George Cruikshank, Fagin in the Condemned Cell, illustration to Oliver Twist, 1837

VICTORIAN NOVELISTS AND THEIR ILLUSTRATORS

With the advent of serialized monthly parts the illustrators suddenly assumed a dramatic role in the novelist’s life. Author and artist combined their talents with extraordinary effect, and our memory of many of these novels is inextricably associated with their classic illustrations. John Harvey describes the uniquely creative relationship which sprang up between Victorian novelists and their illustrators.

 

He also traces the history of satirical illustration from Hogarth and Gillray to Cruikshank, and explores in detail the partnership of Dickens and H. K. Browne (Phiz), showing that the artist absolutely identified with the text while Cruikshank himself gave Ainsworth detailed instructions for the development of whole scenes. A chapter is devoted to Thackeray, the only eminent nineteenth-century novelist to draw his own illustrations.

‘A highly original account of the creative partnership between Dickens and Phiz… Mr Harvey throws light on the general psychology of the period as well as its art and literature… a lavishly illustrated, beautifully produced book.’  Observer

 

‘Mr Harvey’s well-written and fascinating book.’  Financial Times

‘An energetic and widely researched book and very well illustrated.’  Times

Peter, on Goodreads (2018), gives this five star review:

‘Let there be no mistake. This is not a book that skims its topic, offers illustrations for their gloss or attractiveness, or even pretends to cater to the mildly interested reader. For the person who wants a serious, scholarly investigation and analysis of the beginnings, evolution and reasons for the proliferation of illustrators in 19C novels, however, this is an ideal book.
 

Beginning with the enormous debt Victorian illustrators owed to Hogarth, this book traces how the illustrator and the novelist combined to create some of the great novels of the 19C. Dickens, Trollope, and Thackeray all were great novelists, but J.R. Harvey convincingly documents and points out how their illustrators helped form, represent, and at times even comment on the texts they were involved in. 

‘This text is thoroughly documented and there are multiple appendixes that look further into issues mentioned in the chapters. Harvey’s style is never pedantic, but neither does it pander to the reader. Scholarly in tone, and insightful in observation, this is a text that deserves to be read by anyone who wants to know more about some of the major Victorian writers. It must also be noted that Harvey’s chapters offer insights that go beyond discussing the illustrators to present interesting insights into the novel that are exclusive of the novel’s illustrations.

‘This text deserves more attention and a space on the shelf of serious readers of the 19C novel.’

 

Editions: Sidgwick and Jackson, 1970; New York University Press, 1970.

© 2019 by John Harvey, jrh49@cam.ac.uk 

Novelist, art critic, literary critic and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge

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