Quilp's Discovery by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz). Wood engraving, 3 ¼ x 4 ½ inches (8 x 11.7 cm). — Part Fourteen, Chapter 23, The Old Curiosity Shop. [For passage illustrated see below.] Date of original serial publication: 8 August 1840. Master Humphrey's Clock, no. 17, 218.

Context of the Illustration: Dick and Quilp Make up

Right: Charles Green's Household Edition study of the same scene: And then they went arm-in-arm, very lovingly together (1874).

Mr. Swiveller swayed himself to and fro to preserve his balance, and, looking into a kind of haze which seemed to surround him, at last perceived two eyes dimly twinkling through the mist, which he observed after a short time were in the neighbourhood of a nose and mouth. Casting his eyes down towards that quarter in which, with reference to a man’s face, his legs are usually to be found, he observed that the face had a body attached; and when he looked more intently he was satisfied that the person was Mr Quilp, who indeed had been in his company all the time, but whom he had some vague idea of having left a mile or two behind.

"You have deceived an orphan, Sir," said Mr. Swiveller solemnly.

"I! I’m a second father to you," replied Quilp.

"You my father, Sir!" retorted Dick. "Being all right myself, Sir, I request to be left alone — instantly, Sir."

"What a funny fellow you are!" cried Quilp.

"Go, Sir," returned Dick, leaning against a post and waving his hand. "Go, deceiver, go, some day, Sir, p’r’aps you’ll waken, from pleasure’s dream to know, the grief of orphans forsaken. Will you go, Sir?"

The dwarf taking no heed of this adjuration, Mr. Swiveller advanced with the view of inflicting upon him condign chastisement. But forgetting his purpose or changing his mind before he came close to him, he seized his hand and vowed eternal friendship, declaring with an agreeable frankness that from that time forth they were brothers in everything but personal appearance. Then he told his secret over again, with the addition of being pathetic on the subject of Miss Wackles, who, he gave Mr Quilp to understand, was the occasion of any slight incoherency he might observe in his speech at that moment, which was attributable solely to the strength of his affection and not to rosy wine or other fermented liquor. And then they went on arm-in-arm, very lovingly together. [Chapter XXIII, 217-18]

Commentary: Quilp Bested in a Pugilistic Encounter

Right: Darley's character study of the agressive Swiveller giving Quilp more than he bargained for when he rushed out of the shop, expecting to berate his timid wife: Dick Swiveller and Quilp (1888). Darley seems to admire Dick's energy and pluck as he flattens the bully and prepares for a second pugilistic encounter in Chapter XXIII.

Phiz out of all the nineteenth-century illustrators of the novel offers the fullest treatment of the scene in which the young "bravo," Dick Swiveller, defends himself against Quilp's rampaging out of the curiosity shop and into the street. As with his previous London scenes involving these characters, here Phiz includes a number of "street people" as critical observers of the little drama playing out before them. In contrast to the respectable bourgeoisie in the background who seem only mildly curious, the pot-boy, laundry-woman, and urchin closely follow the dialogue and actions of the dwarf in the big hat and the besotted youth whose must support himself by hanging on to a hitching post.

Fred Trent and the Slave Colony

The other youth who figures prominently in this chapter, Fred Trent, does not appear in the illustration. Quilp recalls his part in shipping off young Fred at his grandfather's behest three years earlier: "It seems to me but yesterday that you went out to Demerara in the Mary Anne," said Quilp; "but yesterday, I declare" (Chapter XXIII, 220). Apparently Fred was not happy in the situation that had been provided for him (presumably by Quilp) in the former Dutch colony, and returned to England a few months later aboard the same vessel. The allusion does not constitute another Dickens anachronism since Great Britain acquired control of the lucrative sugar-producing colony in 1815 (it did not become British Guiana until 1838). That his grandfather had (likely at Quilp's prompting) had shipped Fred off to that humid South American territory in the 1820s is not implausible, although Dickens does not suggest the precise nature of Fred's colonial posting. Nor does Dickens make reference to the notorious slave rebellion of 1823 which sparked the anti-slavery movement in Britain, ultimately led to the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire on 1 August 1834, although in fact Guiana's slaves were not really freed until 1838. However, perceptive readers in 1840 would probably have associated "entitled" Fred with the worst excesses of slavery before Parliament outlawed it in the Empire in 1833. Dickens becamea vocal proponent of the abolition of slavery in the United States in his 1842 picaresque novel Martin Chuzzlewit.

Materials related to Dickens and Slavery in the 1840s

Relevant Scene from the American Household Edition (1872)

Worth's illustration of how Quilp integrates Dick into his social circle: The dwarf had eyes and ears (Chapter XXIII).

Related Resources

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.]

Bibliography: The Old Curiosity Shop (1841-1924)

Cohen, Jane Rabb. "Part Two: Dickens and His Principal Illustrator. 4. Hablot Browne." (Part 1). Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio U. P., 1980. 59-80.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock. Illustrated by Phiz, George Cattermole, Samuel Williams, and Daniel Maclise. 3 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1840.

Hammerton, J. A. "XIII. The Old Curiosity Shop." The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910. 170-211.

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

Steig, Michael. Chapter 3, "From Caricature to Progress: Master Humphrey's Clock and Martin Chuzzlewit." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 51-85.

Stevens, Joan. "'Woodcuts Dropped into the Text': The Illustrations in The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge." Studies in Bibliography. 20 (1967), 113-134.

Vann, J. Don. "The Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock, 25 April 1840-6 February 1841." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. 64-5.

Created 10 May 2020

Last modified 9 October 2020