xxx xxx

Profound Cogitation of Captain Cuttle in Chapter 15, "Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit for Walter Gay," Dombey and Son, first published by Chapman and Hall in the fifth serial instalment (February 1847), facing p. 256 in the 1880 edition. The colourized version of this illustration comes from the Caxton, Ballantyne, and Hanson edition (1910), facing title-page. 12 cm high by 9.7 cm wide (4 ¾ x 4 inches. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: The Old Salt as an Aged Philosopher

Walter related to him what had happened; and the difficulty in which he felt respecting his Uncle, and the relief it would be to him if Captain Cuttle, in his kindness, would help him to smooth it away; Captain Cuttle’s infinite consternation and astonishment at the prospect unfolded to him, gradually swallowing that gentleman up, until it left his face quite vacant, and the suit of blue, the glazed hat, and the hook, apparently without an owner.

"You see, Captain Cuttle," pursued Walter, "for myself, I am young, as Mr Dombey said, and not to be considered. I am to fight my way through the world, I know; but there are two points I was thinking, as I came along, that I should be very particular about, in respect to my Uncle. I don’t mean to say that I deserve to be the pride and delight of his life — you believe me, I know — but I am. Now, don’t you think I am?"

The Captain seemed to make an endeavour to rise from the depths of his astonishment, and get back to his face; but the effort being ineffectual, the glazed hat merely nodded with a mute, unutterable meaning. [Chapter XV, "Amazing Artfulness of Captain Cuttle, and a new Pursuit for Walter Gay," 161-62]


Although the nominal protagonist is the aloof, self-centred Mr. Dombey, British merchant-prince, the early twentieth-century edition of the early Victorian novel in its frontispiece focuses on the youthful sailor-hero Walter Gay and his avuncular mentor, the crotchety old salt Captain Alfred (Ned) Cuttle. The earth-tones of the retired sailor's quarters, laden with the seafaring memorabilia from a lifetime's voyages, reinforce the welcoming nature of this initial Phiz illustration, which originally appeared in Part Five (February 1847). Phiz captures Cuttle's characteristic pose, pondering Walter's problem as he holds his steel hook up to his chin. The hook which has replaced his right hand and his glazed hat are objects which stand for the kindly Dickens original who befriends Walter and Florence Dombey. Captain Cuttle, who is the fast friend of Walter's uncle, Sol Gills, proprietor of The Little Midshipman, serves as a continuing presence in the novel from the fourth chapter. The relationship between the cheerful, self-reliant adolescent and the charming old salt serves as the classic picaresque pairing of the type that Dickens relied upon so heavily in his early novels. To suggest the differences in their ages and experiences, the artist responsible for the colourization made Cuttle's gnarled visage a pronounced red, in contrast to the pallid face of the neatly dressed Walter. Caricaturist Kyd (Clayton J. Clarke) gave his version of Captain Cuttle the same rubicund visage in his 1910 Player's Cigarette Card Number 25, only of only four for the 1848 novel.

Illustrations of Captain Cuttle in Other Editions (1867-1924)

Left: Fred Barnard's Household Edition illustration of Captain Cuttle's buying flowers in a London street: Before they had gone very far, they encountered a woman selling flowers; when the captain, stopping short, as if struck by a happy idea, made a purchase. . . . (1877). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s Diamond Edition illustration of the retired sailor: Captain Cuttle (1867). Right: Kyd's Player Cigarette Card No. 25: Captain Cuttle (1910). Far right: Harold Copping's study of the Captain, Walter, and Sol Gills: Before they had gone very far, they encountered a woman selling flowers; when the captain, stopping short, as if struck by a happy idea, made a purchase . . . (1924).

Related Material, including Other Illustrated Editions of Dombey and Son

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. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"). The London Edition, Volume 4. London: Caxton & Ballantyne, 1901.

__________. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Hablot K. Browne ("Phiz"). 8 coloured plates. London and Edinburgh: Caxton and Ballantyne, Hanson, 1910.

__________. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Hablot K. Browne ("Phiz"). The Clarendon Edition, ed. Alan Horsman. Oxford: Clarendon, 1974.

__________. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr., and engraved by A. V. S. Anthony. 14 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. III.

__________. Dombey and Son. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. 61 wood-engravings. The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1877. XV.

_________. Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. IX.

Hammerton, J. A. "Chapter 16: Dombey and Son."The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition.Illustrated by Harry Furniss. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Co., 1910. Vol. 17, 294-337.

Kitton, Frederic George. Dickens and His Illustrators: Cruikshank, Seymour, Buss, "Phiz," Cattermole, Leech, Doyle, Stanfield, Maclise, Tenniel, Frank Stone, Landseer, Palmer, Topham, Marcus Stone, and Luke Fildes. Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1972. Re-print of the London (1899) edition.

Lester, Valerie Browne. Ch. 12, "Work, Work, Work." Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004, pp. 128-160.

Steig, Michael. Chapter 4. "Dombey and Son: Iconography of Social and Sexual Satire." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 86-112.

Vann, J. Don. Chapter 4. "Dombey and Son, twenty parts in nineteen monthly installments, October 1846-April 1848." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985. 67-68.

Created 30 December 2019

Last modified 28 January 2021