(1905), a half-page line-drawing as the head-piece for Stave Three, "The Second of the Three Spirits," 7.2 cm by 10.2 cm, vignetted (47), is Brock's introduction of the Cratchit family as a counterpoint to Scrooge's social alienation.
Context of the Illustration
But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses— to take the pudding up and bring it in.
Suppose it should not be done enough? Suppose it should break in turning out? Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose — a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid? All sorts of horrors were supposed.
Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day. That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastry-cook's next door to each other, with a laundress's next door to that. That was the pudding. In half a minute Mrs. Cratchit entered flushed, but smiling proudly — with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.
Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing. [Stave Three, "The Second of the Three Spirits," p. 58-59]
Although John Leech, the original illustrator of the novella, did not make much of the Cratchits, depicting Bob alone, in fact, just once as a diminutive figure in the tailpiece Scrooge and Bob Cratchit; or, The Christmas Bowl, later illustrators, beginning with Sol Eytinge, Jr., have underscored the importance to the story's domestic theme of the happy family gathering in Camden Town, where, at No. 16 Bayham Street, the Dickenses (Charles, his parents, and siblings) once lived. In this tale of redemption and social reintegration, Cratchit family values (good humour, mutual support, and a keen interest in each other's lives) are crucial to the protagonist's becoming "Uncle Scrooge."
Since, like the previous illustrators — Fred Barnard, E. A. Abbey, Charles Green, and Arthur Rackham, Edmund C. Brock would have access to John Forster's The Life of Charles Dickens (3 volumes, 1872-4; revised in 1876 and published in two volumes), he like the American and British Household Edition illustrators would likely have realised the correspondences between Bob Cratchit and John Dickens, Mrs. Cratchit and Elizabeth Barrow Dickens, the author's parents, and the author's siblings: Belinda (right of centre, back to the reader) and Martha (beside Bob) are Letitia (born 1816) and Fanny Dickens (born 1810, after whom Scrooge's sister appears to have been named); the young daughter in front (centre) would be Harriet Dickens (born 1819); Timothy (left) would have corresponded to Alfred Dickens (born 1822); and Peter Cratchit (in the over-sized collar, centre rear) is perhaps a self-portrait of the adolescent Charles Dickens himself; the remaining boy, right, would be the equivalent of Frederick (born 1820). Since the Dickens family lived at 16 Bayham Street, Camden Town, in 1822, the ages of the Dickens children correspond only approximately to the Cratchits of Camden Town, the temporal setting being (supposedly) the early 1840s; Charles would have been slightly younger than Master Peter Cratchit when in 1824 his father was committed to the Marshalsea for debt (late February 1824). As Green suggests, the Dickens family were a closely knit group, and their days in Camden Town would have been among their most pleasant together, just prior to the debtors' prison experience and Charles's exile to Warren's Blacking, Hungerford Stairs. Born in 1785, John Dickens would have been only thirty-seven at the time of the Camden Town residence, whereas Green's Bob looks markedly older, as does Mrs. Cratchit (Elizabeth Dickens having been born in 1789), than their counterparts in the Dickens family of the early 1820s.
The figures clockwise around the table (which has now been cleared of dinner) are Bob, upstage hand raised to greet the dessert (left); Martha, the seamstress; Master Peter, the oldest son, in one of his father's shirt-collars; Mrs. Cratchit, bearing the pudding, flaming with brandy, from the wash-house to the dining-room; then the four youngest Cratchits — Belinda, the second eldest daughter, between the two youngest, a boy and a girl; and Tiny Tim, immediately beside Bob. What is interesting is that Brock has decided not to attempt the seasonal greening of Scrooge's parlour and the introduction of the "jolly Giant, glorious to see" (49), whom most illustrators, beginning with Leech, visually describe as an agent of transformation, a spirit of abundance, and a catalyst for social harmony.
As becomes a scene in the "domestic sphere," the dominating figure, the Queen Victoria of the family (note the cap that she wears is very like that seen portraits of the older Queen) in this scene, is that of Mrs. Cratchit, although Brock does show her apron. Brock places her "consort," the family's provider, Bob Cratchit, at the head of the table, with the smallest child, Tiny Tim, under his right arm, and the two oldest children immediately beside him. One notes a strong family resemblance between Bob and the two eldest children, the shape of their noses in particular reflecting that feature of their father. As in the text, two of the youngest children wave their spoons to salute the arrival of the wonderful pudding.
Relevant Illustrations from the 1868, 1876, and 1912 editions
Left: Eytinge's interpretation of the scene in which the family welcomes Bob home, Bob Cratchit at Home. Right: The same artist's interpretation of the Cratchit family Christmas dinner, The Wonderful Pudding (1868).
Above: Abbey's reinterpretation of Bob's ironic toast to his employer's being (however unwittingly) the founder of the Cratchit dinner, "Mr. Scrooge!" said Bob; "I'll give you Mr. Scrooge, the Founder of the feast!" (1876).
Above: Green's later version of the finale of the festive meal, Christmas Day at Bob Cratchit's (1912).
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. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.
_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.
_____. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by John Leech. London: Chapman and Hall, 1843.
_____. A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1868.
_____. A Christmas Carol and The Cricket on the Hearth. Illustrated by C. E. [Charles Edmund] Brock. London: J. M. Dent, 1905; New York: Dutton, rpt., 1963.
_____. A Christmas Carol. Illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A. & F. Pears, 1912.
_____. A Christmas Carol. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: William Heinemann, 1915.
_____. A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being A Ghost Story of Christmas. Illustrated by John Leech. (1843). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978.
_____. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Guiliano, Edward, and Philip Collins, eds. The Annotated Dickens. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1986. Vol. 1.
Hearn, Michael Patrick, ed. The Annotated Christmas Carol. New York: Avenel, 1976.
Created 21 September 2015
Last modified 18 March 2020