'Why should I look at him?' returned Estella by F. A. Fraser. 1876. Full-page wood-engraving, from the Household Edition of Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, illustrated by F. A. Fraser with thirty composite woodblock engravings (1876). 13.2 cm high by 17.9 cm wide (5 ⅛ by 7 inches), framed. Running head: "And She Encourages Him" (145). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Anticipated: At the Ball, Pip and Estella argue about Bentley Drummle

“Are you tired, Estella?”

“Rather, Pip.”

“You should be.”

“Say rather, I should not be; for I have my letter to Satis House to write, before I go to sleep.”

“Recounting to-night’s triumph?” said I. “Surely a very poor one, Estella.”

“What do you mean? I didn’t know there had been any.”

“Estella,” said I, “do look at that fellow in the corner yonder, who is looking over here at us.”

“Why should I look at him?” returned Estella, with her eyes on me instead. “What is there in that fellow in the corner yonder,—to use your words,—that I need look at?”

“Indeed, that is the very question I want to ask you,” said I. “For he has been hovering about you all night.”

“Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures,” replied Estella, with a glance towards him, “hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?”

“No,” I returned; “but cannot the Estella help it?”

“Well!” said she, laughing, after a moment, “perhaps. Yes. Anything you like.”

“But, Estella, do hear me speak. It makes me wretched that you should encourage a man so generally despised as Drummle. You know he is despised.”

“Well?” said she.

“You know he is as ungainly within as without. A deficient, ill-tempered, lowering, stupid fellow.”

“Well?” said she.

“You know he has nothing to recommend him but money and a ridiculous roll of addle-headed predecessors; now, don’t you?”

“Well?” said she again; and each time she said it, she opened her lovely eyes the wider.

To overcome the difficulty of getting past that monosyllable, I took it from her, and said, repeating it with emphasis, “Well! Then, that is why it makes me wretched.”

Now, if I could have believed that she favoured Drummle with any idea of making me — me — wretched, I should have been in better heart about it; but in that habitual way of hers, she put me so entirely out of the question, that I could believe nothing of the kind.

“Pip,” said Estella, casting her glance over the room, “don’t be foolish about its effect on you. It may have its effect on others, and may be meant to have. It’s not worth discussing.”

“Yes it is,” said I, “because I cannot bear that people should say, ‘she throws away her graces and attractions on a mere boor, the lowest in the crowd.’”

“I can bear it,” said Estella. [Chapter XXXVIII, 145]

Commentary: Preparing the Reader for Scenes from Richmond Society

In Marcus Stone's 1862 series of eight illustrations he does not realise any of Pip's moments of anguish at losing Estella to Bentley Drummle, "The Spider." Rather, Stone (probably in conjunction with Dickens) has chosen a moment that establishes a Collinsian atmosphere of watchful suspicion that envelops the last part of the book as the romantic plot gives way for a time to the plot involving Provis and Compeyson. Despite Dickens's protestations to his confidant John Forster that the new novel would contain a great deal of his old humour, especially in the character of the "good-natured foolish man [Joe Gargery], in relations that seem to me very funny" (Letters, 9: 325, "To John Forster, [early October 1860]"), the eight Marcus Stone illustrations and the thirty F. A. Fraser Illustrations contain little humour, either situational or character related.

However, as F. A. Fraser implies by his full-page realisation of the scene in the Richmond drawing-room that apparently motivates Estella's bizarre intention to marry the brutal and boorish (but aristocratic) Bentley Drummle, this is in part a silver-fork novel that juxtaposes the regional and working-class existence of Pip as a child on the Marshes in the opening scenes with the London society scenes which Pip enters as an adult before losing his "expectations." Typically in the Household Edition volumes, the full-page frontispiece marks a moment of great narrative interest, although not necessarily the climax; so, for example, in the American printing of David Copperfield volume, in the frontispiece, Fred Barnard depicts Ham Peggotty's attempting to rescue survivors from the wreck on the beach at Yarmouth (little suspecting that Steerforth is on the vessel); in that for A Tale of Two Cities, Barnard prepares the reader for Darnay's second appearance before the revolutionary tribunal; in that for The Christmas Books the same illustrator constructs a sentimental scene never actually narrated in A Christmas Carol, He had been Tim's blood-horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. Since the narrator himself describes this scene after the assembly-room ball at Richmond as "the one chapter to the theme that so filled my heart, and so often made it ache and ache again" (145), Fraser's choice of subject for the frontispiece reflects a careful reading of the novel as a romance.

