The Meeting in Delamere Forest by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), twentieth serial illustration for William Harrison Ainsworth's Life and Adventures of Mervyn Clitheroe, Part 10 (May 1858), Book the Third, Chapter XII, "The Turf-Cutter's Hut," facing p. 316. Steel etching, 9.7 cm high by 16.9 cm wide, framed. Source: Ainsworth's Works (1882), originally published in the tenth serial instalment by George Routledge and Sons, London. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Subject for a Painterly Dark Plate

"It's a pity two such rascals should get off — but better them than t'other two."

I then related briefly Rue's story to him, and had scarcely done, when she again stood before us.

"They are there," she said, pointing to the hut. "Are you ready? Have you cautioned Ned Culcheth?"

"Ay, ay," Ned replied. "Your kin shall come to no harm from me."

"Follow me, then," she replied.

Hastily making our way through the stacks of turf, and stepping over a plank thrown across a wide and deep dyke, we soon approached the hut. By this time the moon was again hidden, and all around had become dark and blank as before. [Book the Third, Chapter XII, "The Turf-Cutter's Hut," page 316]

Commentary: Poetic Justice for Simon Pownall and Malpas Sale?

As I have said, we were now on a black bog, hardened by deep drainage, but yielding nothing at present except turf, stacks of which, cut and dried for fuel, were grouped around us in various fantastical shapes; while low walls of the same combustible substance, in various stages of preparation, were reared on all sides. Beyond us was a dismal-looking swamp, which I knew to be Great Blake Mere. [315]

The presence of the hero's stalwart companion, gamekeeper Ned Culcheth, seems to suggest that Mervyn may be successful in overpowering the pair of Gypsies and the scheming Malpas, and liberating Simon Pownall. The trio have been questioning him in an isolated turf-cutter's hut in order to discover where the trickster has hidden Uncle Mobberley's purloined will, a fugitive document that, in the right hands, would ensure Mervyn's coming into his inheritance and Malpas's being dispossessed. The atmospheric backdrop emphasizes that the setting is a grim wasteland, but the painterly dark plate transforms it to into a romantic landscape, despite Ainsworth's negative description of the place at the beginning of the twelfth chapter, about only fifty pages from the novel's conclusion. Thus, Phiz has embued the night-time scene with considerable suspense as Rue, the fortune-telling Gypsy, has returned to Mervyn and Ned to report the state of affairs in the hut.

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