illuminated initial 'F'rederick Barnard's name no longer immediately springs to mind when one thinks of the subject of Dickens illustrated, but such was not always the case. Although Nicholas Bentley, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis in The Dickens Index (Oxford U. P.: 1988) list both "Barnard's Inn" and "Barnard's Castle," one of the chief illustrators of the 1870s Household Edition of Dickens's fiction escaped their attention — or perhaps they simply considered him so minor and tangential a figure that he was not worthy of a citation. One may apply the same dismissive attitude to the rather more thorough Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens (1999), edited by Paul Schlicke, whose examination of matters of illustrations is generally highly competent. However, in Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work (New York: Facts on File, 1998), Paul Davis does have an entry for this late Victorian Fred Barnard and illustrator.

Fred Barnard [Click on thumbnail for larger image.]

Frederick Barnard (1846-1896), as Davis notes, is chiefly remembered for his work on David Copperfield, The Christmas Books, Martin Chuzzlewit, and A Tale of Two Cities in the Household Edition (1871-79), published by Chapman and Hall in a large "quarto-page" format with plates by the "new" illustrators of the 1860s (including Charles Green, Harry French, F. A. Fraser, and E. G. Dalziel) replacing entirely the earlier work of such graphic artists as George Cruikshank and Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne) for the twenty-two volume series, which included Forster's Life of Dickens. Having worked on nine novels in the Household Edition, Barnard must have found it relatively easy to produce a volume entitled Character Sketches from Dickens in the 1880s. Barnard humanized the types provided by earlier illustrators, at the same time, as Schlicke remarks, "stripp[ing them] of the eccentricity which tended to emphasize the author's own trick of symbolic hyperbole" (205).

As Martin Meisel notes, Fred Barnard studied in Paris, subsequently worked for the magazines Punch and Fun, "and developed into an illustrator whose work appeared in Good Words, Once a Week, and the Illustrated London News" (397). For the Pictorial World in 1883 he collaborated with G. R. Sims on a series entitled How the Poor Live. Barnard also painted large-scale canvasses of social comment upon the urban scene as Saturday Night in the East End (84" x 39"):

. . . even in Fred Barnard's later Saturday Night in the East End (1876) there is space, life, and always character and variety. As in Dickens, urban density and its pressures seem more productive of differentiation than similitude. [Meisel 379]

To demonstrate the significance of this painting in casting upon the late-ninteenth-century London scene an "infernal" or Dantesque quality reminiscent of of that which emanates from Dickens's Bleak House and Doré's scenes of London, Meisel cites William Rossetti's detailed description of the painting of the new Realist School (whose members included Luke Fildes, Hubert Herkomer, and Fred Walker) after he had carefully studied it at the Royal Academy showing:

Saturday Night, by Mr. Barnard, is one of the most remarkable illustrations of London low-life that could be cited from any period of our art. It is certainly not a sightly picture — full of grime and flare, and of human uncouthness; but this is in the nature of the subject: the redness of the lighting is pushed to an extreme, and a disagreeable extreme. The central incident is that of a sailor with a grey parrot on the top of a cab, receiving a bottle of spirits; other incidents of the drinking-plague are a sot reeling into a gin-shop, and his squalid wife clutching at him, while a girl with an unfilled beer-jug glowers over the squabble. . . . These are but a few out of many well-varied aspects of the gaseous pandemonium of Whitechapel as pourtrayed [sic] for us only too truly by Mr. Barnard. [Academy 9 [27 May 1876: 518, as quoted in Meisel, 399]

This description seems more apropos of a rendering of the Whitechapel murders or a staging of George Dibdin Pitt's sensationalistic Sweeney Todd: The Demon-Barber of Fleet Street (The Britannia, 1842) than the work of a genial Dickens illustrator who captures the warmth and charm of such whimsical characters as Trotty Veck, Meggy Veck, Bob Cratchit, and John Peerybingle.

According to F. G. Kitton, Barnard died dramatically in September 1896, not yet fifty, of smoking in bed. Under the influence of "a powerful drug" rather than mere tobacco, his pipe still alight, he fell asleep, and, when the bedclothes caught fire, was suffocated and his body charred. Although the circumstances surrounding Barnard's death seem mundane, the details inquest run in the Times reveal a tale of depression and addiction as pathetic as anything in Dickens. Five years earlier, on 18 December 1891, Fred Barnard's only son, twenty-year-old Geoffrey, an artist who worked alongside his father, suddenly died, his father by his bedside. Distraught with grief, the illustrator tried to escape his deep depression through laudanum so that, although only fifty at his death, his landlady was under the impression that her roomer was at least sixty. Barnard ironically would have recognized his debilitation and haggard appearance as arising from the same cause as Princess Puffer's in Edwin Drood: opiate addiction. Although, as the story in the Times attests, Barnard was still an extremely successful artist in 1896, his marriage to Alice Farady had fallen apart and he was suffering, like John Jasper in that last Dickens novel, from chronic sleeplessness. Added to his ignominious end is the artistic tragedy of the loss to posterity of his greatest work, undoubtedly his largest and most ambitious oil painting, the critically acclaimed epic social realist "Saturday Night in the East End" (1876), 84 inches wide by 39 inches high.


Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.

Jackson, Joan P. "Frederick Barnard (1846-1896), English Illustrator." Posted 18 June 2004. Accessed 29 June 2009.

Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators. 1899. Rpt. Honolulu: U. Press of the Pacific, 2004.

Meisel, Martin. Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England. Princeton U. P., 1983.

Last modified 1 July 2009