A “Last Moments of the Count of Saverne”— wood-engraving by Fred Walker for Thackeray's "Denis Duval" (April 1864)

Last Moments of the Count of Saverne by Fred Walker, the regular composite woodblock engraving from The Cornhill Magazine, No. 9, April 1864, facing p. 385. 4 x 6 1/2 inches (10 cm high by 16.4 cm wide). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Scanned image by Simon Cooke and text 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.]


A report dated 27 June 1769 describes the death of the Count, a Huguenot of high estate who had always been something of a thorn in the side of the local Catholic prelate. At Boulogne-sur-Mer at 7:00 A. M. on the beach half-a-league from the port, the Chevalier Francis Joseph de la Motte arrives in a boat despatched for him from Winchelsea. Accepting the challenge by the Count of Saverne to a duel, de la Motte faces his adversary's pistol at ten paces:

"At the signal being given, both fired simultaneously. The ball of Monsieur de Saverne grazed Monsieur de la Motte's side curl, while his ball struck Monsieur de Saverne in the right breast. Monsieur de Saverne stood for a moment, and fell.

"The seconds, the surgeon, and Monsieur de la Motte advanced towards he fallen gentleman; and Monsieur de la Motte, holding up his hand, again said, — 'I take Heaven to witness this person is innocent.'

Le Comte de Saverne seemed to be about to speak. He lifted himself from the sand, supporting himself on one arm; but all he said was, — 'You, you' — and a great issue of blood rushed from his throat, and he fell back, and with a few convulsions, died. [Chapter III, "The Travellers"]

Duelling and Scenes of Violent Death

Perhaps because duelling had effectively been outlawed, =Walker would have had few models upon which to draw in Last Moments of the Count of Saverne. For example, with its background detailing and rapiers, George Cruikshank's The Duel at Tothill Fields in The Miser's Daughter (1842) would not have been a suitable model, especially since Walker's approach is to minimize the background and move in for the closeup. Here, he sets the scene on the beach, but offers no delineation of the sea, shipping, or the nearby port, but merely an undistinguished curtain of water and hint of cloud. Rather, he concentrates on the figure of the dying Count, attended by the surgeon and his seconds, and, in the right foreground, his adversary, holding his pistol at his side as he rushes forward in a composition which, as Claude Phillips correctly stipulates, "inclines to the strage-dramatic rather than to the drama of reality" (17), with the still-smoking pistol beside the Count's lower hand as he raises the other to salute the victor.

According to the following chapter titles, the scene from the third chapter occurs towards the end of the first instalment in the magazine serial, so that Walker was apparently using the sensational scene to remind readers of the April number what had transpired in that for March.

Related Materials


Marks, John George. Life and Letters of Frederick Walker, A. R. A.. London and New York: Macmillan, 1896.

Phillips, Claude. Denis Duval's Valet by Walker. Frederick Walker and His Works. London: Seeley & Co., 1905 [re-issue of the 1894 edition].

Reid, Forrest. Illustrators of the Eighteen Sixties: An Illustrated Survey of the Work of 58 British Artists. New York: Dover, 1975. Originally published by Faber and Gwyer in London, 1928, as Illustrators of the Sixties.

Sutherland, John. "The Genesis of Thackeray's Denis Duval." The Review of English Studies, Volume XXXVII, Issue 146 (1 May 1986): Pp. 226–233.

Thackeray, William Makepeace. Denis Duval. Illustrations on wood by Fred Walker. First published in The Cornhill Magazine, No. 9, March–June 1864. London: Smith Elder, 1862.

Vann,J. Don. "Denis Duval in the Cornhill Magazine, March–June 1864." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: MLA, 1985. P. 140.

Last modified 31 July 2018