"Oh, the river!" she cried passionately. "Oh, the river!" Forty-sixth illustration for the 1872 Household Edition of David Copperfield (illustrating the crucial moment in Chapter XLVII, "Martha," p. 329). 9.5 cm by 13.9 cm. Composite wood-block, engraved by the Dalziels. [Dan'l Peggotty and David Copperfield have arrived at the northern bank of the Thames just in time to prevent the former Yarmouth seamstress Martha Endell from committing suicide.] 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.]


Effective as Barnard's wood-engraving of the suicide interrupted may be, it is not as animated, dramatic, or moving as Phiz's August 1850 original, a dark steel-engraving entitled The River in Chapter 47, "Martha," in the sixteenth monthly number. Whereas the 1872 composite woodblock engraving has a generalized background and Dan'l Peggotty and David Copperfield have already rescued the Fallen Woman from drowning herself in the Thames, the original version juxtaposes the rescuers on the bank (right) with Martha Endell, windblown and staring into the black, disturbed waters, and the gloomy London skyline above images of dereliction and decay, sagging pylons and the skeleton of a boat, details which acquire psychological significance, while symbols of the Church (left of upper centre, St. Paul's Cathedral) and State (centre, The Tower of London) imply society's failure to address the social problem of The Fallen Woman that so absorbed Dickens during his time volunteering on the Urania Cottage project with the philanthropic banking heiress, the Baroness Angela Burdett Coutts (1814-1906). Through his friendship with Phiz and the anecdotes that the senior illustrator undoubtedly shared with him about illustrating David Copperfield, Barnard would have recognised the connection between Urania Cottage and the thwarted suicide of a prostitute in the 1849-50 novel.


Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield, illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). The Centenary Edition (rpt. of 1850 edition). London: Chapman and Hall; New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911.

Dickens, Charles. David Copperfield, with 61 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1872. Vol. 3.

The copy of the Household Edition from which this picture was scanned was the gift of George Gorniak, Editor of The Dickens Magazine, whose subject for the fifth series, beginning in January 2010, is this novel.

Last modified 25 August 2016