Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Time, Part 5 (November 1857), Chapter 15, "A Home Scene," facing page 130.by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), ninth serial illustration and second dark plate for Charles Lever's
This, the ninth serial illustration in Chapter 15 originally appeared as a steel-plate etching; 3 ¾ by 6 ½ inches (9.5 cm high by 16.4 cm wide), framed, at the beginning of the fifth number. The story was serialised by Chapman and Hall in monthly parts, from July 1857 through April 1859. The eleventh and twelfth illustrations in the volume initially appeared in reverse order at the very beginning of the fifth monthly instalment, which went on sale on 1 November 1857. This number included Chapters XV through XIX, and ran from page 129 through 160.
Scanned image by Simon Cooke; 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.] Click on the image to enlarge it.
Passage Illustrated: Davenport Dunn on a Dark Road Home
Dunn had quietly issued by a back door from his house, and, having engaged a car, set out towards Clontarf[.] A drearier drive of a dreary evening none need wish for. Occasional showers were borne on the gusty wind, swooping past as though hurrying to some elemental congress far away, while along the shore the waves beat with that irregular plash that betokens wild weather at sea. The fitful moonlight rather heightened than diminished the dismal aspect of the scenery. For miles the bleak strand stretched away, no headland nor even a hillock marking the coast; the spectral gable of a ruined church being the only object visible against the leaden sky. Little garlands of paper, the poor tributes of the very poor, decorated the graves and the head-stones, and, as they rustled in the night wind, sounded like ghostly whisperings. The driver piously crossed himself as they passed the “un-cannie” spot, but Dunn took no heed of it. To wrap his cloak tighter about him, to shelter more closely beneath his umbrella, were all that the dreary scene exacted from him; and except when a vivid flash of lightning made the horse swerve from the road and dash down into the rough shingle of the strand, he never adverted to the way or the weather. . . .they entered upon a low, sandy road that traversed a wide and dreary tract, barely elevated a few feet above the sea. By degrees the little patches of grass and fern disappeared, and nothing stretched on either side but low sand hummocks, scantily covered with rushes. Sea-shells crackled beneath the wheels as they went, and after a while the deep booming of the sea thundering heavily along a sandy shore, apprised them that they had crossed the narrow neck of land which divided two bays.
“Are you quite certain you've taken the right road, my man?” cried Dunn, as he observed something like hesitation in the other's manner.
“It ought to be somewhere hereabout we turn off,” said the man, getting down to examine more accurately from beneath. “There was a little cross put up to show the way, but I don't see it.” [Chapter XV, "A Journey Home," pp. 130-31]
Commentary: A Dark Plate Suggestive of the Country's Depressed State
This second dark plate communicates not merely the obscurity of Dunn's way home but also implies the poverty from which he rose to social prominence, dazzling riches, and international acclaim. Dunn shelters himself from the downpour under a battered umbrella as the cab staggers along the seashore and past a ruined Celtic church that symbolizes the economically depressed state of the countryside after the 1801 Act of Union, which transferred fiscal and political power from Dublin to London.
In a clandestine manner, as if to avoid detection, the wealthy and politically connected Dublin solicitor Davenport Dunn takes a cabriolet from the splendid townhouse, returning to his obscure rural roots. Clearly, he does wish anybody to know that his reclusive father, an aged but extremely perceptive peasant who lives in an out-of-the-way spot along the Irish coast, is still very much alive. The old man has been following closely Lord Lackington's pursuing a legal action to bar a legitimate heir — a young soldier whose general circumstances match those of Private Jack Kellett.
In this particular dark plate, Phiz exploits the atmospheric possibilities of highlighting selective areas to focus upon the action of the waves to the right, presumably illuminated by moonlight, the foot of the Celtic cross (centre), and the craggy rocks in the churchyard. The wind blows off the sea, extending the horse's mane towards the left, creating the illusion of movement. As is typical in his representations of the eponymous character, Phiz has obscured Dunn in the darkness of his wind-blown umbrella (right) and depicted only the driver with any clarity. The desolation of the ruined church, which time and weather have reduced to mere gable-ends, contrasts with the enduring cross, an element that Lever has not described and which, therefore, Phiz has added.
- "Phiz" — artist, wood-engraver, etcher, and printer
- Etching, Wood-engraving, or Lithography in Phiz's Illustrations for A Tale of Two Cities?
- Dark Plate Etchings for Davenport Dunn
- Phiz: "A Good Hand at a Horse" — A Gallery and Brief Overview of Phiz's Illustrations of Horses for Defoe, Dickens, Lever, and Ainsworth (1836-64)
- Dark Plate Etchings for Bleak House
- Dark Plate Etchings for Mervyn Clitheroe
- Phiz: 'A Good Hand at a Horse' — A Gallery and Brief Overview of Phiz's Illustrations of Horses for Defoe, Dickens, Lever, and Ainsworth (1836-64)
Harvey, John R. "Conditions of Illustration in Serial Fiction." Victorian Novelists and Their Illustrators. London: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970. Pp. 182-198.
Lever, Charles. Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Day. Illustrated by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.
Lever, Charles. Davenport Dunn: The Man of The Day. Illustrated by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, November 1857 (Part V).
Last modified 2 September 2019