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The Cricket on the Hearth
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The Cricket on the Hearth > Cricket, Chapter 01

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message 1: by Tristram (last edited Dec 06, 2015 03:05AM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Tristram Shandy Dear Pickwickians,

although I must confess that I don’t really feel in a Christmas mood right now – somehow, work does not leave too much time for it so that I have not yet really calmed down –, there were some moments when I was able to get a foretaste of the Christmas season – mostly in the form of carols, cookies and mulled wine. And yes, our Christmas decorations are well under way, and we set down next Saturday as the day to buy and put up the Christmas tree. I am sure that by then I will be in full Christmas mode.

Dickens wrote The Cricket on the Hearth in 1845, and the public had by that time come to expect their annual Dickens Christmas novel. My Penguin edition tells me that initial sales of the Cricket were higher than those of the two preceding Christmas books put together, and that it was a relief to many people that the Cricket is not at all as polemical as The Chimes were.

The first chapter starts like this:

”The kettle began it! Don’t tell me what Mrs. Peerybingle said. I know better. Mrs. Peerybingle may leave it on record to the end of time that she couldn’t say which of them began it; but, I say the kettle did. I ought to know, I hope! The kettle began it, full five minutes by the little waxy-faced Dutch clock in the corner, before the Cricket uttered a chirp.
As if the clock hadn’t finished striking, and the convulsive little Haymaker at the top of it, jerking away right and left with a scythe in front of a Moorish Palace, hadn’t mowed down half an acre of imaginary grass before the Cricket joined in at all!

Why, I am not naturally positive. Every one knows that. I wouldn’t set my own opinion against the opinion of Mrs. Peerybingle, unless I were quite sure, on any account whatever. Nothing should induce me. But, this is a question of fact. And the fact is, that the kettle began it, at least five minutes before the Cricket gave any sign of being in existence. Contradict me, and I’ll say ten.

Let me narrate exactly how it happened. I should have proceeded to do so in my very first word, but for this plain consideration—if I am to tell a story I must begin at the beginning; and how is it possible to begin at the beginning, without beginning at the kettle?

It appeared as if there were a sort of match, or trial of skill, you must understand, between the kettle and the Cricket. And this is what led to it, and how it came about.”


Now I don’t want to come over like another Scrooge but by this time I found myself wishing that the narrator would have begun it and given us at least some idea of what he was talking about. In fact I found that kind of going on if it was the kettle or the cricket rather tiresome, but then I stumbled over this above sentence:

”Let me narrate exactly how it happened”,

and this filled me with some relief. However, from then on, it takes quite a while before the story is going to unfold because we first witness Mrs. Peerybingle put the kettle on, and then the eponymous Cricket starts chirping merrily. The reader is given some time to acquaint himself with Dot Peerybingle, her little baby and their housemaid, Tilly Slowboy. After a while, Mrs. Peerybingle’s husband John, a carrier, comes home. John Peerybingle is some years older than his wife, who is young a pretty, and their difference in years and outward appearance seems to be important for what is going to follow. Let me just add that here we have another couple in Dickens’s universe in which the husband is older than the wife – maybe the Peerybingles are not that far apart as Dr. Strong and his wife in David Copperfield, though. Nevertheless, trouble seems to be on the way for them.

The Peerybingles talk about a variety of topics now, for example about how good it is to have a Cricket chirping in the house since this can be seen as a token of good luck and fortune. They also talk about a wedding-cake Mr. Peerybingle has carried on his wagon, and this wedding-cake is for Mr. Tackleton, about whom we are going to hear a bit more later. Suddenly John remembers having a passenger on his wagon, and he hurries to let him enter since he has been waiting all the time outside: It is a mysterious old man, evidently stone-deaf, whom John picked up on the road. The stranger says that he would like to wait here for his attendant, and he takes out a book and starts reading. Surely, avid book-readers do not give anyone any trouble, and so it is little wonder that the old man is given permission to wait. It is actually the Stranger, who – for the first time – directs the reader’s attention to the fact that Dot is much younger than John by the following dialogue:

”The Carrier and his wife exchanged a look of perplexity. The Stranger raised his head; and glancing from the latter to the former, said,
‘Your daughter, my good friend?’

‘Wife,’ returned John.

‘Niece?’ said the Stranger.

‘Wife,’ roared John.

‘Indeed?’ observed the Stranger. ‘Surely? Very young!’

He quietly turned over, and resumed his reading.”


Quite an impertinent stranger, if you ask me. The next character to appear on the scene is Caleb Plummer, who is described as

”a little, meagre, thoughtful, dingy-faced man, who seemed to have made himself a great-coat from the sack-cloth covering of some old box; for, when he turned to shut the door, and keep the weather out, he disclosed upon the back of that garment, the inscription G & T in large black capitals.”

