We sat down on a bench that was near by F. A. Fraser. (1844-1896). 9.7 cm high by 13.8 cm wide (3 ¾ by 5 ⅜ inches), framed (half-page, horizontally mounted), on page 224. Thirtieth and concluding illustration; for Chapter Fifty-nine in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations, which appeared as Volume 11 in the Household Edition in 1876. Running head for page of text: "The Figure in the Ruin" (215). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Reunited by Fate in the Lost Eden

Marcus Stone's iconic concluding image of the mature Pip and Estella in the garden at Satis House in the 1862 Illustrated Library Edition: With Estella after all.

A cold silvery mist had veiled the afternoon, and the moon was not yet up to scatter it. But, the stars were shining beyond the mist, and the moon was coming, and the evening was not dark. I could trace out where every part of the old house had been, and where the brewery had been, and where the gates, and where the casks. I had done so, and was looking along the desolate garden walk, when I beheld a solitary figure in it.

The figure showed itself aware of me, as I advanced. It had been moving towards me, but it stood still. As I drew nearer, I saw it to be the figure of a woman. As I drew nearer yet, it was about to turn away, when it stopped, and let me come up with it. Then, it faltered, as if much surprised, and uttered my name, and I cried out, —


“I am greatly changed. I wonder you know me.”

The freshness of her beauty was indeed gone, but its indescribable majesty and its indescribable charm remained. Those attractions in it, I had seen before; what I had never seen before, was the saddened, softened light of the once proud eyes; what I had never felt before was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand.

We sat down on a bench that was near, and I said, “After so many years, it is strange that we should thus meet again, Estella, here where our first meeting was! Do you often come back?”

“I have never been here since.”

“Nor I.”

The moon began to rise, and I thought of the placid look at the white ceiling, which had passed away. The moon began to rise, and I thought of the pressure on my hand when I had spoken the last words he had heard on earth.

Estella was the next to break the silence that ensued between us. [Chapter LIX, 225]

Commentary: Fraser's Place Among Dickens's Illustrators

To begin with, Charles Dickens had died in the midst of writing yet another best-seller — but the potential for sales of his novels was very much alive in the minds of the management of Chapman and Hall, Covent Garden. The year after their principal author's death, the London publishing house issued a new Oliver Twist as the first of a series that would eventually amount to twenty-two volumes. Chapman and Hall named the new edition the "Household Edition" in order to capitalize on the reading public's fond memories of of Dickens's 1850s weekly journal, Household Words. The firm, desiring a new "sixties" look for the illustrations, recruited members of a new generation of artists that had moved away from the symbolic detailism and caricature of Phiz and Cruikshank. Although Fred Barnard received the commissions for a number of the new volumes, F. A. Fraser received the contract for Great Expectations (1875).

Including the frontispiece, Fraser's series includes twenty-eight plates. In the last, he reveals to the reader unfamiliar with the novel's plot that Pip and Estella do indeed meet again in the closing pages. But, like Dickens, the illustrator gives the reader an ambivalent closure rather than what we have come to recognize as the "happy" ending of "Boy Gets Girl" that the Victorian reading public demanded. The illustration, centrally positioned on the page which describes Pip's return to the forge after eleven years abroad, alerts the reader to the final scene in the ruined garden--but not to its outcome.

Pip and Estella Reunited in the Ruined Garden

John McLenan's serial conclusion of the Pip and Estella in the 3 August 1861 Harper's Weekly series: I saw the shadow of no parting from her, as they stand, ready to leave Satis House together.

F. A. Fraser admirably conveys the twilight hour by the dark shading that sweeps across the entire picture, although he does not show the rising moon as a symbol of hope as McLenan does in the concluding Harper's Weekly wood-engraving for the American serialisation. Nevertheless, Fraser suggests Pip's hopefulness in the earnest, questioning look he gives Estella. Her pensiveness in the downcast turn of her head and her averted glance complements Pip's engagement. The viewer finds it difficult to "read" her attitude towards Pip. He has aged very little if at all since the deathbed scene with Magwitch (plate 27) — indeed, his hair and features seem unchanged, and he still wears the same middle-class suit and carries the same cane. Despite the December setting, a rosebush flourishes to the left of the figures, emblematic perhaps of their continuing affection for one another, and inspired perhaps by Dickens's reference to the ancient ivy that "had struck root anew, and was growing green on the low quiet mounds of ruin" (225). Through his caption Fraser indicates the precise moment realized. The bench is of wood rather than wrought-iron or stone, and is, therefore, like the middle-aged lovers, surprisingly well preserved. The general tidiness of the background is hardly suggestive of a "ruin" at all.

Although the shading makes assessment of the colour of Estella's clothing difficult, she appears to be in mourning, despite the fact that two years have passed since her husband Bentley Drummle's death. Although Pip drescribes himself to her as one who "work[s] pretty hard for a sufficient living," he is as fashionably and soberly dressed as she. Unlike Stone and Furniss, Fraser has chosen to depict the lovers seated and still exploring their feelings for one another, rather than showing them leaving the ruined garden together and towards (the reader hopes) a new life together. This, the reader unfamiliar with the entire plot of the novel is caught in a moment of indecision, and does not find closure in this illustration until he or she has turned the page and read the accompanying letter-press. The plate in itself does not afford closure, only the fragile possibility of closure.

Other Artists’ Illustrations for Dickens's Great Expectations

Scanned images and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


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.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Illustrated by John McLenan. [The First American Edition]. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization, Vols. IV: 740 through V: 495 (24 November 1860-3 August 1861).

______. ("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.

______. Great Expectations. Illustrated by 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.

______. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

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

______. Great Expectations. Illustrated by Frederic W. Pailthorpe. 16 unnumbered pages of plates: color illustrations. London: Robson and Kerslake, 1885.

______. Great Expectations. The Gadshill Edition. Illustrated by Charles Green. London: Chapman and Hall, 1898.

______. Great Expectations. The Grande Luxe Edition, ed. Richard Garnett. Illustrated by Clayton J. Clarke ('Kyd'). London: Merrill and Baker, 1900.

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

______. Great Expectations. Illustrated by Henry Matthew Brock. London: Hodder and Stoughton, n. d. [1916].

Created 19 March 2004

Last modified 28 September 2021