Background Information: Browne and the 1854-56 Irish Novel

During the period of gestation for The Martins of Cro’ Martin, Charles Lever, living in Florence, was deeply in debt as a result of his extravagant, aristocratic lifstyle that he could not sustain on a diplomat’s salary. The only thing that kept him afloat financially was the regular advances from Chapman and Hall on the new novel. He considered undertaking an American lecture tour, but could not bring himself to confront a daunting circuit of the type that Dickens pursued in the 1840s.

All this while The Martins of Cro’ Martin had been following a less agitated course in the familiar pink-covered months' parts. The novel was in a sense a sequel to The Knight of Gwynne, being a parallel study of a vast Connaught estate, a generation later. The Knight had investigated the political and social consequences of the Act of Union [incorporating Ireland into Great Britain in 1801]; The Martins similarly investigated those of the Emancipation Bill [1829, repealing the Test Act of 1672]. His own recollections of the cholera year gave compassion to his treatment of the poor; but even in an incidental episode of the barricades in Paris the sympathy was distinctly proletarian. Artistically, the book was among [Lever's] highest achievements: the attitude was tolerant, the characterization was admirably realistic, the elements of tragedy were introduced without sentimentality. [Stevenson, Dr. Quicksilver, 215]

Geographical and Socio-political Associations: Victorian Ireland

Illustrations for The Martins of Cro' Martin (Dec. 1854 — June 1856)

Commentary by Michael Steig (1978): An Absence of Dark Plates

Up through Lever's The Dodd Family Abroad (1852-54), Browne's use of emblematic details in illustrations remains fairly steady, but from 1855 on their number dwindles, and although Little Dorrit has a few, Lever's The Martins of Cro'Martin (1854-56) has none at all. Browne's etched line becomes darker and bolder, but it has not lost its sensitivity, and there are a number of plates for this novel which are scenically splendid. They reveal Browne's new interest in composition, and in the arrangement of light and dark shapes almost for its own aesthetic, as distinct from conceptual, value. But what I think must be considered the last three major sets of illustrations are those for Mayhew's Paved With Gold (1857-58), Lever's Davenport Dunn (1857-59), and the completion of the suspended Mervyn Clitheroe (1851-52; concluded 1858). Dark plates abound in all three, and a certain coarsening of technique is not yet evident. [Chapter VII, "Phiz the Illustrator: An Overview and Summing Up," p. 310]

The Novel's Nineteen Serial Instalments

Scanned images and texts 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.]


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

Lester, Valerie Browne Lester. Chapter 11: "'Give Me Back the Freshness of the Morning!'" Phiz! The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004. Pp. 108-127.

Lever, Charles. The Martins of Cro' Martin. With 39 illustrations by Phiz. London: Chapman & Hall, 1856, rpt. London & New York: Routledge, 1873. 2 vols.

Lever, Charles. The Martins of Cro' Martin. Illustrated by Phiz [Hablot Knight Browne]. Novels and Romances of Charles Lever. Introduction by Andrew Lang. Lorrequer Edition. Vols. XII and XIII. In two volumes. Boston: Little, Brown, 1907.

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

Stevenson, Lionel. Chapter XII, "Aspirant for Preferment, 1854-1856." Dr. Quicksilver: The Life of Charles Lever. New York: Russell and Russell, 1939; rpt. 1969. Pp. 203-220.

_______. "The Domestic Scene." The English Novel: A Panorama. Cambridge, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin and Riverside, 1960.

Created 11 September 2022