During the ensuing conversation, the reader learns that Caleb has a blind daughter, who works as a dollmaker. In fact, he has come to collect a little parcel containing dolls’ eyes. Caleb has not been long on the scene, when his employer, the notorious Mr. Tackleton, arrives and tries to spoil the tranquility of the homely hearth. We are given the following, rather childish – if you ask me – description of Mr. Tackleton:

“Tackleton the Toy-merchant, pretty generally known as Gruff and Tackleton—for that was the firm, though Gruff had been bought out long ago; only leaving his name, and as some said his nature, according to its Dictionary meaning, in the business—Tackleton the Toy-merchant, was a man whose vocation had been quite misunderstood by his Parents and Guardians. If they had made him a Money Lender, or a sharp Attorney, or a Sheriff’s Officer, or a Broker, he might have sown his discontented oats in his youth, and, after having had the full run of himself in ill-natured transactions, might have turned out amiable, at last, for the sake of a little freshness and novelty. But, cramped and chafing in the peaceable pursuit of toy-making, he was a domestic Ogre, who had been living on children all his life, and was their implacable enemy. He despised all toys; wouldn’t have bought one for the world; delighted, in his malice, to insinuate grim expressions into the faces of brown-paper farmers who drove pigs to market, bellmen who advertised lost lawyers’ consciences, movable old ladies who darned stockings or carved pies; and other like samples of his stock in trade. In appalling masks; hideous, hairy, red-eyed Jacks in Boxes; Vampire Kites; demoniacal Tumblers who wouldn’t lie down, and were perpetually flying forward, to stare infants out of countenance; his soul perfectly revelled. They were his only relief, and safety-valve. He was great in such inventions. Anything suggestive of a Pony-nightmare was delicious to him. He had even lost money (and he took to that toy very kindly) by getting up Goblin slides for magic-lanterns, whereon the Powers of Darkness were depicted as a sort of supernatural shell-fish, with human faces. In intensifying the portraiture of Giants, he had sunk quite a little capital; and, though no painter himself, he could indicate, for the instruction of his artists, with a piece of chalk, a certain furtive leer for the countenances of those monsters, which was safe to destroy the peace of mind of any young gentleman between the ages of six and eleven, for the whole Christmas or Midsummer Vacation.

What he was in toys, he was (as most men are) in other things. You may easily suppose, therefore, that within the great green cape, which reached down to the calves of his legs, there was buttoned up to the chin an uncommonly pleasant fellow; and that he was about as choice a spirit, and as agreeable a companion, as ever stood in a pair of bull-headed-looking boots with mahogany-coloured tops.

Still, Tackleton, the toy-merchant, was going to be married. In spite of all this, he was going to be married. And to a young wife too, a beautiful young wife.”


Whereas Scrooge had at least some real motive for being Scrooge – both in his past and in his profession, Tackleton is apparently a cardboard villain, and as such, he not only expresses his contempt and hatred for the cricket but he also casts some doubt on Dot’s really being in love with her elder husband by saying that as long as a wife honours and obeys her husband, the husband can be satisfied, and by asking John whether he, of all, did not agree.

The conversation is interrupted by a startled noise from Dot. She had been sitting in her chair and seen the Stranger advance to warm himself by the fire. Everyone but the Stranger is upset at Dot’s being so startled, by eventually Dot makes light of it and says that nothing is the matter. Tackleton and his employee Plummer then take their leave, but the Stranger, on seeing that his attendant has not yet arrived, asks if they can put him up for the night – a suggestion to which Dot readily agrees.

Later, Dot fills her husband’s pipe – where is the pipe-smoker who would forego the pleasure of filling his own pipe, I ask you? – and then John sits down by the fire and starts dreaming dreams that are conjured up by the chirping of the Cricket, and the chapter ends like this, on a somewhat slightly unsettling note:

”And as he soberly and thoughtfully puffed at his old pipe, and as the Dutch clock ticked, and as the red fire gleamed, and as the Cricket chirped; that Genius of his Hearth and Home (for such the Cricket was) came out, in fairy shape, into the room, and summoned many forms of Home about him. Dots of all ages, and all sizes, filled the chamber. Dots who were merry children, running on before him gathering flowers, in the fields; coy Dots, half shrinking from, half yielding to, the pleading of his own rough image; newly-married Dots, alighting at the door, and taking wondering possession of the household keys; motherly little Dots, attended by fictitious Slowboys, bearing babies to be christened; matronly Dots, still young and blooming, watching Dots of daughters, as they danced at rustic balls; fat Dots, encircled and beset by troops of rosy grandchildren; withered Dots, who leaned on sticks, and tottered as they crept along. Old Carriers too, appeared, with blind old Boxers lying at their feet; and newer carts with younger drivers (‘Peerybingle Brothers’ on the tilt); and sick old Carriers, tended by the gentlest hands; and graves of dead and gone old Carriers, green in the churchyard. And as the Cricket showed him all these things—he saw them plainly, though his eyes were fixed upon the fire—the Carrier’s heart grew light and happy, and he thanked his Household Gods with all his might, and cared no more for Gruff and Tackleton than you do.

