Eytinge's Plates for Nicholas Nickleby, Engraved by A. V. S. Anthony

Sol Eytinge, Junior, in designing his short program of sixteen composite woodblock engravings for the Diamond Edition volume of Dickens's third novel had one notable precedent with which his late 60s readers might have already been familiar. Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz") had provided the original 1838-39 serial illustrations for Chapman and Hall's The Life  and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Containing a Faithful Account of the Fortunes, Misfortunes, Uprisings, Downfallings and Complex Career of the Nickleby Family edited by "Boz". Eytinge had the distinct artistic disadvantages of enjoying neither Dickens's confidence nor his active collaboration, whereas in 1838-39 Chapman and Hall's artist and writer worked closely together over nearly two years in planning an extensive narrative-pictorial program for Dickens's third complete novel (from instalment one in April 1838 through to the nineteenth and final serial number in October 1839). Eytinge's much shorter program of composite woodblock engravings focuses on characters singly and in pairs, and realizes far fewer specific moments than Phiz's serial steel engravings.

Nicholas Nickleby was illustrated, like all the other thirteen volumes in the Diamond Edition, by Solomon Eytinge, Junior (1833-1905), who had previously illustrated A Holiday Romance for Ticknor-Fields' juvenile magazine Our Young Folks. Moreover and more significantly, in anticipation of that 1867-68 reading tour, the Boston publisher had commissioned from Eytinge ninety-six designs for wood-engravings to complement the texts of the exhaustive Diamond Edition of Dickens's works. In May, 1869, which marked the beginning of the last year of the novelist's life, Eytinge in company with James and Annie Fields, and her friend Amy Lowell, travelled to England and visited Dickens and his family at Gad's Hill Place, near Rochester, Kent, where over several sittings he painted the writer's portrait, which he subsequently transformed in to a lithograph to be published by Ticknor-Fields.

Some of the following plates eschew the conventional framed format of nineteenth-century book illustration by using a a rounded arch for the upper register of each picture, which is generally a double or group character study (e. g., Nicholas and Smike and The Kenwigs Family and Mr. Lillyvick) rather than an attempt to capture an actual moment in the text. In each volume of the Diamond Edition, however, the illustrator often devotes several plates to individual characters such as Peg Sliderskew (Chapter 57). William Winter in his autobiography recalls that Eytinge's illustrations for the fourteen-volume Diamond Edition of Dickens's works "gained the emphatic approval of the novelist" (318), although the pair did not actively collaborate on this series, as did Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz") and Dickens for the 1838-39 forty serial illustrations for Chapman and Hall. Nevertheless, as one regards this series of sixteen character studies for Nicholas Nickleby, one is tempted to agree with Winter that

The most appropriate pictures that have been made for illustration of the novels of Dickens, — pictures that are truly representative and free from the element of caricature, — are those made by Eytinge. . . .[317-318]

Eytinge's Sixteen Illustrations for Nicholas Nickleby (1867)

The Earlier Programs of Illustration Available to Eytinge

Of the original serial illustrations, J. A. Hammerton remarks that Phiz altered the designs but slightly in the duplicate engravings: "Sixty-three quarto plates for the thirty-nine illustrations were etched for the story, several of the designs being etched three or four times. These duplicate plates, however, are not so varied in detail as those of Pickwick" (147). Among the other illustrations for the novel that Eytinge had probably seen were the 1848 Cheap Edition frontispiece from the Thomas Webster, RA (1800-1886), painting Dotheboys Hall: The Brimstone and Treacle Scene and Phiz's pair of title-page vignettes for the two volumes of the 1858-59 Library Edition (The Nickleby Family and The Mad Gentleman and Mrs. Nickleby). Eytinge probably knew of and might have seen Frank Stone's portraits of Kate Nickleby and Madeline Bray for the frontispieces of Chapman and Hall's first Cheap Edition (1848), and Robert Tyas's portrits of the novel's twenty-four principal characters (1839), published as extra-illustrations in six parts at six shillings per part. Eytinge likely first encountered the Phiz illustrations for the novel in the Lea and Blanchard (Philadelphia) piracy of 1838-39. The Diamond Edition was the first American edition to feature the illustrations of an American illustrator, and it constitutes the second major edition of the novel in the nineteenth century, ahead of the Household Edition of the novel illustrated by Fred Barnard in the next decade. Eytinge anticipated the Household Edition's use of Nicholas and Smike in the frontispiece, and in a mere sixteen illustrations (a quarter of the total for each of the 1870s editions) included a total of thirty-seven characters, with individual portraits of such Dickens originals as the alcoholic clerk Newman Noggs, the miniaturist Miss LaCreevy, actress Henrietta Petowker, and Gride's housekeeper, Peg Sliderskew.

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

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. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Illustrated by Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, 1839.

_______.  Nicholas Nickleby.Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr., and engraved by A. V. S. Anthony.  The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. IV.

_______.  The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. Ed. Andrew Lang. Illustrated by 'Phiz' (Hablot Knight Browne). The Gadshill Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1897. 2 vols.

_______. Nicholas Nickleby. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. IV.

Hammerton, J. A. "Chapter 12: Nicholas Nickleby." The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Co., 1910. Vol. 17, 147-170.

Kitton, Frederic George. Dickens andHis 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. Chapter 8., "Travels with Boz." Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004. 58-69.

Loomis, Rick. First American Editions of Charles Dickens: The Callinescu Collection, Part 1. Yarmouth, ME: Sumner & Stillman, 2010.

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

Steig, Michael. Chapter 2. "The Beginnings of 'Phiz': Pickwick, Nickleby, and the Emergence from Caricature." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 14-50.

Vann, J. Don. "Nicholas Nickleby." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985. 63.

Winter, William. "Charles Dickens" and "Sol Eytinge." Old Friends: Being Literary Recollections of Other Days. New York: Moffat, Yard, & Co., 1909. Pp. 181-202, 317-319.

Created 15 April 2021

Last updated 15 September 2021