Dickens and his illustration of his work
Solberg, Sarah A.
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The thesis concentrates on the illustration of Dickens's novels in their original publication. In some ways, it is a reaction against recent studies which make much of the beliefs that the illustrations are part of a tradition reaching back to Hogarth, and that they contain important contributions to the work. Instead, this study, looking at the illustrations in a nineteenth century context, seeks to establish their importance to Dickens and his contemporaries. It traces the tenor of criticism and reviews from Sketches by Boz through Edwin Drood--noting the emphasis on Dickens's visually oriented language, and the dearth of references to the illustrator or the illustrations. Seeking to establish Dickens's attitude to the role of pictures in his novels, it considers the "working relations" of Dickens with each of his illustrators, looks at comments he made about specific drawings or engravings, and traces the various forms his illustrated, and unillustrated, works assumed. Then, it explores the effect of cultural changes, especially in the realms of journalism and Art, and discusses the influence of bibliographic and typographic developments. Dickens emerges as an author who obtained illustrations for the novels of his early and mid-career almost solely to satisfy a cultural demand. He demonstrated great interest in them, but not out of an aesthetic concern that word and picture should form an inseparable whole: the text always came first; and whatever else the illustration did, it must agree, in letter and in spirit, with that text. Then, with reissued sets of the works and with novels first published in weekly papers, it became clear that the public would gladly accept his novels with little or no graphic embellishment. Finally, by providing young artists the opportunity of showing their work to a large public, he became less an illustrated novelist than a patron of Art.