Paul Kellett's Warning by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), fourteenth serial illustration for Charles Lever's Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Time, Part 7 (January 1858), Chapter 24, "The Cottage," facing 205.

Bibliographical Note

This appeared as the fourteenth serial illustration for Charles Lever's Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Time, steel-plate etching; 3 ½ by 4 ¾ inches (9 cm high by 12.2 cm wide), vignetted. The story was serialised by Chapman and Hall in monthly parts, from July 1857 through April 1859. The fifteenth and sixteenth illustrations in the volume initially appeared in reverse order at the very beginning of the eighth monthly instalment, which went on sale on 1 February 1858. This number included Chapters XXVII through XXX, and ran from page 225 through 256.

Passage Illustrated: The Butler Entertains Conway in Dunn's Absence

“You must not excite yourself, Kellett, nor prejudice your prospect of recovery by any exertion; there will be time enough for matters of business hereafter —”

“No, there won't; that's the reason I want to talk to you now,” said Kellett, sharply. “I know well enough my life is short here.”

Dunn began some phrase of cheering meaning; but the other stopped him abruptly, and said,—

“There, there, don't be losing time that way. Is that the touch of a man long for this world?” and he laid on the other's hand his own hot and burning fingers. “I said I knew why you came here, Dunn,” continued he, more strongly; “it was to look at your work. Ay, just so. It was you brought me to this, and you wanted to see it. Turn your eyes round the room, and you'll see it's poor enough. Look in at that bedroom there, and you'll say it couldn't be much more humble! I pawned my watch yesterday; there's all that's out of it;” and he showed some pieces of silver and copper mixed together in the palm of his hand; “there's not a silver spoon left, so that you see you've done it well!” [Chapter XXIV, "The Cottage," 205]

Commentary: Paul Kellett's Angry Denunciation

Davenport Dunn, at least the nominal hero of the novel, finally appears in his own rite, but does not cut a formidable figure. The reader funds far more compelling Phiz's depiction of the angry, fallen Irish aristocrat, Paul Kellet, whose "warning" is Lever's way connecting the fiction Davenport Dunn with the historical John Sadleir. When in the early 1858 instalment Kellett forecasts the fall of the financial and political wizard, Lever is in fact operating on the wisdom of hindsight as Sadleir had already committed suicide on Hampstead Heath and his financial leveraging had entirely imploded. However, Lever invetss his more noble version of Sadleir with considerably more conscience, intelligence, and sympathy than his equivalent in Dickens's Little Dorrit, Mr. Merdle, the railway swindler, who is simply pathetic. John Sadleir was found dead by his own hand on 17 February 1856, almost two years ahead of Lever's creating this confrontation between the indignant, down-and-out nobleman and the poor boy who has made good. Believing himself to be dying, Kellett delivers a dire prediction of the collapse of Dunn's financial-political empire that carries with it the full force of Irish superstition, which holds those approaching death have second-sight.

Phiz's Dunn, holding the door as he prepares to depart (either for his townhouse or his father's cottage at Beldoyle — he seems of two minds as he exits) hardly looks "overwhelmed . . . by rage and astyonishment" (206). Phiz's self-confident figure seems to be in full possession of his faculties, and hardly overwhelmed with anger. Moreover, Phiz offers no hint that Kellett is about to suffer a paralyzing stroke.

Phiz makes the irate Paul Kellett, in his dressing gown, pointing an accusatory finger at Dunn, the focal point of the composition, in a setting with which the reader is already familiar: the parlour of the Kelletts' cottage in the Dublin suburb of Clontarf, which Phiz has already shown readers in "A Message from Jack" (October 1857), back in Chapter 13. Significantly, following Lever's lead, Phiz leaves the sensitive daughter, Bella, entirely out of the picture. Surprisingly, Phiz shows Dunn in casual garb, rather than the formal wear in which readers have been accustomed to see him, as in "The Faint" (September 1857), Chapter 10. This is, in fact, the first time that readers have seen him clearly in the narrative-pictorial sequence, but he is hardly an imposing figure here.

Scanned image by Simon Cooke; 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.


Lever, Charles. Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Day. Illustrated by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.

Lever, Charles. Davenport Dunn: The Man of The Day. Illustrated by "Phiz" (Hablot Knight Browne). London: Chapman and Hall, January 1858 (Part VII).

Created 5 March 2019

Last modified 6 July 2020