Having now completed my reading of Charles Dickens’s “Nicholas Nickleby”, I scanned the last four of the dramatic and insightful Charles Keeping’s illustrations from my Folio Society edition of 1986.
‘They pressed forward to see’
‘ ‘Come,’ said Tim, ‘let’s be a comfortable couple’
‘The rebellion had just broken out’
‘One grey-haired, quiet, harmless gentleman’
Christopher Hibbert’s informative introduction puts this book – one of his earliest – in the context of the author’s life and times. Despite the campaign against the sadistic, exploitative, Yorkshire schools there is much of Dickens’s witty humour in this story of tragedy, romance, and mystery. It is so well known as to need no further comment from me.
Throughout this series Keeping’s drawings speak for themselves.
This afternoon, in order to make inroads into the weeds piercing the Rose Garden Brick Paths, I tore myself away from the Test Match commentary until after the tea break.
Here are two images from before my efforts;
and two scraped out and swept.
Jackie continued with much tidying and planting.
This evening we dined on pork chops coated with almonds; crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; firm cauliflower and broccoli, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Collin-Bourisset Fleurie 2019.
On a drab, drearily dull, day I tuned into the start of the second cricket Test Match between England and New Zealand, and scanned eight more of Charles Keeping’s excellent illustrations to Charles Dickens’s ‘Nicholas Nickleby’.
In turning ‘Nicholas found Bray lying on the floor quite dead, and his daughter clinging to the body’ upside down, Charles Keeping has given the image an additionally morbid perspective.
‘Mrs Nickleby would draw up a chair and run through a great variety of distracting topics in the most distracting manner possible’
In ‘Some of the neighbours threw up their windows and called across the street to each other’ the artist has sprawled across two pages, symbolising the crossing of the street.
‘As they stole further and further in, the old hag and Squeers were busily occupied with their tasks’ gives Keeping the opportunity to display perspective by having the foreground figure burst from the frame.
‘With eyes almost starting from their sockets, and in a fit of trembling which quite convulsed his frame, Smile was shrieking to him for help’
Keeping’s trademark dog in the street appears in the foreground of ‘To Gride’s house Ralph directed his steps, now thoroughly alarmed and fearful’
‘Ralph sat down, pressing his two hands upon his temples’
‘ ‘That’s my own brave Kate!’ said Nicholas, pressing her to his breast’
During the cricket tea interval and for a while afterwards I cleared and transferred to the compost bins some of Jackie’s weeding refuse, then wandered around with my camera.
Jackie continued planting hanging baskets and other containers
on the patio.
Other views include those beside the wisteria and along the Shady Path, where, beyond the shot containing the Arthur Bell rose,
a red climber stands over a spanning wooden arch;
the peeling bark of the eucalyptus; from Margery’s poppies through the Cryptomeria Bed; and
the Rose Garden, including
pink Mum in a Million, peach Flower Power, white Winchester Cathedral, yellow Crown Princess Margareta and Absolutely Fabulous, red and pink For Your Eyes Only, white Kent carpet rose, and pink Festive Jewel.
This evening we dined on succulent lemon chicken and roast potatoes; crisp Yorkshire pudding; firm carrots and broccoli, with tasty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Cotes de Gascogne.
Albeit originally dry, today’s bright start, beset by grey sheep’s wool skies and drizzling rain, descended into cooler dankness.
My morning session devoted to WordPress comments was extended by the distraction from shaking branches of a crab apple tree in which the cumbersome barrage balloon of a nest-building wood pigeon thumped into the boughs clutching a selection of tightrope walkers’ balancing poles before diving into the foliage, emerging empty beaked and blundering off for a refill.
You may care to bigify these images by clicking on any one to access the gallery in order to discern the size of the nest twigs.
Jackie, meanwhile, having inadvertently discovered a robin’s nest while tidying up some boxes a couple of days ago
took a chance on quickly snapping the babies today. Since the earlier discovery, the parents have continued to carry in food through the gap beside the rusty iron bar.
This afternoon I read a little more of Nicholas Nickleby, enabling me to scan four more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to Charles Dickens’s novel.
