Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle had each performed a compulsory summerset with remarkable agility?

Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle had each performed a compulsory summerset with remarkable agility?. by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne). Household Edition (1874) of Dickens's Pickwick Papers, p. 17. Engraved by one of the Dalziels. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

In the second (May 1836) instalment, acting under Dickens's directions, Robert Seymour had reluctantly depicted a scene from the pathetic "Stroller's Tale," a radical departure from the original conception of "Cockney sporting scenes" — a grim narrative about a dipsomaniacal entertainer that furnished a counterpoint to the farcical adventures of the Pickwickians. Seymour's second subject, Pickwick's pursuit of his hat in the aftermath of a military review at Rochester, Phiz reworked rather ingeniously to include the troops (rear) and Pickwick's fellow-sufferers, Snodgrass and Winkle, literally bowled over by the inexorable progress of half-a-dozen regiments:

Mr. Snodgrass and Mr. Winkle had each performed a compulsory summerset [summersault] with remarkable agility, when the first object that met the eyes of the latter as he sat on the ground staunching with a yellow silk handkerchief the stream of life which issued from his nose, was his venerated leader at some distance off, running after his own hat, which was gambolling playfully away in perspective. [Household Edition, p. 26]

Thus, Phiz improves upon the rather cluttered and decontextualized "Pickwick in chase of his hat" (May 1836) by placing the three Londoners in the foreground, the troops and their officer on horseback in the background — and eliminating the townspeople watching the military review since their presence is not germane to the physical comedy. Phiz thereby also avoids the melancholy subject of the clown's drinking himself to death, "The Stroller's Tale" of chapter 3, perhaps because it might remind even readers in the 1870s of the tragic suicide of the gifted Seymour, like the Stroller "an oversensitive artist, compelled to make a living by amusing others" (Cohen 45).

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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Formatting, color correction, and linking by George P. Landow. [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.]


Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.

Dickens, Charles. "Pickwick Papers (1836-37). Il. Robert Seymour and Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman & Hall.

Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers. Il. Hablot Knight Browne ('Phiz'). The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

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.

Last modified 12 March 2012