Commentary: From the "Introductory Note" to "Scenes and Characters from Dickens" (1908)

Commissioned by Dickens's chief publishers, Chapman and Hall, to illustrate a wholly new, uniform edition of his works, Fred Barnard, Charles Green, Harry French, Gordon Thomson, A. B. Frost, James Mahoney, Edward Dalziel, and other "Illustrators of the Sixties" from 1871 through 1879 produced

a series of Dickens illustrations, now [i. e., in 1908] in some danger of being unduly neglected, in which the artists were wonderfully happy in preserving [ix/x] the original features of Phiz and Cruikshank's interpretations, while they toned down the more extravagant details and brought imagination into closer harmony with reality. These were the illustrations to the square-shaped "Household Edition," published in 1870 [i. e., 1871-79], just after the great novelist's death — and now reissued in the Dickens picture-book, in the hope that those who love the stories may like to possess in separate form what is, perhaps, the best pictorial accompaniment that the novels ever received. At the time of its first publication, the "Household Edition" enjoyed an enormous success. At the moment the name of Dickens was on every one's lips, and the fact that this splendidly illustrated reprint was issued in penny numbers and sixpenny parts placed it within reach of even the most humbly stocked purse. Its sale was stupendous, and the familiar green-covered pamphlets percolated through every town and village where the English tongue is spoken. The original copies may still be met with, under many a country timbered roof, carefully treasured as one of the most cherished household possessions.

Undoubtedly, a great part of the success was due to the art of the illustrators. To begin with, there was an unusually liberal display of pictures — the edition, as a whole, containing close upon nine hundred. But more important than the number were the truth and sincerity of the interpretations — qualities which helped to give a new life to characters already secure of immortality. First and foremost, of course, the edition will always be associated with the memory of Fred Barnard, whose pictures are the outstanding feature of the present volume. Barnard seemed destined by nature to illustrate Dickens; the spirit of "Boz" ran again in his veins. And nothing in his work is more impressively ingenious than the skill with which he took the types already created by his predecessors, preserved [x/xi] their characteristics, so that each was unmistakably himself, and yet by the illuminating touch of genius transferred them every one from the realm of caricature [i. e., the style of Robert Seymour and the other early Victorian illustrators] to that of portraiture. — "Introductory Note," pp. ix-xi.

Related material, including front matter and sketches, by other illustrators


Barnard, J. "Fred" (il.). Charles Dickens's Sketches by Boz, with thirty-four illustrations. The Works of Charles Dickens: The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. Volume 13.

Barnard, Fred, et al.. Scenes and Characters from Dickens. London: Chapman & Hall, 1908.

Dickens, Charles. Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Chapman & Hall, 1836.

Dickens, Charles. Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Works of Charles Dickens. The Household Edition. 55 vols. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1864. Vols. 1-2.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books and Sketches by Boz, Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: James R. Osgood, 1875 [rpt. of 1867 Ticknor & Fields edition].

Dickens, Charles. Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 1.

Dickens, Charles, and Fred Barnard. The Dickens Souvenir Book. London: Chapman & Hall, 1912.

Hammerton, J. A. "Chapter 9: Sketches by Boz." The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Co., 1910. Vol. 17. Pp. 55-83.

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. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Schlicke, Paul, ed. The Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999.

Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.

Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985.

Last modified 29 May 2017