But, what was that young figure of a man, which the same Fairy Cricket set so near Her stool, and which remained there, singly and alone? Why did it linger still, so near her, with its arm upon the chimney-piece, ever repeating ‘Married! and not to me!’

O Dot! O failing Dot! There is no place for it in all your husband’s visions; why has its shadow fallen on his hearth!”



message 2: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

Title page

Daniel Maclise




Ornamental title-page

Daniel Maclise and G. Dalziel

The commentary says:

"Second Illustration for Dickens's The Cricket on the Hearth, Chirp the First. The ornate title-page visually alludes to the operation of the Dutch clock and the "little Haymaker" in front of the Moorish palace (top center), a mediaeval peasant whose scythe connects him with the traditional figure of Father Time:

"But Mrs. Peerybingle, with restored good humour, dusted her chubby little hands against each other, and sat down before the kettle, laughing. Meantime, the jolly blaze uprose and fell, flashing and gleaming on the little Haymaker at the top of the Dutch clock, until one might have thought he stood stock still before the Moorish Palace, and nothing was in motion but the flame.

He was on the move, however; and had his spasms, two to the second, all right and regular. But, his sufferings when the clock was going to strike, were frightful to behold; and, when a Cuckoo looked out of a trap-door in the Palace, and gave note six times, it shook him, each time, like a spectral voice — or like a something wiry, plucking at his legs.

It was not until a violent commotion and a whirring noise among the weights and ropes below him had quite subsided, that this terrified Haymaker became himself again. Nor was he startled without reason; for these rattling, bony skeletons of clocks are very disconcerting in their operation, and I wonder very much how any set of men, but most of all how Dutchmen, can have had a liking to invent them. There is a popular belief that Dutchmen love broad cases and much clothing for their own lower selves; and they might know better than to leave their clocks so very lank and unprotected, surely."

"The complicated image therefore prepares the reader for the ongoing motif of the operation of the Peerybingles' whimsical clock as a centerpiece of this "fairy tale of hearth and home," which exemplifies the exotic and fanciful in the everyday lives of humble folk. Dalziel has created appropriate "domestic" fairies, two of whom wear housekeeping caps and hold feather dusters while four others attempt to adjust the clock's pendulum as two others support the title. The border is composed of seasonal greenery. Both Maclise and George Dalziel have signed the complicated wood-engraving.

As was the custom in mid-nineteenth century publishing houses, the date is given as "1846" ("MDCCCXLVI" on the regular title-page) because so little of the year 1845 remained. The dedication is dated "December, 1845." It was, in fact, published on 20 December 1845, its timing designed to catch precisely the Christmas book trade."



message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

Chirp the First

Richard Doyle


message 4: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

The Carrier's cart

Clarkson Stanfield


message 5: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

John's Arrival

John Leech


message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

John and Dot

John Leech


message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I lost interest quickly on how and why and for how long the kettle was going to boil and therefore whistle and I'm not sure why Dickens was so fascinated with it. I began to believe that old saying "a watched pot never boils". Even when Dickens gets to the line ”Let me narrate exactly how it happened”, which Tristram already mentioned, he goes on to say he has to begin at the beginning and it began with the kettle and so we read about the whistling kettle all over again. Along with the clock and the cricket. That chirping cricket would start getting on my nerves though.

Later, when the old man enters the story we're told:

"His garb was very quaint and odd—a long, long way behind the time. Its hue was brown, all over. In his hand he held a great brown club or walking-stick; and striking this upon the floor, it fell asunder, and became a chair. On which he sat down, quite composedly".

I'm still trying to picture a walking stick that once hit upon the ground falls apart and becomes a chair. I can't do it.


message 8: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim When John remembers the old gentleman he had picked up on his way home and goes to get him we are told:

"Miss Slowboy, conscious of some mysterious reference to The Old Gentleman, and connecting in her mystified imagination certain associations of a religious nature with the phrase, was so disturbed, that hastily rising from the low chair by the fire to seek protection near the skirts of her mistress, and coming into contact as she crossed the doorway with an ancient Stranger, she instinctively made a charge or butt at him with the only offensive instrument within her reach."

