Wardle and his Friends Under the Influence of the Salmon
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
Dickens's Pickwick Papers
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Illustrator R. W. Buss submitted a trial design for this very subject, but his treatment was so far below Dickens's standard that the author rejected it and dismissed Buss, whose Fat Boy and Muggleton cricket match illustrations had already disappointed the publishers. Buss's difficulty lay in the fact that he had never worked with steel engraving. The salmon dinner, served after the cricket match, is not the source of the Pickwickians' inebriation. Rather, the great room of the Blue Lion Inn, Muggleton, was the scene not merely of a "Devilish good dinner" (to quote the omnivorous Jingle in chapter seven), but of vociferous toasts accompanied by the consumption "old port — claret — good — very good — wine," again, citing Jingle's account of events earlier that evening.
Meanwhile, Phiz draws the reader's attention to the tipsy homecoming of old Wardle and Jingle (centre, with Wardle rather off-balance), Mr. Pickwick (leaning against the kitchen table, hat askew, to the left), Snodgrass (collapsed into an old-fashioned chair and apparently unconscious, down right), and Winkle, leaning against the eight-day clock (right) — all exactly as Dickens describes them. However, whereas the writer focuses on the feelings of these characters, Phiz admirably conveys their exteriors: their expressions, postures, and clothing. He also contrasts these inebriates in the foreground with the concerned faces of a primarily female company in the background, as if the plate is supporting the temperance themes which artist George Cruikshank so assiduously pursued in the eight-page cartoon The Bottle (1847) and in the seven-plate series The Drunkard's Children (1848). Clearly, the anxious watchers (including Tupman, centre rear, identifiable by the sling) have been up all night and enter the kitchen in some alarm as the clock indicates 1:20 A. M.
They rushed into the kitchen, whither the truants had repaired, and at once obtained rather more than a glimmering of the real state of the case.
Mr. Pickwick, with his hands in his pockets and his hat cocked completely over his left eye, was leaning against the dresser, shaking his head from side to side, and producing a constant succession of the blandest and most benevolent smiles without being moved thereunto by any discernible cause or pretence whatsoever; old Mr. Wardle, with a highly-inflamed countenance, was grasping the hand of a strange gentleman muttering protestations of eternal friendship; Mr. Winkle, supporting himself by the eight-day clock, was feebly invoking destruction upon the head of any member of the family who should suggest the propriety of his retiring for the night; and Mr. Snodgrass had sunk into a chair, with an expression of the most abject and hopeless misery that the human mind can imagine, portrayed in every lineament of his expressive face.
"Is anything the matter?" inquired the three ladies.
"Nothing the matter," replied Mr. Pickwick. "We — we're — all right. — I say, Wardle, we're all right, ain't we?" [chapter 8]
The Muggleton-Dingley Dell cricket match ended well for all players — as well for the supposed West Indian cricket expert, Alfred Jingle — in that both sides celebrated with a magnificent repast and copious alcoholic beverages at the Blue Lion in nearby Muggleton. After numerous toasts, the Dingley Dell team left for home, but did not arrive back until past 1:00 A. M., to the growing alarm of the Wardle daughters and the spinster aunt, Rachael. Over the course of the day, injured Pickwickian Tracy Tupman has been courting Rachael Wardle, but the reader wonders whether Wardle's page, the Fat Boy, will report Tupman's advances to his master, especially since in Phiz's illustration of the cricketeers' homecoming Jingle and Wardle seem to be on such friendly terms and Jingle has already determined to romance the spinster aunt and secure for himself her inheritance.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Hammerton, J. A. The Dickens Picture-Book. London: Educational Book Co.,1910.
Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U.P., 1978. Pp. 51-85.
Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers (1836-37). London: Chapman & Hall.
Last modified 21 January 2012