Magnanimous Conduct of Mr Guppy by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne) for Parts 10-20 of Bleak House (September 1853), p. 612 (ch. 64, "Esther's Narrative"). 4 x 6 ⅞ inches. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Guppy's Comic Comeuppance

"Now, sir," said Mr. Guppy, "I have got into that state of mind myself that I wish for a reciprocity of magnanimous behaviour. I wish to prove to Miss Summerson that I can rise to a heighth of which perhaps she hardly thought me capable. I find that the image which I did suppose had been eradicated from my 'eart is not eradicated. Its influence over me is still tremenjous, and yielding to it, I am willing to overlook the circumstances over which none of us have had any control and to renew those proposals to Miss Summerson which I had the honour to make at a former period. I beg to lay the 'ouse in Walcot Square, the business, and myself before Miss Summerson for her acceptance."

"Very magnanimous indeed, sir," observed my guardian.

"Well, sir," replied Mr. Guppy with candour, "my wish is to be magnanimous. I do not consider that in making this offer to Miss Summerson I am by any means throwing myself away; neither is that the opinion of my friends. Still, there are circumstances which I submit may be taken into account as a set off against any little drawbacks of mine, and so a fair and equitable balance arrived at."

"I take upon myself, sir," said my guardian, laughing as he rang the bell, "to reply to your proposals on behalf of Miss Summerson. She is very sensible of your handsome intentions, and wishes you good evening, and wishes you well." [Chapter LXIV, "Esther's Narrative," 612-613; Project Gutenberg etext (see bibliography below)]

Commentary: The Only Comic Scene in the Final Number

Left: Fred Barnard's finalé of the Guppy marriage proposal subplot: "Get out with you. If we ain't good enough for you, go and procure somebody that is good enough. Go along and find 'em." (1873). Right: Phiz's only comic offering in the final double-number smacks of drawing-room farce: Magnanimous Conduct of Mr. Guppy (September 1853).

Right: Furniss's revision of the comic original heightens the farce as it contrasts the furious Mrs. Guppy and the placid principals in the foreground: Mrs. Guppy's Indignation, Vol. 11 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910).

This is the only light-hearted, conventional group scene in the final double-number (Parts 19-20, September 1853: Chapters 60-67). According to Michael Steig, "Only one illustration in the double part pertains directly to any action in that part: Magnanimous conduct of Mr. Guppy (ch. 64), which is handled economically and with somewhat more life than the other conventionally comic plates" (156). The comic drawing-room scene, which complements the far more sombre plates in the double-number, demonstrates Dickens's "streaky bacon" plot construction as he here connects the comic marriage plot of William Guppy, his deluded mother, and boon companion, Tony Jobling (aka, Weevil) and the serious romances of John Jarndyce, Esther Summerson, and Allan Woodcourt. Whereas Esther, Allan, and John have completed their voyage of self-discovery, Guppy and his obnoxious mother remain false wits who learn little or nothing from experience.

Related Material, including Other Illustrated Editions of Bleak House

Image scan and text by George P. Landow. [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.]


"Bleak House — Sixty-one Illustrations by Fred Barnard." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, Being Eight Hundred and Sixty-six Drawings by Fred Barnard, Gordon Thomson, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), J. McL. Ralston, J. Mahoney, H. French, Charles Green, E. G. Dalziel, A. B. Frost, F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes. London: Chapman and Hall, 1907.

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Brown, John Buchanan. Phiz! Illustrator of Dickens' World. New York: Charles Scribner's, 1978.

Burton, Anthony. "Vision and Designs. Review of John Harvey, Victorian Novelists and heir Illustrators. Sidgwick & Jackson, 1970. Pounds 3.50." Dickensian, 67.2 (1971): 105-109.

Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). London: Bradbury & Evans. Bouverie Street, 1853.

_______. Bleak House. Project Gutenberg etext prepared by Donald Lainson, Toronto, Canada (, with revision and corrections by Thomas Berger and Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D. Seen 9 November 2007.

_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Works of Charles Dickens. The Household Edition. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1863. Vols. 1-4.

_______. Bleak House. Project Gutenberg etext prepared by Donald Lainson, Toronto, Canada (, with revision and corrections by Thomas Berger and Joseph E. Loewenstein, M.D. Seen 9 November 2007.

_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. XI.

Harvey, John R. "Conditions of Illustration in Serial Fiction." Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970. Pp. 182-198.

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

Steig, Michael. Chapter 6. "Bleak House and Little Dorrit: Iconography of Darkness." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 131-172.

Vann, J. Don. "Bleak House, twenty parts in nineteen monthly instalments, October 1846—April 1848." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985. 69-70.

Created 15 November 2007

Last modified 25 March 2021