Why would a reference to an old gentleman bring to mind something of a religious nature to Miss Slowboy?

Also, when Caleb was talking about Noah's Ark and Shems and Hams, I was wondering how many people would have known what he was talking about.

‘Why, pretty well, John,’ he returned, with the distraught air of a man who was casting about for the Philosopher’s stone, at least. ‘Pretty much so. There’s rather a run on Noah’s Arks at present. I could have wished to improve upon the Family, but I don’t see how it’s to be done at the price. It would be a satisfaction to one’s mind, to make it clearer which was Shems and Hams, and which was Wives. Flies an’t on that scale neither, as compared with elephants you know! Ah! well! Have you got anything in the parcel line for me, John."


message 9: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I was wondering why a cricket on the hearth is supposed to be lucky in the first place, this is what I found:

"A cricket on the hearth has been a sign of good luck for thousands of years. The idea is prevalent in every corner of the world. It’s possible that the belief originates in prehistoric times, when a cricket’s chirping provided a sort of companionship. The cricket has also served as a watchdog in Asian countries for generations. At any sign of danger, the cricket will stop chirping. Almost every Native American tribe believes that the cricket is the bearer of good luck and regard imitating the sound of a cricket as disrespectful. In the Far East as well as across Europe, it is considered bad luck to kill a cricket, even if by accident. In many cultures, images of crickets appear on charms and amulets, particularly those intended to ward off the evil eye. One of the best-known crickets in America is the one atop the weather vane on Boston’s Faneuil Hall, a large copper cricket that protects the building."

I never heard of Faneuil Hall or it's copper cricket.


message 10: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Here's are two illustrations by Harry Furniss:



Tilly Slowboy

Text Illustrated:



"It may be noted of Miss Slowboy, in spite of her rejecting the caution with some vivacity, that she had a rare and surprising talent for getting this baby into difficulties: and had several times imperilled its short life, in a quiet way peculiarly her own. She was of a spare and straight shape, this young lady, insomuch that her garments appeared to be in constant danger of sliding off those sharp pegs, her shoulders, on which they were loosely hung. Her costume was remarkable for the partial development, on all possible occasions, of some flannel vestment of a singular structure; also for affording glimpses, in the region of the back, of a corset, or pair of stays, in colour a dead-green. Being always in a state of gaping admiration at everything, and absorbed, besides, in the perpetual contemplation of her mistress's perfections and the baby's, Miss Slowboy, in her little errors of judgment, may be said to have done equal honour to her head and to her heart; and though these did less honour to the baby's head, which they were the occasional means of bringing into contact with deal doors, dressers, stair-rails, bedposts, and other foreign substances, still they were the honest results of Tilly Slowboy's constant astonishment at finding herself so kindly treated, and installed in such a comfortable home. For, the maternal and paternal Slowboy were alike unknown to Fame, and Tilly had been bred by public charity, a foundling; which word, though only differing from fondling by one vowel's length, is very different in meaning, and expresses quite another thing."





"The Shadow on the Hearth"

Text Illustrated:

"And as he soberly and thoughtfully puffed at his old pipe, and as the Dutch clock ticked, and as the red fire gleamed, and as the Cricket chirped; that Genius of his Hearth and Home (for such the Cricket was) came out, in fairy shape, into the room, and summoned many forms of Home about him. Dots of all ages, and all sizes, filled the chamber. Dots who were merry children, running on before him gathering flowers, in the fields; coy Dots, half shrinking from, half yielding to, the pleading of his own rough image; newly-married Dots, alighting at the door, and taking wondering possession of the household keys; motherly little Dots, attended by fictitious Slowboys, bearing babies to be christened; matronly Dots, still young and blooming, watching Dots of daughters, as they danced at rustic balls; fat Dots, encircled and beset by troops of rosy grandchildren; withered Dots, who leaned on sticks, and tottered as they crept along. Old Carriers too, appeared, with blind old Boxers lying at their feet; and newer carts with younger drivers ('Peerybingle Brothers' on the tilt); and sick old Carriers, tended by the gentlest hands; and graves of dead and gone old Carriers, green in the churchyard. And as the Cricket showed him all these things — he saw them plainly, though his eyes were fixed upon the fire — the Carrier's heart grew light and happy, and he thanked his Household Gods with all his might, and cared no more for Gruff and Tackleton than you do.

But, what was that young figure of a man, which the same Fairy Cricket set so near Her stool, and which remained there, singly and alone? Why did it linger still, so near her, with its arm upon the chimney-piece, ever repeating "Married! and not to me!"