‘Mr Snawley tucked the poor fellow’s head under his arm in a most uncouth and awkward embrace’
‘Within ‘the rules’ ‘ illustrates life in the Liberties of The King’s Bench Prison – an area covering three square miles around the prison where those inmates who could afford it could purchase the liberty to live there. (Wikipedia)
‘Arthur Gride sat in a low chair looking up into the face of Ralph Nickleby’ reminds me of a tax inspector I once knew who always sat his interviewees in a lower chair to establish his power. I explained that I did the opposite for the opposite reason.
‘Nicholas found himself poring with the utmost interest over a large play-bill’
This evening we dined on succulent roast chicken and tasty parsnips; creamy mashed potatoes; crisp Yorkshire pudding; crunchy carrots; tender greens, and flavoursome gravy with which Jackie finished the Sauvignon Blanc and I started on the Barossa Valley Shiraz 2017.
Here is the next ten of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, scanned yesterday:
‘No-one could have doubted their being twin brothers’
‘ ‘My children, my defrauded, swindled, infants!’ cried Mr Kenwigs, pulling at the flaxen tail of his second daughter’
‘A quiet, little frequented, retired spot, favourable to melancholy and contemplation’. You will usually find a cat or a dog in Mr Keeping’s drawings.
‘The terrified creature became utterly powerless and unable to utter a sound’
Mr Browdie gave his wife a hearty kiss, and succeeded in wresting another from Miss Squeers’
‘Divers servant-girls were almost scared out of their senses by the apparition of Newman Noggs looking stealthily round the pump’
‘ ‘What do you want, sir?’ ‘How dare you look into this garden?’ ‘
‘Miss Squeers elevated her nose in the air with ineffable disdain’
‘A bar-maid was looking on from behind an open sash window’
‘Stepping close to Ralph, the man pronounced his name’
The outside temperature is now hot by our standards. We made more progress in the garden.
Jackie has finished planting her hanging baskets and other containers flanking her favourite view from the stable door and along the Gazebo Path. The red Chilean lantern tree to the left of the second picture, and the yellow bottle brush plant on the right will soon be in full bloom.
These cosmos, petunias, geraniums, and angels wings in containers by the rhododendron can be seen near the end of the path on the right.
I finished the weeding of the footpath through the Weeping Birch Bed. I still have to find some more stones to complete the repair, but I couldn’t manage that today.
These gladioli in a trough outside the kitchen door increase each year.
Love Knot, and Gloriana, with purple aquilegias alongside, are two of the roses coming to fruition in the Rose Garden.
I only normally watch daytime TV for cricket and rugby. Today I made an exception for the 1958 version of Dunkirk, starring John Mills. As I said in my eponymous post, both Jackie’s and my father survived the event, and I had an urge to watch the film for the first time.
This evening we dined on oven fish and chips, baked beans, and cornichons with chilli. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Malbec.
I suppose it is fair to say that “we” shopped at Tesco this morning. Our usual division of labour on such trips applied. Jackie dons a mask and spends up to an hour dodging other customers to reach the aisles; I sit in the car reading – today more chapters of ‘Nicholas Nickleby’; Jackie brings a loaded trolley to the Modus; I load the purchases into the boot, and unload them into the kitchen.
On this occasion we enjoyed a brief sojourn in the forest on the way.
We visited the lake at Pilley which reflected the surrounding woodland and cloudy skies above, and still bore water crowfoots.
More leaves were on the trees, shown in our two regularly monitored views, although the water levels haven’t really changed. May blossom, more of which could be seen in the surrounding woodland, is finally out in the first view.
Our sometimes visiting grey pony did not come down for a drink, but can be seen in the distance having a lengthy scratch on a gate. Bigifying will make this manoeuvre apparent.
A small group of ponies strode purposefully across the moorland beside Bull Hill.
This afternoon I scanned another seven of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to the above-mentioned novel by Charles Dickens.
‘Lord Verisoft enjoyed unmolested the full flavour of the gold knob at the top of his cane’.
‘ ‘Closed!’ cried Mrs Crummles, raising her hands in astonishment’
‘Miss Snevellicci’s papa, rising deliberately from his chair, kissed the ladies all round’. Mr Keeping has used his drawing to support the text of two pages.
‘The door was opened by a strange servant, on whom the odd figure of the visitor did not appear to make the most favourite impression possible’
‘Sir Mulberry applied his whip furiously to the head and shoulders of Nicholas’ is a 3D image if ever there was one.
