"Coming home from Church" — Phiz's twenty-second illustration for "Dombey and Son" (1847)

Coming home from Church by Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz"), Chapter 31, facing p. 344 in the "London Edition." Mounted vertically. Dimensions: 10 cm (4 inches) in height, 15.8 cm (6.5 inches) wide. Caxton Edition (1911). In the "List of Illustrations" in the Clarendon Edition (1974), editor Alan Horsman shows that this illustration was originally paired with The eyes of Mrs. Chick are opened to Lucretia Tox in the tenth monthly instalment (Chapters 29 through 31), July 1847. The illustration is unusual in that it is Phiz's first attempt at a vertical orientation, which he realised would enable him to select for illustration group scenes that were cramped by the usual horizontal orientation in which he had worked in The Pickwick Papers ten years earlier. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Edith Granger becomes Mrs. Dombey

Now, the carriages arrive at the bride's residence, and the players on the bells begin to jingle, and the band strikes up, and Mr. Punch, that model of connubial bliss, salutes his wife. Now, the people run and push, and press around in a gaping throng, while Mr. Dombey, leading Mrs. Dombey by the hand, advances solemnly into the Feenix Halls. Now, the rest of the wedding party alight, and enter after them. [Chapter 31, "The Wedding," 343].

Commentary: Another Wedding, Another Mrs. Dombey

This plate, depicting the arrival of the bride at her residence immediately after the wedding, both recalls the swirling, vigorous action of Phiz's crowd scenes for Barnaby Rudge. A Tale of the Riots of 'Eighty and anticipates such later crowd scenes as those found in A Tale of Two Cities. Note, for example, how Phiz has positioned Dombey's proud profile in the off-centre in the composition, and through his erect posture and the black hair and height has distinguished him from the other male members of the middle-class present.l Then, too, we note Phiz's familiar fondness for horses (compare the animated horses here to those in The Stoppage at the Fountain and The Spy's Funeral in A Tale of Two Cities) (1859), and unruly, boisterous crowds accompanied by percussive musicians (the drummer, right, and the tambourine player, upper left of centre). Ironically, the vast expense and pomp of the bourgeois ceremony (as exemplified by the silk hats of the celebrants and the ornate uniforms of the carriage drivers and postillions in the background) seem part of a theatrical celebration staged for the benefit of the "pauper" audience, extreme left and right. That this second marriage may not be successful is implied by another theatrical event, the Punch and Judy show, upper right. In contrast to the sterile solemnity and posing of the middle-class wedding-party, Phiz posits the vital energy of the gaping, lower-class onlookers.

Michael Steig's Commentary on Coming home from Church

The sequel plate in the next part, Coming Home from Church (ch. 31), Browne's first for Dickens to be printed horizontally, is a triumphant culmination of what is best in his work up to this time. It is also an especially important example of the integration — even the inseparability — of text and illustration. Dr. Harvey has praised this plate, citing in particular the emphasis upon Dombey's separation from the crowd and his inferiority to it in "vitality and character," as well as the telling details of the Punch and Judy show, which is in the text, and the funeral procession going in the opposite direction, which is not (Harvey, p. 141). The crowd is more than simply vital, however, for the people immediately near the portico look at Dombey with amusement as well as something vaguely menacing, and the image of Dombey in earlier plates as the unaware object of prying, knowing eyes is further advanced. [Ch. 4, p. 96]

In other words, Phiz employs embedded details to comment upon the narrative situation that Dickens has delineated. The Punch and Judy show, for example, implies that the Dombeys' marriage will involve a conflict of wills and constant antagonism between the emotionally restrained husband and the volatile wife. And the competing church processions imply that the Dombeys' marriage is ill-fated, and, as Steig suggests, that Dombey does not realise what he is letting himself in for by marrying an independent-minded, mature woman who will not regard him as her lord and master, but will constantly defy his authority.

Illustrations of the Same Scene in the Diamond and Household Editions (1867-77)

Left: Fred Barnard's Household Edition illustration of the signing of the register to foreshadow the struggle for control between Mr. and Mrs. Dombey: In a firm, free hand the bride subscribes her name in the register (1877). Right: Harry Furniss has reconfigured the bridal procession to foreground the Dombeys, Florence, and (inevitably) Diogenes: The Departure of Mr. Dombey and his bride (1910).

The other four vertically oriented, full-width plates in Dombey and Son:

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. With illustrations by H. K. Browne. The illustrated library Edition. 2 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, c. 1880.

__________. 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 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.

Created 9 November 2007

Last modified 5 January 2021