O Dot! O failing Dot! There is no place for it in all your husband's visions; why has its shadow fallen on his hearth!"



Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "I'm still trying to picture a walking stick that once hit upon the ground falls apart and becomes a chair. I can't do it."

Maybe it's one of those one-legged stools that people sometimes carry around with them outdoors? All in all, the old man impresses me as rather mysterious and supernatural, though.

And thank you, Kim, for sharing my skepticism about that puerile beginning of the chapter ;-)


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "I was wondering why a cricket on the hearth is supposed to be lucky in the first place, this is what I found:

"A cricket on the hearth has been a sign of good luck for thousands of years. The idea..."


I do remember that my grandmother, who was not particularly fond of insects in and about the house, would never kill a cricket, though, because she said that it meant bad luck. But she also thought that if you hear an owl call on your own premises, this would mean that somebody in the family would soon die.


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Why would a reference to an old gentleman bring to mind something of a religious nature to Miss Slowboy?"

As far as I know, one of the euphemisms for the devil is "the old gentleman", isn't it?


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Here's are two illustrations by Harry Furniss:



Tilly Slowboy

Text Illustrated:


Thanks for these illustrations, Kim. They are not in my amply illustrated Penguin edition. As to Miss Slowboy and the baby, I was actually quite worried about the little thing, and did not really manage to pick up the humour that is supposed to shine in this passage. I was rather thinking that had it been my baby, I would not have given her or him into Miss Slowboy's trust. There is a strange way of referring to that little baby, to my mind - it seems more like an object than a human being, don't you think so?


"It may be noted of Miss Slowboy, in spite of her rejecting the caution with some vivacity, that she had a rare..."



message 15: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "And thank you, Kim, for sharing my skepticism about that puerile beginning of the chapter ;-)"

It made me glad I now use the microwave to make a cup of tea. :-)

I never heard about the owl before, did it work or not? Dad knew all kinds of things like that, at least he told us all kinds of things like that, but never that one. You should never go out the same door of a house (or a room I forget) because it would let bad luck into the house or something like that, if you sing at the table you'll make the angels cry-I don't know why, don't let the preacher pray for you in church or you'll die-outside of church was ok, and if you break a mirror you have to throw salt over your shoulder or you'll have bad luck for seven years. You had to throw salt over your shoulder for other things too but I can't remember what they are. ;-)

Now that I'm thinking about it I'm pretty sure you're right about the devil. And I don't find Miss Slowboy hurting the baby amusing either.


message 16: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim There certainly seemed to be a lot of people lining up to illustrate this book. Here is the title page from the 1878 Household Edition by Fred Barnard. Other than the cricket I don't understand it:




message 17: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Another Fred Barnard illustration:



"John Peerybingle's Fireside"

Fred Barnard

I found commentary for this one:

"Barnard's markedly realistic style of depicting the carrier's family differs markedly from that of Dickens's original illustrators; however, the final plate in "Chirp the First," "John and Dot," by the Punch cartoonist John Leech, seems to have offered Barnard the most congenial model available. Leech, who failed to make the Baby the focal point of the carrier's home, emphasizes John's age (by his balding pate) and his rustic and working class affiliations (by his linen smock frock). In contrast Barnard concentrates on fashioning the family members into a cohesive unit, with the line of their heads pointing down and right from Tilly above to Boxer below. Leech crowds the elderly husband and young wife into the left-hand frame in order to focus on the familial hearth, with its cheerful coal fire and steaming kettle, the rising fumes from which are repeated in the cloud of white smoke issuing forth from John's pipe. Had he followed the text more closely, Barnard would have depicted John wearing his "outer coat" as he reaches for his pipe, but he had to satisfy only himself and not the keen-eyed Dickens, who was often overly scrupulous about such details. Whereas Leech is as much interested in the bric-a-brac of the mantelpiece as he is the characters, Barnard omits or barely sketches in these extraneous details in order to focus on the closeness of the relationship between the devoted husband, the happy wife-mother, and infant — the last element entirely missing from Leech's illustration. The 1870s illustrator has shifted the viewer's perspective from the doorway of the parlour (affording an ample view of the fireplace and kettle that Dickens emphasizes in "Chirp the First") to that of the hearth itself. We do not need to see the hearth, but its effect on the family members.

