Sunday, February 20, 2011

Pickwick Papers: The Reverend Stiggins

Pickwick Papers: Reverend Stiggins Pulls No Punches

This is the eighth (and last) of a short series of images I created especially for fascinating daily blog Spitalfields Life, which had featured me (and my Oranges & Lemons print) in May last year.

I had mentioned to 'the Gentle Author' that half of one chapter of the Pickwick Papers was set in Brick Lane and so we conceived the idea of a collaboration of sorts - the GA would post an edited form of Chapter 32 and I would provide the illustrations (8 in toto).

Here the hyprocritical Reverend Stiggins has been tricked into attending the Brick Lane temperance meeting - very much under the influence! Not that he will admit to the fact.

“My friends,” said Mr Humm, holding up his hand in a deprecatory manner to bespeak silence, “my friends, a delegate from the Dorking Branch of our society, Brother Stiggins, attends below.”

The little door flew open, and Brother Tadger re-appeared, closely followed by the Reverend Mr Stiggins, who no sooner entered, than there was a great clapping of hands, and stamping of feet, and flourishing of handkerchiefs, to all of which manifestations of delight, Brother Stiggins returned no other acknowledgment than staring with a wild eye, and a fixed smile, at the extreme top of the wick of the candle on the table, swaying his body to and fro, meanwhile, in a very unsteady and uncertain manner.

By this time the audience were perfectly silent, and waited with some anxiety for the resumption of business. “Will you address the meeting, brother?” said Mr Humm, with a smile of invitation. “No, sir,” rejoined Mr. Stiggins. The meeting looked at each other with raised eyelids, and a murmur of astonishment ran through the room.

“It’s my opinion, sir,” said Mr Stiggins, unbuttoning his coat, and speaking very loudly – “that this meeting is drunk, sir. Brother Tadger, sir!” said Mr Stiggins, suddenly increasing in ferocity, and turning sharp round on the little man in the drab shorts, “YOU are drunk, sir!” With this, Mr. Stiggins, entertaining a praiseworthy desire to promote the sobriety of the meeting, and to exclude therefrom all improper characters, hit Brother Tadger on the summit of the nose.

Upon this, the women set up a loud and dismal screaming, and rushing in small parties before their favourite brothers, flung their arms around them to preserve them from danger. An instance of affection, which had nearly proved fatal to Humm, who, being extremely popular, was all but suffocated, by the crowd of female devotees that hung about his neck, and heaped caresses upon him. The greater part of the lights were quickly put out, and nothing but noise and confusion resounded on all sides.

“Now, Sammy,” said Mr Weller, taking off his greatcoat with much deliberation, “just you step out, and fetch in a watchman.” “And wot are you a-goin’ to do, the while?” inquired Sam. “Never you mind me, Sammy,” replied the old gentleman, “I shall ockipy myself in havin’ a small settlement with that ‘ere Stiggins.”

Before Sam could interfere to prevent it, his heroic parent had penetrated into a remote corner of the room, and attacked the Reverend Mr. Stiggins with manual dexterity. “Come off!” said Sam. “Come on!” cried Mr Weller, and without further invitation he gave the Reverend Mr Stiggins a preliminary tap on the head, and began dancing round him in a buoyant and cork-like manner, which in a gentleman at his time of life was a perfect marvel to behold.

Finding all remonstrances unavailing, Sam pulled his hat firmly on, threw his father’s coat over his arm, and taking the old man round the waist, forcibly dragged him down the ladder, and into the street, never releasing his hold, or permitting him to stop, until they reached the corner. As they gained it, they could hear the shouts of the populace, who were witnessing the removal of the Reverend Mr Stiggins to strong lodgings for the night, and could hear the noise occasioned by the dispersion in various directions of the members of the Brick Lane Branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association.

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