The Legend of Owlarton Grange by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), thirteenth serial illustration for William Harrison Ainsworth's Life and Adventures of Mervyn Clitheroe, Part 7 (February 1858), Book the Second, Chapter XII, "The Legend of Owlarton Grange. — My Adventure in the Haunted Chamber," facing page 218. Steel etching, 9 cm high by 14.7 cm wide, framed. Source: Ainsworth's Works (1882), originally published in the seventh serial instalment by George Routledge and Sons, London. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Complemented by the Triptych

“Next day, some tradesfolk from Weverham came to the house, but finding none to answer them, they went away. This did not excite surprise, for the miser’s habits were so eccentric that it was thought he might have gone forth with his servant; but when he did not return on the succeeding day, some alarm began to be felt. Still no one entered the house until the evening of the third day after the murder, when the steward and some of the villagers got in through a window, and, after searching about, went to the miser’s bedroom. While there, they heard a faint knocking against the wall. Somebody must be shut up there, the steward cried — old Clotten, or Jotham — perhaps both. He called out, and the knocking was renewed, but very feebly. Then there was a groan, and all became silent. After some search, the secret door was discovered; the spring was touched, and it flew open.

”A terrible spectacle presented itself to the steward, who was the first to enter — Jotham Shocklach lying dead with the mallet in his hand. The wretch had only just expired. Bags of money were near him, and the floor of the narrow passage was strewn with pieces of gold. [Book the Second, Chapter XII, “The Legend of Owlarton Grange. — My Adventure in the Haunted Chamber,” pp. 218-219]

An Interpolated Gothic Tale

As is typical of the construction of picaresque novels, Ainsworth provides an inset narrative, in which Mervyn’s host, Old Hazy, describes the circumstances culminating in the murder of his great-grandfather, Clotten Hazilrigge, the Miser, by his cunning servant, Jotham Shocklach, in the secret chamber adjoining his bedroom — now styled “The Haunted Chamber.” In the illustration, again a species of dark plate in which the central panel is strongly illuminated, the tradesmen from Weverham, the town nearby, led by the well-dressed steward (whose costume establishes an eighteenth-century chronological setting), have managed to get into the grange through a window and are about to discover the dead murderer and his victim (the atmospherically lit right-hand panel). However, Phiz exploits the irony of the situation in that, in his illustration, Jotham is not yet dead, but, although they can hear his groans, the six men gathered on the other side of the panel, they cannot discover how to get in and effect his rescue. Above the Weverham locals, the great-grandfather and his devious servant appear in the portrait upon which Mervyn, occupying the haunted chamber, has already remarked several times. On the other side of the secret panel, Jotham is gasping out the last few moments of his life; beside him lies the mallet with which he had murdered his master and three bags of gold which suggest his motivation. Behind the perfidious servant lies stretched the body of the murdered great-grandfather, and an open chest containing another bag of gold. Thus, in a single image Phiz encapsulates several pages of narrative and tells in graphic form most of the interpolated tale.

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.


Ainsworth, William Harrison. The Life and Adventures of Mervyn Clitheroe (1851-2; 1858). Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). London: Routledge, 1882.

Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.

Vann, J. Don. "William Harrison Ainsworth. Mervyn Clitheroe, twelve parts in eleven monthly installments, December 1851-March 1852, December 1857-June 1858." New York: MLA, 1985. 27-28

Last modified 23 November 2018