Although Leech, focusing on the carrier's comfortable parlour, omits the comic nurse and the faithful dog, Barnard fully integrates these two figures, so that the dynamic John, reaching into his pocket for his pipe and interacting with his wife and child (their heads in close proximity suggesting their emotional bond), is a Victorian pater familias on his throne; his queenly wife is neither a nondescript female of indeterminate age, as are Doyle's and Stanfield's nor the slender adolescent of Leech, nor yet Dickens's "coquettish" child-bride, but a mature woman, her matronly cap functioning as her crown of domestic authority. Thus, Barnard emphasizes the alertness and activity of his figures and their equality within the family unit, rather than the disparity in the ages of the couple. In this regard, then, Barnard's interpretation of the Peerybingles is closest to that of Daniel Maclise in his ornamental frontispiece, although Maclise's realistically modeled couple are ornamental figures seen in profile, isolated and static, as the Baby sleeps in his cradle, rocked vigorously by exuberant fairies, and John and Dot have withdrawn into themselves, half-asleep. This, then, is the tranquil domestic establishment about to be shaken by the husband's (and the reader's) fears of disloyalty and infidelity. Barnard conveys his sense of cozy domesticity not as the accumulation of things but as the closeness, both physical and emotional, of all members of the family, including the cat and dog, all of whom he individualizes and treats with conviction."



message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Here's another illustration of the "must have been irresistible to illustrators" Tilly Slowboy. It's also by Fred Barnard.



Commentary:

"Barnard's illustration of Tilly rocking the Peerybingles' baby in the nursing chair distinguishes her from a mere "natural" (a person of low intellect) or "cony" (a country bumpkin) and individualizes her in a realistic manner so different from the cartoon figure of the 1845 first edition of the novella. While E. A. Abbey in the American Household Edition two years earlier communicated the odd-looking adolescent's fascination with the "precious" infant, Barnard extended his sympathy to the young nurse from the foundling home, making her gangly and awkward but also animated by utter devotion to her charge. As with so many of the Dickens characters that Barnard inherited from Dickens's original illustrators, with the aptly named Tilly Slowly Barnard takes a grotesque or whimsical, one-dimensional comic figure and renders her worthy of the readers' sympathy. As the preface to the 1908 Chapman and Hall anthology of the Household Edition's illustrations describes Barnard's creative process:"

"Barnard seemed destined by nature to illustrate Dickens; the spirit of "Boz" ran again in his veins. And nothing in his work is more impressively ingenious than the skill with which he took the types already created by his predecessors, preserved their characteristics, so that each was unmistakably himself, and yet by the illuminating touch of genius transferred them every one from the realm of caricature to that of portraiture."

"Barnard's approach, in other words, differs markedly from those of Punch cartoonist John Leech in the 1845 Bradbury & Evans edition in that he completely abandons caricature in favor character study. Whereas the first edition begins with an ornamental title-page and frontispiece establishing the motif of the domestic hearth and the fairy dimension of the story, the Chapman and Hall Household Edition focuses on the Peerybingles as a family unit — including the mentally slow but utterly faithful nursemaid."



message 19: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Here is another of many illustrations of Tilly Slowboy. This time it is by E. A. Abbey:



"Tilly Slowboy and the Precious Darling"

E. A. Abbey


message 20: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim And another by E. A. Abbey:



"Ain't he beautiful, John?"

E. A. Abbey


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "I never heard about the owl before, did it work or not? Dad knew all kinds of things like that, at least he told us all kinds of things like that, but never that one. You should never go out the same door of a house (or a room I forget) because it would let bad luck into the house or something like that, if you sing at the table you'll make the angels cry-I don't know why, don't let the preacher pray for you in church or you'll die-outside of church was ok, and if you break a mirror you have to throw salt over your shoulder or you'll have bad luck for seven years. You had to throw salt over your shoulder for other things too but I can't remember what they are. ;-)"

Probably these superstitions all work more or less because in the old days, when people were living on farms, they would hear owls every now and then, and sometimes a family member would die. Maybe sometimes people in such a situation would remember having heard the eerie call of an owl shortly before the death occured and it would have seemed like some sinister foreboding. Next time somebody heard an owl, they were on the alert for some other death to occur, and then when somebody died, maybe a month or two or half a year later, the owl-hearer would remember the owl and draw a connection. That is usually how this sort of thing works.

It's a bit like if you assume, just for sports, that you are tailed by red-haired people with glasses. All of a sudden you will notice how many red-haired people with glasses are walking in the streets of your hometown.


Tristram Shandy Hmm, Kim, I really like the way these Barnard illustrations are explained, and I can relate to the couple he has made of Dot and her husband, especially because Barnard's Dot is a real woman and not just an accessory. Nevertheless, I cannot really agree with the comment in message 18 because her Tilly, at least to me, looks like an ogress and makes me afraid of her swallowing the baby. Her face seems to express frenzy or some kind of madness rather than affection and care.


message 23: by Bionic Jean (last edited Dec 15, 2015 08:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) What a great selection of illustrations you have found Kim!! Thanks for all your patient ferreting out! And thanks Tristram too, for precising the chirpy piece for us.