Among Fraser's thirty wood-engravings there is but one occasion depicted when Pip is not present (this being The sergeant ran in first, in which the party of soldiers accompanied by Joe and Pip apprehends Magwitch and Compeyson fighting in the marsh), usually as an interlocutor and observer rather than an actor or agent of the plot — and often as a victim or receiver of action, both in such early illustrations as the uncaptioned plate in the first chapter (And you know what wittles is?) and late in the novel, when Orlick had made Pip his captive in the hut by the lime-kiln, "Do you know this?" said he. In most of Fraser's series, Pip appears at or near the centre of the composition, and is often depicted as interacting with just one other character. Even in the apprenticeship interview at Satis House, Well, Pip, you know , . . . you yourself see me put 'em in my 'at, Pip responds to just one other character (in this case, Joe) even though others are present and listening to the conversation. He appears on four occasions by himself: initially, in the title-page vignette, when in Chapter 53 Pip, unaccompanied, approaches the lime-kiln on the Marshes and his fateful meeting with a lifelong adversary, Old Orlick; in Chapter 35, upon his return to the village for Mrs. Joe's funeral, in It was fine summer weather again; in Gradually, I slipped from the chair and lay on the floor (in Chapter 39, when exhaustion overwhelms Pip after Magwitch's reappearance in the character of his "uncle" from overseas), and again in Chapter 47, after Estella's marriage, when Pip fights his restlessness by rowing on the lower reaches of the Thames, I had had to feel my way back among the shipping. In short, from the number of occasions in which he appears in the visual text of the Household Edition there is no doubt as to his being the story's central character in a "rags-to-riches" narrative.

The number of times that other characters appear in the thirty illustrations, then, shapes the nature of the narrative as it would have been received by many readers on both sides of the Atlantic in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Often, for example, in the first part of the novel, Fraser has Pip appear with other children, with Estella, Biddy, and once with Herbert He said, "Aha! Would you?" and began dancing backwards and forwards in Chapter 11, thus reifying the bildungsroman nature of that part of the narrative, in a manner consistent with Wordsworth's adage that "The child is father of the man."Abel Magwitch, who appears in none of the original Marcus Stone illustrations, is, however, a significant presence in Fraser's narrative-pictorial sequence, appearing a total of five times, twice at the beginning, and three times towards the end — realising the "Newgate" aspect of the novel. In terms of their appearances in the novel, four supporting characters stand out in the Household Edition: Miss Havisham, Herbert Pocket, Joe Gargery, and (most significantly) Estella.

Admittedly John McLenan was merely guessing as he read the serial instalments in proof as to what directions the plot would take and which characters would assume greater prominence as the narrative developed complications, but clearly he regarded the three parental figures as second in importance only to Pip, for while over the course of forty illustrations Pip appears as child, youth, and adult some thirty-four times (including one solo appearance), or in 85% of the weekly illustrations, Magwitch occurs in six (15%), Miss Havisham in the same proportion, and Joe in ten (25%). By contrast, perhaps because McLenan failed initially to anticipate her importance, Estella appears only five times (12.5%). However, with a great many spaces to fill week by week, McLenan has depicted in excess of twenty characters, although perhaps he misjudged the significance of such figures as Trabb's boy, Molly, the Avenger, the Aged P., Wemmick, and especially Orlick (one appearance each). Appreciating the crime-and-detection and Newgate plots, however, McLenan has included four appearances by Jaggers, but, oddly, never depicts the shadowy criminal Compeyson. In contrast, Stone includes only nine significant characters, although of course he includes Pip in every illustration, but Eytinge in the Diamond Edition's eight small-scale wood-engravings treats all thirteen characters equally, even going so far as devoting one illustration each to such idiosyncratic characters as Jaggers, Trabb's boy, and Old Orlick, although his illustrations tend to be character studies rather than realisations of particular moments in the text. However, with thirty illustrations (for the most part, half-page wood-engravings) in his program, F. A. Fraser includes thirteen significant characters, as well as a few minor ones in an edition that reached thousands of readers on either side of the Atlantic in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, numbers only exceeded by the weekly instalments published in Harper's Weekly (1860-61).

Relevant Illustrations from other editions: 1860-61, 1862, 1876, 1897, and 1910

Left: John McLenan's 13 April 1861 depiction of Pip and Estella at the coaching inn, "If I say yes, may I kiss the cheek again". Middle: "Miss Havisham and Estella" by Sol Eytinge, Junior in the Diamond Edition (1867), which involves a mature Estella's rebelling against her adoptive mother. Right: Charles Green's Gadshill Edition lithograph of the Pip and Estella, now young adults, at Satis House prior to the Richmond ball, "Pip and Estella Walking in the Garden" (1897).

Left: Charles Green's Gadshill Edition lithograph of the Pip and Estella, now young adults, at Satis House before the Richmond ball, Pip and Estella Walking in the Garden (1897). Right: Harry Furniss's more dramatic choice of subject in the off-again-on-again romance of Pip and Estella in Ch. 44, Estella tells Pip of her engagement to Mr. Drummle (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Tally of thirty illustrations in the Household Edition (1876)

Number of appearances by characters; plates on pages:

(28) Pip: plates without Pip = p. 16, 168
(6) Estella = Front., p. 29, p. 48, 124, 144, 224
(5) Magwitch = 1, 16, 149, 164, 216
(4) Joe = p. 21, p. 48, p. 53, 104
(3) Herbert = p. 44, 104, 164
(3) Miss Havisham = p. 48, 144, 188
(2) Jaggers = p. 77, p. 92
(2) Trabb's boy = p. 72, 116
(2) Drummle = frontispiece, p. 168
(1) Wemmick = p. 97
(1) Wemmick's Aged P. = p. 97
(1) Orlick = p. 53, 200
(1) Compeyson = p. 16
(0) absent = Mrs. Joe
(0) absent = Pumblechook, Wopsle.