‘To the City they went, with all the speed the hackney-coach could make’
‘ ‘My son, sir, little Wackford’
Later this afternoon I all but finished my work on clearing the Heligan Path.
This was to give Jackie the surprise of the day.
Unbeknown to me she came along to see how I was doing.
Just in time to see my chair topple and tip me headfirst into a flower bed.
I was face down in a shrub, elbows on I don’t know what, and knees wedged on brick and gravel. Somehow I managed to manoeuvre my hands in a position to perform a press-up of sorts. But my knees wouldn’t budge. I really felt stuck and in excruciating pain from a combination of joints both forced where they didn’t want to be and resting on sharp objects.
Jackie tried to place the chair in a position from which I could heave myself from the kneeling posture. This could only be done if I could get at least one foot on the ground. With a screwed up face and agonising cries I managed to plant my right foot on the path. The left knee was not going to move. Jackie then found another chair which she placed behind me. Somehow I sat on it and then heaved myself up from the other.
This process took close to 30 minutes. Neither of us had a camera.
Once on my feet I was virtually pain-free and, albeit somewhat wobbly, could walk back to my desk and produce this post.
This evening we dined on a second helping of Jackie’s delicious sausage casserole, fried potatoes, carrots and runner beans, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I finished the Shiraz.
Yesterday evening we met Elizabeth and Danni inside The Lamb Inn at Nomansland for our first permitted meal together since the months long Covid lockdown.
Jackie’s photograph of Danni arriving shows that masks had to be worn on entry and walking about, but could be removed while seated.
Three of us chose chicken, ham, and leek pie meals. Jackie was the exception who selected a burger meal. Danni, who produced the last two pictures in this gallery, my sister, and I drank a very good Mendoza Malbec, while Jackie drank Amstel. Actually, Danni’s wine was a chaser for her Diet Coke. For dessert Jackie chose strawberry sundae; Danni, lemon meringue pie; and I summer fruits pudding. Elizabeth finished with decaffeinated coffee. The fare was all very good, and the service attentive an efficient.
Our niece’s shot of Jackie and me includes a pony on the green outside.
I guess I must have been perusing the menu in these two photographs Jackie took of Elizabeth and me. These pictures were all produced early in the evening. The pub filled up a bit afterwards.
This afternoon I scanned six more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to “Nicholas Nickleby”.
‘The small unfortunate was looking on with a singed head and a frightened face’
An example of the artist’s double page spread is ‘Nicholas found the four Miss Kenwigses on their form of audience, and the baby in a dwarf porter’s chair’
‘A short, bustling, over-dressed female, full of importance, presented herself’
‘The young lady, then and there kissed the old lord’. Note the hands in this one.
‘The easy insolence of their manner towards herself brought the blood tingling to Kate’s face’
‘Miss La Creevey found Mrs Nickleby in tears, and Ralph just concluding his statement of his nephew’s misdemeanours’
Later this afternoon Jackie felt the need to buy an owl, so we visited Shallowmead Nurseries, where she was recognised as “the owl lady”, to do just that.
Passing the crochet decorated post box, now sporting a rainbow hope, on Pilley Hill, we proceeded to
record this week’s views from one side to the other of Pilley’s receding lake. The first shot shows the spread of the water crowfoots, and the second the increased reflected foliage.
The dried detritus indicates that I was still able to walk across from one side to the other.
I enjoyed a pleasant conversation with people living in the corner house the reflection of which I have often photographed over the years. While I was being informed that a few days ago a small pool had been dry,
Jackie pictured a “shark” in occupation.
A small group of ponies at East Boldre wandered along the road in order to take a drink from a stream flanking soggy terrain.
This evening we dined on Jackie’s succulent beef pie; creamy mashed potatoes; firm carrots and cauliflower; spicy ratatouille; and meaty gravy, with which she drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of our Malbec.
Yesterday evening I reached a point past nine more of Charles Keeping’s illustrations to “Nicholas Nickleby”. and scanned them today.
Keeping depicts such movement in ‘The animals were no sooner released than they trotted back to the stable they had just left’.
‘A female bounced into the room, and seizing Mr Squeers by the throat gave him two loud kisses’. When repeated further in the book these portraits will be most recognisable.