Kim - Before I forget - yes it's as Tristram said. Google "walking stick chair" (such as walkers and campers use nowadays) and imagine it made from jointed wood rather than the modern lightweight aluminium and canvas, and you have the Victorian equivalent.


message 24: by Bionic Jean (last edited Dec 15, 2015 08:55AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I'm enjoying this much more this time round, viewing it as a piece of whimsy and the most tongue-in-cheek piece that I've come across so far in Dickens's literary development.

Yes we have the theme we keep noticing of an older husband and younger wife; the older man seeming to be a bit of a plodder and the younger wife having a bit more more about her. And we have all the goblins and fairies that Dickens seemed to love to include for atmosphere and that bit of elusive and inexplicable "magic" - especially around Christmas.


message 25: by Bionic Jean (last edited Dec 15, 2015 08:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) It's very lighthearted I feel - far more so than The Chimes, which was very sardonic in tone sometimes. And we have that element of mystery which Dickens does so well. Who is the mysterious stranger? Are there hints that Dot recognises him?

Last time I read it I too wished Dickens would get on with the story. I couldn't understand why he went on about a cricket - which I'd only ever come across in the countryside. I wasn't altogether sure it was a real live cricket in the story - was it somehow an ornament that had come to life? Now I realise (after having an cricket inside the house last Autumn - chirping away and making an incredible noise until we located it and put it outside!) that yes, it is quite literally a real live cricket, and Dickens is using his old trick of personifying inanimate objects such as the kettle, so that the kettle is also a thing with a life of its own, and they are having a kind of competition. It's almost Disney-esque!


message 26: by Bionic Jean (last edited Dec 15, 2015 08:58AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Having taken that on board, the whole thing seemed hilarious! Such lovely writing! Who is the narrator? Is it an ominiscient narrator? I'm not sure. I do love the tone of it though. It starts out in such an aggrieved manner - virtually saying that it was all the kettle's fault "Puerile"? Never!! :D

I also, unlike you Tristram, like the description of the toymaker, as some kind of villain, making all his toys have horrible faces to frighten the children. And the wetnurse who is so dim that she inadvertently uses the child as a battering ram - or loses it under the grate! Both of these made me laugh out loud!

Yes, these cameos are ridiculous. Perhaps I'm just in the right mood for it though :)


Tristram Shandy Yes, Jean, your reference to Disney does full justice to the tone of the story, now that I come to think of it. Maybe that explains why I find the style so hopelessly ... ahem ... puerile and annoying: After all, I cannot really say that I like Disney's sugarplums that much ;-)

I like Dickens best when he is satirical, sardonic and when he creates those larger-than-life characters that seem to get a life of their own - and I cannot see that being the case even for Tackleton, who is - indeed - like a Disney villain. I also like Dickens when he uses his talent for dramatic scenes and atmospheres, e.g. when Fagin is waiting for his execution, when Jonas Chuzzlewit or Sikes are haunted by their evil deeds, when London is lying in fog at the beginning of Bleak House, when David Copperfield is struck with the ugly presence of the sleeping Uriah Heep, when little Paul Dombey is at death's door ... I think you get my idea ;-)


message 28: by Bionic Jean (last edited Dec 17, 2015 09:16AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Tristram - Oh yes, this is not Dickens the Great, but can't we have both?

I surprised myself by that Disney allusion, and fully expected to be shouted down :) It actually was the first few paragraphs I was thinking of there, and now I realise they remind me of "The Sorceror's Apprentice" (with Mickey Mouse) which I think may have been part of "Fantasia". I'm not really much of a Disney aficionado though.

If you aked me to choose the aspects of Dickens which I admire most, then yes, the dramatic scenes, the sarcasm, the heavy irony, the passion and precision of the writing, the quirky prolific characters, the heroes and villains, the mood and mystery - all those (and probably more) bear far more weight with me than a bit of whimsy.

But I am actually delighting in this piece, whereas with some of his more sentimental episodes I merely put up with them. I'm even feeling indulgent towards all his little goblins and fairies of the hearth ... and such little sprites usually annoy me. All I can put it down to is the quality of the writing, plus the fact that I am caught up in the mystery of this. It has most of Dickens's trademark elements in a little capsule :)


message 29: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Oh, I just could not resist. :-) Why Anguilla has postage stamps of Disney movies I don't know, I haven't looked it up yet:








Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Oh no! What have I done?!!

