses Kennyfeck may not have to figure as 'aiding and abetting,' for they were present when I lassoed the animal.”

“Lassoed the Swiss bull!” exclaimed several together.

“Nothing more simple,” said the Dean, holding up his napkin over Mrs. Kennyfeck's head, to the manifest terror of that lady for her yellow turban. “You take the loop of a long light rope, and, measuring the distance with your eye, you make the cast, in this manner —”

“Oh dear! oh, Mr. Dean; my bird-of-paradise plume!” [Chapter XII, "The Great Kennyfeck Dinner," 105]

Commentary: A Suitable Visual Complement to the Society Dinner

Lever brilliantly conveys the differences in tone, accent, and underlying attitude about Roland Cashel's proposed turkey dinner to distinguish each of the society speakers. Phiz takes a standard group scene, a formal dinner at the Kennyfecks' mansion in Merrion Square, a Georgian garden square in south Dublin, and particularizes each of the upper-class characters. However, Lever's illustrator in realising the comedic dinner scene maintains the focus on the speaker (left), the Dean. Phiz renders the table-talk among the society figures both lively, farcical, and intelligible by making it obvious to readers which figure is Roland (the handsome youth, seated left of centre on the upper side of the table), who costitute "the younger part of the company," and who is the figure who opposes the picnic scheme, the truculent Lord Kilgoff. The identities of the tall, high-cheeked, raw-boned old Scottish military veteran Sir Andrew and Mr. Meek we must determine by process of elimination. Phiz includes the many waiters, but sketches them in lightly to throw the focus on the diners and the Dean as the self-important master of ceremonies.

In contradiction to the picture, Lever suggests that Mrs. Kennyfeck's chief guests, or at least her personal favourite among those members of Dublin high society, will be the Anglican clergyman, the Dean of Drumcondera. Lever initially lists twenty-three named characters who will be attending the Kennyfecks' soiree, but Phiz depicts a total company of only eighteen, including Roland and the four Kennyfecks, as well as knowing Linton and dreary Lord Kilgoff. The other guests whose names Olivia Kennyfeck reads from her mother's list for Roland's benefit are as follows: Sir Andrew and Lady Janet MacFarline; Lord Charles Frobisher and the Honorable Elliot St. John (aides-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and therefore potentially a useful source of information about how the vice-regal authority has responded to Cashel's recent "taming" his prize bull); Lord Chief Justice Malone; the Attorney-General and Mrs. Knivett; the Whites; the Honorable Downie Meek, Under Secretary of State; the Craufurds, the Smythes, Mrs. Felix Brown, and Lady Emmeline Grove; "a set of soldier people . . . — hussars and Queen's Bays, and a Captain Tanker of the Royal Navy, — oh, I remember, he has but one arm, — and then the Pelertons and the Cuffes"; and, at the end of the muster role, Mr. Knox Softly, and the Townleys. The remainder of the guests are feckless young society people, known as "The Refreshers" collectively: "that amiable but undervalued class who are always asked for the evening when the other members of the family are invited to dine. They are the young lady and young gentleman class, — the household with ten daughters, and a governess that sings like, anything but, Persiani. They are briefless barristers, with smart whiskers; and young men reading for the Church, with moustaches; infantry officers, old maids, fellows of college, and the gentleman who tells Irish stories” (Chapter X, "The Coming Dinner-Party Discussed," 83).

Although the Kennyfecks have told Roland that this will be just another ordinary dinner party featuring the cream of Dublin society, it will prove significant since the lawyer and his social-climbing, class-conscious wife intend to use this occasion to showcase the fabulously wealthy young Cashel as the ideal prospective bridegroom for their younger daughter, Olivia, towards whom the handsome adventurer seems romantically inclined. Roland comes into his own when "the chit-chat was cuisine in all its modes and tenses" (101). Cashel then expatiates on the virtues of a wild pampas turkey roasted in his own feathers and a clay coating, which Mrs. White dubs "Dinde à la Mexicaine" (104). The passage illustrated involves the Dean's lassoing Mrs. Kennyfeck's yellow turban in imitation of Roland's lassoing the bull.


Lever, Charles. Roland Cashel. With 39 illustrations and engraved title-vignette by Phiz. London: Chapman & Hall, 1850.

Lever, Charles. Roland Cashel. Illustrated by Phiz [Hablot Knight Browne]. Novels and Romances of Charles Lever. Vols. I and II. In two volumes. Boston: Little, Brown, 1907. Project Gutenberg. Last Updated: 19 August 2010.

Steig, Michael. Chapter VII, "Phiz the Illustrator: An Overview and a Summing Up." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington: Indiana U. P., 1978. Pp. 299-316.

Stevenson, Lionel. Chapter II, "The Wandering Scholar, 1827-1830." Dr. Quicksilver: The Life of Charles Lever. London: Chapman and Hall, 1939. Pp. 16-36.

Created 7 November 2002

Last modified 19 December 2022