The Old Curiosity Shop

Louis Glober first meets Jenkins in his publishing office, which Jenkins describes as having “walls grimly lined with file copies,” “almost as comfortless as the waiting room,” and marked by “frugality of surroundings. ”

[Glober] sat down in the collapsed armchair, and looked about him.

‘You’ve got a real Dickensian place here.’

[Jenkins] ‘Bleak House?’

Glober laughed his attractive laugh.

The Old Curiosity Shop,’ he said. ‘In the illustration.’ [TK 71-72/66]

Attorney and Client Halbot Browne (Phiz) 1853 etching from Bleak House Charles Dickens illiustration public domain from David Perdue's Charles DIckens Home Page Copyright © 1997-2016 David A. Perdue, All Rights Reserved

Attorney and Client
Halbot Browne (Phiz) 1853
etching from
Bleak House
Charles Dickens
illustration public domain from David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Home Page
Copyright © 1997-2016 David A. Perdue, All Rights Reserved

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) originally published Bleak House (1852-3) and The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1) as serials. The illustrations for the monthly installments of Bleak House were from steel etchings by Halbot Browne (who signed himself as Phiz). The closest thing to an office illustration in the set is Attorney and Client, shown at right.  The illustrations of the weekly installments of The Old Curiosity Shop were from wood blocks by Phiz, George Cattermole, and others. Cattermole did most of the interior scenes.  We show below the opening illustration from the first installment, published in the weekly Master Humphrey’s Clock, 1840.

The Old Curiosity Shop Opening Illustration George Cattermole wood block print in magazine Master Humphrey's Clock, Image from the Victorian Web

The Old Curiosity Shop
Opening Illustration
George Cattermole, 1840
wood block print in magazine
Master Humphrey’s Clock,
Image from the Victorian Web

 

The narrator of The Old Curiosity Shop describes the shop when he first sees it as  one of those receptacles of old and curious things which seem to crouch in odd corners of this town, and to hide their musty treasures from the public eye in jealousy and distrust.” In contrast to Nick’s sense of his own milieu as drab, “frugal” and “comfortless,” this is a vision of a secluded but fascinating treasure chest.  Is Glober mis-remembering his Dickens, or is it his charming attempt to soften the barb of his “Dickensian” remark?

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