Mrs. Tetterby

Mrs. Tetterby

John Tenniel


6.1 x 7.1 cm vignetted

Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain, p. 52.

Although the illustration depicts Mrs. Tetterby and her brood, the title is technically Illustrated Double-page to Chap. II in the various editions of The Christmas Books, beginning with the single volume of 1848 and continuing right through the anthologized version beginning in 1852. [Commentary continued below.]

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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.

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Passage Illustrated

Mrs. Tetterby, his lady-mother, who had been sitting with her bonnet and shawl thrown back, as aforesaid, thoughtfully turning her wedding-ring round and round upon her finger, now rose, and divesting herself of her out-of-door attire, began to lay the cloth for supper. [Chapter Two: "The Gift Bestowed," p. 67]


This is our first encounter with the domestic characters of the subplot, whom Dickens introduces simultaneously in the text, "Chapter II. The Gift Diffused." Tenniel weakly anticipates the domestic theme struck by Leech in the wood-engraving The Tetterbys, depicting Mrs. Tetterby, setting the dining table and surrounded by seven of her eight children as her husband (back turned to her, right) reads his paper. In Leech's conception, Mrs. Tetterby will be heavy and middle-aged; here, she is younger and thinner — indeed, one could easily confuse her for Milly Swidger, the young mother whose child died in infancy. Thus, Dickens's distributing the responsibility for the plates in this manner has created a dissonance; furthermore, the text will not explicate the two-part scene until several pages later. This difficulty does not plague any of the subsequent editions, illustrated individually rather than corporately by Sol Eytinge, Jr. in 1867 for the Diamond Edition's Christmas Books, E. A. Abbey for the Harper and Brothers Christmas Stories of 1876, Fred Barnard for the Chapman and Hall Household Edition of Christmas Books (1878), and the Harry Furniss Charles Dickens Library Edition of Christmas Books in 1910.


Cohen, Jane Rabb. "John Leech." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio U. P., 1980. Pp. 141-151.

Dickens, Charles. The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. Il. John Leech, John Tenniel, Frank Stone, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1848.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.

Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 8.

Dickens, Charles. The Christmas Books. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

Dickens, Charles. Christmas Stories. Il. E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.

Thomas, Deborah A. Dickens and The Short Story. Philadelphia: U. Pennsylvania Press, 1982.


Last modified 31July 2013