The Battle Field by Charles Green (16). 1912. 4.9 x 11.2 cm, exclusive of frame. Dickens's The Battle of Life, Pears Centenary Edition, in which the plates often have captions that are different from the titles in the "List of Illustrations" (13-14). Specifically, The Battle Field has a lengthy caption that is quite different from its title in the "List of Illustrations"; the textual quotation that serves as the caption for this atmospheric illustration of the sunset that ends of the day of the battle a century earlier is "Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the sights the moon beheld upon that field" ("Part the First," 16) — a prayer for peace. In the 1846 edition of the novella, the equivalent illustration is Clarkson Stanfield's War, but the Household Editions, illustrated by Fred Barnard and American E. A. Abbey, contain no such picture of the immediate aftermath of the Civil War battle.

Passage Illustrated

Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the sights the moon beheld upon that field, when, coming up above the black line of distant rising-ground, softened and blurred at the edge by trees, she rose into the sky and looked upon the plain, strewn with upturned faces that had once at mothers' breasts sought mothers' eyes, or slumbered happily. Heaven keep us from a knowledge of the secrets whispered afterwards upon the tainted wind that blew across the scene of that day's work and that night's death and suffering! Many a lonely moon was bright upon the battle-ground, and many a star kept mournful watch upon it, and many a wind from every quarter of the earth blew over it, before the traces of the fight were worn away. ["Part the First," 16-17, 1912 edition]


In the original 1846 narrative-pictorial sequence, Clarkson Stanfield underscores this difference through two highly effective landscape scenes, realistic but not photographic, War (see below) and its complement, Peace (see below). Green's interpretation of the battle scene lacks specificity in terms of armour and weapons, so that the bodies of the slain might belong to almost any conflict in England prior to the eighteenth-century. Green's illustration establishes the primacy of the natural environment, against which human beings are insignificant and the differences that divided them and led to conflict not at all apparent. The atmospheric rendering of sunset does not move in for the closeup to dhow the dead and dieing as individuals, so that the landscape complements the text emphasizing the importance of the natural world in human lives. The Battle of Life differs from the previous novellas in the seasonal series, which emphasized the urban environment. What connects the 1846 book to those of 1843-45 is the role that the community or social backdrop plays in the lives of the principals.

Relevant Illustrations from the 1846​and 1878 Editions

Left: Marine-painter Stanfield's description of the landscape near the village immediately after the seventeenth-century slaughter, War. Right: Stanfield's description of the same field, a century later, under cultivation, Peace (1846).

Above: Barnard's wood-engraving of the villagers' reaction to the​discovery of another relic of the battle, The ploughshare still turned up from time to time some rusty bits of metal . . . (1878).

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 Battle of Life: A Love Story. Illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Daniel Maclise, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1846.

_____. The Battle of Life: A Love Story. Illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Daniel Maclise, and Clarkson Stanfield. (1846). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978.

_____. The Battle of Life. Illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A & F Pears, 1912.

_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.

_____. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book Coi., 1910.

_____. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Created 6 May 2015

Last modified 6 April 2020