The three boys in the foreground of ‘Mrs Squeers stood at one of the desks, presiding over an immense basin of brimstone and treacle’ are recent arrivals. Keeping shows by the chubby, innocent, profile of one that they have not yet adopted the description, including the harelip, Charles Dickens gives to the others. The mixture of sulphur and molasses was commonly used as a cure-all at the time. Here it was mainly employed as an appetite suppressant.
‘When they were both touched up to their entire satisfaction, they went down-stairs in full state’
‘The timid country girl shrunk through the crowd that hurried up and down the streets, clinging closely to Ralph’ displays the artist’s mastery of perspective.
‘They stopped in front of a large old dingy house that appeared to have been uninhabited for years’ displays historically accurate buildings.
‘The poor soul was poring hard over a tattered book with the traces of recent tears still upon his face’ represents the portrait given in the book’s frontispiece.
‘Pinning him by the throat, Nicholas beat the ruffian until he roared for mercy’
‘Dingy, ill-plumed, drowsy flutterers, sent to get a livelihood in the streets’ is one of Mr Keeping’s text sandwiches.
Between showers we prepared a site for the new, as yet unopened, wooden bench.
Later this afternoon we drove to Everton Nurseries where Jackie bought some trailing petunias, and continued into the forest.
where I was tempted from the car by the sight of groups of ponies who had been much more in evidence today than yesterday.
Purple violets beneath a yellow gorse bush; scattered bluebells; and a fossilised hand caught my attention.
I thought I could discern at least two foals in the distance.
To reach them I needed to follow a track across the running stream created by the ponies above.
That reminds me. The pony in the foreground of the first picture in this gallery determinedly emerged in my direction and took up a position with splayed legs right in front of me. It had made me rather nervous. Fortunately missing my feet it released a powerful stream from its rear end. Naturally I lifted my lens enough for decency. This was still creating its own little puddle when its companion did exactly the same thing. Were they trying to tell me something?
This was quite an undulating landscape.
Climbing up to the next level I was rewarded by the sight of two foals.
As its mother wandered away the first of these rose to its feet, stretched its limbs, trotted after her, then felt safe enough to look me in the eye.
On our journey home through East Boldre we encountered a group of donkeys and their foals.
Perhaps attempting to arouse the attention of its comatose mother,
one excited youngster repeatedly ran rings round the gorse bushes, causing Jackie to exclaim: “He’s just found he’s got legs”.
This evening we dined on plump lemon chicken thighs; creamy mashed potatoes; spicy hot ratatouille; and firm cauliflower, with which Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank Trivento Reserve Malbec 2019.
This morning Jackie and I each reached a corner of the bench while weeding the Shady Path. There is just the middle stretch to be completed. A yellow tree peony and a plethora of Welsh poppies can be seen in the surrounding beds.
The clematis Montana weaves about the lilac on the Back Drive.
When literary blogger josbees recommended that I reread chapter 2 of Nicholas Nickleby I had imagined that I would not read the whole book again, but would work my way through scanning Charles Keeping’s illustrations for my readers. In fact I was wrong. As the characters came flooding back to me after more than half a century, this Dickens novel is now one of the few I am happy to read again.
The frontispiece illustration is to ‘A tall lean boy, with a lantern in his hand, issued forth.’
‘Motioning them all out of the room, Mr Nickleby sunk exhausted on his pillow’ demonstrates Mr Keeping’s penchant for sandwiching a section of text into his drawing.
‘The clerk presented himself in Mr Nickleby’s room’ contains the artist’s skill at portraiture. The proximity of the houses seen through the window demonstrates the congested nature of the environment.
‘ ‘Mrs Nickleby,’ said the girl, throwing open the door, ‘here’s Mr Nickleby’ ‘ demonstrates Keeping’s adherence to the text. The young lady has hastily attempted to clean her dirty face with an even dirtier apron.
‘ ‘I have been thinking, Mr Squeers, of placing my two boys at your school’ ‘
‘A minute’s bustle, a banging of the coach doors, a swaying of the vehicle to one side’ exemplifies the artist’s mastery of receding perspective by bursting the foreground range of portraits out of the frame.
Early this evening a friend of Jake, who I photographed Sunset Dancing last December, called to collect a print I had made for him. Jake now lives in The Netherlands, and earns a living skydiving.
Later, we dined on roast chicken thighs and roast potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, sage and onion stuffing, carrots, cauliflower, and green beans, with meaty gravy. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Recital.