I am now getting a flashback to Jiminy cricket in "Pinocchio", which we took our nieces to see when they were knee-high to a grasshopper (what is this insect theme running through my brain?) and they insisted on calling "Pokey-nose" which I thought quite apt ...

Anyway, since the cricket I think was on the hearth at one point in the film, presumably Disney had pinched the idea!


message 31: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim I certainly hope Tristram can see this. :-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSCoe...


Tristram Shandy Kim,

as a cartoon, the story is quite entertaining actually :-) Thanks for posting it; I will probably watch it in peace in quiet in my Christmas holidays - but what I saw, I liked.


Tristram Shandy Jean wrote: "Tristram - Oh yes, this is not Dickens the Great, but can't we have both?

I surprised myself by that Disney allusion, and fully expected to be shouted down :) It actually was the first few paragr..."


"Fantasia" is one of the Disney classics I never got to watch, and maybe I would have liked that one. What I really dislike about Disney movies, however, is - apart from the cheap sentimentality which pervades them quite often - their tendency to have their characters start singing and dancing out of the blue. It was alright for me with "The Jungle Books", but as a kid I just hated it when they suddenly started singing and would thus interrupt the plot ;-)


message 34: by Bionic Jean (last edited Dec 19, 2015 06:24AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Tristram - I feel a bit like that about musicals. Many's the time I would start watching a film, and all of a sudden the orchestra would start up. "Uh-oh..." I would think, and then sure enough the characters would burst into song :(

Yes, try "Fantasia". Its a cut above the others and some parts are very inventive.

Kim - Since the clip is nearly 50 minutes long (and with pauses as our internet streaming catches up, will be about an hour an a half) I'm saving it for later too. I can't wait ;)


message 35: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Jean wrote: "Tristram - I feel a bit like that about musicals. Many's the time I would start watching a film, and all of a sudden the orchestra would start up. "Uh-oh..." I would think, and then sure enough the..."

I think it would be a little odd if they didn't break out into music during a musical. :-) As for the 50 minute long "Cricket" I have no real plans on watching it, I just watched enough to make sure it would "bug" Tristram. :-)


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Yes, but sometimes I wouldn't know it was a musical when I started it :(

"Bug "- LOL


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) I give fair warning that I might stop visiting this thread. My eyes are beginning to hurt ;)


Tristram Shandy Jean wrote: "I give fair warning that I might stop visiting this thread. My eyes are beginning to hurt ;)"

So are mine, but I am easily tempted ;-) And yes, Kim, musicals without music would be odd - but far easier to sit through. One of the greatest trials to patience that have been invented is - at least to me - the opera, though. In "Don Giovanni", there is a scene where the servant is going to hide behind a door in order not to be discovered by Don Giovanni. When the servant hears D.G. enter, he starts singing for about five minutes that he is going to hide behind that door, and I always thought that not only is it stupid to spend five minutes singing about his plan when D.G. might enter any second, but I also suspected that if I could hear him sing in the back of the theatre, D.G., who is in the next room, would have heard him, too. The servant hid, however, and D.G. entered without spotting him. I was on the verge of shouting THE GUY IS HIDING BEHIND THE DOOR - like in a Punch-and-Judy-show - but my wife prevented me ;-)


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Or those arias in operas where they spend ages singing that they're on the point of death ... mind you I felt like that in Wuthering Heights too :(


message 41: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim You two are making me glad I've never actually been to see a musical. I don't think I've ever sat through watching one on television either. They all looked too dumb to continue watching to me, but I figured I just happened to hit on dumb musicals, not that all musicals were like that. I would love to be there to here Tristram start yelling at the stage though. :-)


message 42: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim This reminds me of a conversation I had with my daughter a few years ago. My daughter who would only read a book if she absolutely had to and then would spend more time trying to figure out a way of reading one then it would have taken her to read it. Anyway she asked me if I liked Les Misérables and when I said yes, I liked it very much, in an amazed way, not being able to believe she had read her way through such a book, she said it was the best musical she ever saw. When I told her it was a book she asked which had come first, the book or the musical. I refused to answer. And no, I haven't seen it.


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Such self-control ...


Tristram Shandy Kim, your story reminds me a bit of a situation when some of my students invited me to watch their annual drama group play. Now, I normally shun comedies, and so I asked them what play it was, and they said it was "Dracula". I said, "Dracula?" - repeating what somebody tells me in the form of a question usualy buys me some time to think of what to say next -, and they, assuming I didn't know "Dracula", said, "Well, yes, it is based on the film by Bram Stoker." I asked, "You mean the film he did together with Francis Ford Coppola?" - and they said yes. I then told them that Bram Stoker and Coppola had quite a few rows over the script ;-)


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