The Vision (March 1859) by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne), forty-second serial illustration for Charles Lever's Davenport Dunn: A Man of Our Time, Part 20 (March 1859), Chapter LXXV, "Showing 'How the Wounds are Healed'," facing page 655.

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Bibliographical Information

In the 1859 (first edition) single-volume edition The Vision appeared in Chapter LXXV, facing page 565, steel-plate etching; 4 ⅛ by 5 ⅜ inches (10 cm high by 13.8 cm wide), vignetted. Lever and Phiz present Sybella Kennett's urging on the British troops to attack as if Charley Conway is describing in flashback an hallucination rather than an actual moment in an unidentified Crimean War battle. The story was serialised by Chapman and Hall in monthly parts, from July 1857 through April 1859. The forty-third and forty-fourth illustrations in the volume initially appeared in reverse order at the very beginning of the final monthly instalment, which went on sale on 1 April 1859. This double number (No. XXI & XXII), priced at 2 shillings instead of a single shilling, included Chapters LXXIV through LXXIX, and ran from page 641 through 695. Thus, this so-called "double-number" had twice the regular number of illustrations, but was not quite twice the length of the typical, 32-page monthly part.

Passage Illustrated: Sybella Kellett as the Goddess Liberty

“Miss Kellett, do you mean? Yes; she carried up the news to you herself? It was she that tied the handkerchief on your wounded artery, too, and saved your life.”

“Here, — in the Crimea? It cannot — cannot be!” sighed Conway.

“She is not the only noble-hearted woman who has left home and friends to brave perils and face hardships, though, I own, she stands alone for heroism and daring.”

“So, then, it was not a delusion, — I did actually see her in the trenches?” said Conway, eagerly.

“She was in the advanced parallel the night the Russians surprised the 5th. She was the first to give the alarm of the attack.”

“Only think, doctor, of what happened to me that night! I was sent up at speed to say that reinforcements were coming up. Two companies of the Royals were already in march. My horse had twice fallen with me, and, being one-armed, I was a good deal shaken, and so faint when I arrived that I could scarcely deliver my message. It was just then a woman — I could only perceive, in the darkness, that she seemed young — gave me her brandy-flask; after drinking, I turned to give it back to her, but she was gone. There was no time to search for her at such a moment, and I was about to ride away, when a 'carcasse,' exploding on one of the redoubts, lit up the whole scene for a considerable space around, and whom should I see but Jack Kellett's sister, cheering the men and encouraging them to hold their ground? [Chapter LXXV, "Showing 'How All Wounds are Healed'," p. 655]

Lever Transforms Balaklava (25 October 1854)

The Vision appeared in the penultimate serial number, March 1859, before Lever had resolved the main strands of the Crimea and inheritance plots — and before Grog Davis's murder of the eponymous character. The book's martial hero, Charley Conway, looking decidedly shaken and barely keeping himself in the saddle, with the aid of Sybella Kellett and British infantry soldiers has since survived the battle and has been recuperating at the Convent of St. George nearby, the site of Paul Classon's abortive robbery of documents in Holy Paul in a Fix. Since Conway presents a fragmentary account of the battle, readers experience his ordeal more effectively and in greater detail in the illustration than in Lever's text. As two soldiers lead Conway's horse to safety behind the British lines, Conway is amazed at the apparition of Sybella on the high ground, waving her hat, pointing the way, and exhorting her countrymen to advance on the Russian position at the rear. Although some British troops have fallen, in the right of the composition, behind Sybella, fresh troops are marching forward as cannons discharge clouds of smoke which obscures the scene of combat but intensify the drama.

Although Phiz realizes the heroic Conway's "vision" of Sybella as a sort of Goddess of Liberty, cheering the soldiers on to victory, in March 1859 it recalls the British public's patriotic celebration of the heroism of the nation's young soldiers in that eastern war intended to check Russian aggression and territorial ambitions in the eastern Mediterranean. In a war that had grown increasingly unpopular as a result of political and bureaucratic mismanagement, the Phiz illustration, like Robert Gibbs' historical canvas The Thin Red Line celebrates British gallantry at the Battle of Balaklava on 25 October 1854 — although Lever never actually specifies the battle by name or date. The Briish press lauded the event, which had come by the time of Phiz's illustration to represent the best qualities of British troops under fire. Some two hundred members of the 93rd (Sutherland Highlanders) Regiment, aided by a small force of a hundred walking wounded, forty Guardsmen, and supported by a substantial force of Turkish infantry, led by Sir Colin Campbell, routed the cavalry charge of a vastly superior Russian force of 2,500. More Victoria Crosses were presented to the Highland soldiers for that battle than for any other. The uniforms of the three principal soldiers in the foreground of the Phiz illustration do not suggest that the involvement of that regiment, but the British soldiers whom Phiz has placed in the background are almost certainly members of that Scottish regiment.

Working methods: Phiz and Horses

Related Material: The Crimean War


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, April 1859 (Parts XXI & XXII).

Last modified 2 May 2019