"Ah! Would you?" Wood engraving by A. B. Frost for Part IV, "Tales": Chapter VIII, "The Great Winglebury Duel," in Dickens's Sketches by Boz Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-Day People, page 248. Wood-engraving; 4 ⅛ by 5 ⅛ inches (10.5 cm high by 13.3 cm wide), framed. In focussing on the hotel guest and the boots Frost fails to provide the drama and background details that readers find in other artists' renderings.

Scanned image, colour correction, sizing, caption, and commentary 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.] Click on the image to enlarge it.

Bibliographical Note

"The Great Winglebury Duel," eighth of the stories in the "Tales" section of the collected edition of Sketches buy Boz originally appeared in Macrone's first series of the anthologized sketches in 1836. For this first version George Cruikshank provided a single copper-plate engraving, which he had to re-engrave for the larger pages of the 1839 Chapman and Hall single-volume edition. Dickens himself adapted the piece for the stage as the farce The Strange Gentleman at the St. James's Theatre, débuting on 29 September 1836. The playwright altered the names of the principals slightly, possibly for comic effect: "Alexander Trott," the "Strange Gentleman," becomes "Walter Trott"; "Horace Hunter," Trott's rival, becomes "Horatio Tinkles"; and "Lady Julia" becomes plain "Miss Julia Dobbs."

Although most of the sketches in this early work were originally published as separate entries in various magazines and journals between 1833 and 1836, the 1837 "Second Series" edition, as noted above, constitutes the first appearance of five of the London sketches: "A Visit to Newgate," "The Black Veil," "The Great Winglebury Duel," "Our Next-Door Neighbour," and "The Drunkard's Death." Accordingly, the illustration of Alexander Trott and the rough-and-ready boots of the inn is one of the last which Cruikshank produced for the series.

To celebrate Dickens's second American reading tour, his Boston publishers, Ticknor & Fields, commissioned American artist Sol Eytinge, Junior, to illustrate the wholly new, pocket-sized Diamond Edition (1867), which included a single wood-engraving for "The Great Winglebury Duel." Then came the American Household Edition, with Frost's illustrations for Sketches by Boz (1877), and the British Household Edition of Sketches by Boz with large-scale composite woodblock engravings by Fred Barnard (1876). Like George Cruikshank in the original anthology, Fred Barnard andA. B. Frost each devoted a single illustration to "The Great Winglebury Duel." Harry Furniss in The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) also provided one illustration for "The Great Winglebury Duel."

Passage Illustrated: Restraining the Madman

"You'd better be quiet, young feller," remarked the boots, going through a threatening piece of pantomime with the stick.

"Or mad!" said Mr. Trott, rather alarmed. "Leave the room!" shouted Trott, ringing the bell violently: for he began to be alarmed on a new score.

"Leave that 'ere bell alone, you wretched loo-nattic!" said the boots, suddenly forcing the unfortunate Trott back into his chair, and brandishing the stick aloft. "Be quiet, you miserable object, and don't let everybody know there's a madman in the house."

"He is a madman! He is a madman!" exclaimed the terrified Mr. Trott, gazing on the one eye of the red-headed boots with a look of abject horror.

"Madman!" replied the boots — "dam'me, I think he is a madman with a vengeance! Listen to me, you unfort'nate. Ah! would you?" [a slight tap on the head with the large stick, as Mr. Trott made another move towards the bell-handle] "I caught you there! did I?" [Part IV, "Tales," Chapter VIII, "The Great Winglebury Duel," p. 199-200]

Commentary: A Weak Reflection of Barnard's Interpretation

In Charles Dickens A to Z, Paul Davis admirably sums up the short story's complicated romantic plot of mistaken identity:

When Alexander Trott tries to avoid fighting a duel with Horace Hunter over the hand of Emily Brown by soliciting the influence of the mayor of Winglebury, he inadvertently becomes entangled with Lady Julia Manners and Lord Peter. The duel is averted, but Trott is taken for Lord Peter. When he is bundled off in a carriage with Lady Julia, the two decide to marry, thus allowing Emily Brown to marry Horace Hunter. [162]

Precisely the same scene is realised by George Cruikshank (1839), Sol Eytinge, Junior (1867), Fred Barnard (1876), Artrhur B. Frost (1877), and Harry Furniss (1910) as The Great Winglebury Duel, although the British Household Edition version also bears a lengthy caption derived from the boots' dialogue to point the reader towards the precise moment realised. All four visual interpretations of the scene occur in Trott's room at the Winglebury Arms (in what is actually Rochester, Kent). Despite the obvious differences in the attire of the two characters, Frost does not explore any of the confusions that have resulted in the confrontation between the boots and the "madman."

Relevant Illustrations from other editions (1867-1910)

Left: George Cruikshank's original depiction of the nervous Trott and the menacing, one-eyed boots keeping the hotel guest a virtual prisoner, in The Winglebury Duel (1836). Right: Fred Barnard's depiction of the enraged boots and the terrified Alexander Trott, "Leave that 'ere bell alone, you wretched loo-nattic!" said the boots, suddenly forcing the unfortunate Trott back into his chair, and brandishing the stick aloft..

Left: Phiz's interpretation of the same scene in the Illustrated Library Edition's title-page vignette: The Great Winglebury Duel (1858). Right: Harry Furniss's 1910 depiction of the same incident, likely derivative, The Great Winglebury Duel.

Above: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s duel character study of the demented boots and the terrified young traveller at the Winglebury Arms, room no. 19, The Great Winglebury Duel (1867).


Bentley, Nicholas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens: Index. Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

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

Dickens, Charles. "The Great Winglebury Duel," Chapter 8 in "Tales," Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Chapman and Hall, 1839; rpt., 1890. Pp. 305-18.

Dickens, Charles. "The Great Winglebury Duel," Chapter 8 in "Tales," Christmas Books and Sketches by Boz, Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: James R. Osgood, 1875 [rpt. of 1867 Ticknor & Fields edition]. Pp. 449-59.

Dickens, Charles. "The Great Winglebury Duel," Chapter 8 in "Tales," Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1876. Pp. 194-202.

Dickens, Charles. Part IV, "Tales," Chaper VIII, "The Great Winglebury Duel," Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by A. B. Frost. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Bros., 1877. Pp. 194-202.

Dickens, Charles. "The Great Winglebury Duel," Chapter 8 in "Tales," Sketches by Boz. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. I, 391-408.

Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and the Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.

Last modified 30 June 2019