Understandably, Fraser's focal character, like McLenan's and Stone's, is Pip, who appears in all but two of the Household Edition illustrations, and is conspicuous by his presence in the first three illustrations and the last three. Unusually for a Household Edition volume, there is but one full-page illustration, the frontispiece, which accords prominence to Pip's beloved and Pip's romantic rival, thereby establishing the importance of this romantic triangle from the outset. Although the ranking of the importance of characters by virtue of the number of times that Fraser has represented them is not altogether surprising, with Estella appearing a total of six times, that the surrogate parent Magwitch appears five times, but the other surrogates less (Joe just four, Miss Havisham three, and Mrs. Joe not at all) suggests that in selecting scenes for illustration Fraser had the romantic rather than the Newgate plot uppermost in his thoughts — as his choice of scene for the large-scale frontispiece confirms. Fraser also minimizes or entirely leaves out many of the comic supporting characters that are so typically Dickensian in their peculiarities and eccentricities (Pumblechook and Wopsle, for example), while giving supporting characters who contrast Pip (Biddy, Trabb's boy, Orlick, and Drummle) a minimum of two appearances. Given the very different lengths of the various narrative-pictorial programs produced over the fifty years of major illustrated versions of Great Expectations by nineteenth-century illustrators (see below), simply comparing the number of appearances of any given character is pointless, but percentages are informative. As one would expect, Pip is the dominant figure in all editions, appearing in 93% of McLenan's forty illustrations, 100% of Stone's eight, and 93% of Fraser's thirty, for example.

These longer programs, however, provide emphases that relate the story to particular genres and themes. McLenan's series is different from the others, not so much by virtue of its length as by its being the product of a strictly serial reading. Furthermore, whereas McLenan had no models from which to work, all the later illustrators were able to study the work of their predecessors, although the British illustrators were not likely aware of the illustrations of their American colleagues. In particular, F. A. Fraser, working in the new medium of the wood-engraving a decade after Marcus Stone, had several advantages over Dickens's chosen illustrator in that he had read and re-read the text and studied at least one other artist's illustrations of the novel. Fraser did not, however, have the not inconsiderable advantage of being able to consult the author himself.

Illustrations for Dickens's Great Exp[ectations by other 19th c. artists

  • Edward Ardizzone (2 plates selected)
  • H. M. Brock (8 lithographs)
  • J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd") (2 lithographs from watercolours)
  • Felix O. C. Darley (2 plates)
  • Sol Eytinge, Jr. (8 wood engravings)
  • Harry Furniss (28 plates)
  • Charles Green (8 lithographs)
  • John McLenan (40 wood engravings)
  • Frederic W. Pailthorpe (12 lithographs)
  • Marcus Stone (8 wood engravings)
  • Bibliography

    Allingham, Philip V. "The Illustrations for Great Expectations in Harper's Weekly (1860-61) and in the Illustrated Library Edition (1862) — 'Reading by the Light of Illustration'." Dickens Studies Annual, Vol. 40 (2009): 113-169.

    Barnard, J. "Fred" (il.). Charles Dickens's The Personal History of David Copperfield, with sixty-one illustrations. The Works of Charles Dickens: The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall; New York: Harper and Brothers, 1872.

    Barnard, J. "Fred" (il.). Charles Dickens's The Christmas Books.The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

    Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

    Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.

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

    Dickens, Charles. The Letters of Charles Dickens. Ed. Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Tillotson. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965. Vol. 9 (1859-1861).

    Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. All the Year Round. Vols. IV and V. 1 December 1860 through 3 August 1861.

    Dickens, Charles. ("Boz."). Great Expectations. With thirty-four illustrations from original designs by John McLenan. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson (by agreement with Harper & Bros., New York), 1861.

    Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Il. Marcus Stone. The Illustrated Library Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1862. Rpt. in The Nonesuch Dickens, Great Expectations and Hard Times. London: Nonesuch, 1937; Overlook and Worth Presses, 2005.

    Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

    Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Volume 6 of the Household Edition. Illustrated by F. A. Fraser. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876.

    Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. The Gadshill Edition. Il. Charles Green. London: Chapman and Hall, 1897-1908.

    Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. "With 28 Original Plates by Harry Furniss." Volume 14 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.

    McLenan, John, il. Charles Dickens's Great Expectations [the First American Edition]. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, Vols. IV: 740 through V: 495 (24 November 1860-3 August 1861). Rpt. Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson, 1861.

    Rosenberg, Edgar (ed.). "Launching Great Expectations." Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. New York: W. W. Norton, 1999. Pp. 389-423.

    Waugh, Arthur. "Charles Dickens and His Illustrators." Retrospectus and Prospectus: The Nonesuch Dickens. London: Bloomsbury, 1937, rpt. 2003. Pp. 6-52.

    Created 15 January 2014; last updated 15 August 2021