English Boys' Clothes: Literary References in Novels--Dombey and Son


Figure 1.--Here is one depiction of Mr. Dombey and his son Little Paul. I'm not sure who the illustrator was.

Charles Dickens was reportedly influenced by a portrait as to how he portrayed the boy character Little Paul in his novel Dombey and Son. The portrait was "Painting of a Boy" by W.J. Orchardson RA. The portrate is of a boy named W.H. Keith. He was the son of James Keith who was an Edinburgh printseller. Illustrations we have found of Little Paul picture him in what looks to be a dress with a sash. Perhaps it is a kind of tunic outfit, a style that was popular in the early to mid-19th century. There is lace around the cuffs and there is also a fancy lace collar. He does not seem to be wearing stockings. His hair is unkempt and blond. He is wearing strap shoes. In another image, Little Paul is with his sister and wears a much plainer dress. It has a belt across the middle. He is wearing shoes without a strap. His hat is by his side. Paul looks sad as does his sister. The image is full of emotion and concern about how the boy is being cared for. This is a Dickens novel I have not read so I am not familiar with the story. The similarity in the two illustrations suggest that Paul's clothing are described in detail by Dickens.

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens is regarded by many as the greatest novelist in the English language. He is especially notable for the wonderfully diverse chracters he created. Among them are some of the most famous boy characters in literary history. Oliver Twist was in fact the first boy character to be the main character of a novel. Dickens authored 15 major novels and numerous short stories and articles. Oliver David, and Pip are the best known, but many other boys and girls populate his novels. The most memorable are those wounded and in some cases destroyed by poverty, in pat because of his boyhood experiences. The epitat on his tombstone in Poet's Corner, Westminster Abbey reads: "He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world". Parents. Of course two of the most important boy characters in literature are David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. The main charcter in Great Expectations is of course Pip. Dickens has Pip's sister spending ages getting him spick and span to go to visit Miss Haversham. The David Lean film version reflects this as does the adaptation set in the 20th century United States. A lesser known Dickens novel is Dombey and Son which includes the character Little Paul.

Orchardson Painting

Charles Dickens was reportedly influenced by a portrait as to how he portrayed the boy character Little Paul in his novel Dombey and Son. The portrait was "Painting of a Boy" by W.J. Orchardson RA. This is not an artist that I am familiar with. The portrait is of a boy named W.H. Keith. He was the son of James Keith who was an Edinburgh printseller. It looks to have been painted in the mid-19th century, perhaps in the 1840s. The pensive boy has longish hair over his ears. He wears a blue outfit, pergaps a dress or tunic, it is difficult to tell, with a small white lace collar.

Publishing Details

The complete title of this Dickens' book is Dealings with the firm of Dombey and Son. It was published during 1847-48. Like most of Dickensí books, it was published in instalments rather than as a novel as is the case today. The book is not one of Dickens' better known works. I am not sure why. The cast of characters is a bit humdrum compared to his better known books.

Plot

The story starts with the birth of little Paul. There is an odd occurance when Florence loses her way in London an old woman robs her of her clothes. The central chracter is of course Mr Dombey. He is a proud, if not arrogant London merchant. He is very successful in business, but as little time or real concern for his family or those around him. Kind of a married Scroge. His primary interests are making money and assuring the continuation of the family line to perpetuate his firm. As a result, he not only has no concern with his devoted daughter Florence, but is actually cruel to her. He conspires to break up the developing romance between Florenceand a clerk in the firm by posting him to theWest Indies. He opposes the marriage because Florence's intended is a lowly clerk. Dombey is more interested in his son Paul because he sees in him the continuation of the family firm. Dombey's arrogance makes him vulnerable to flatterers. The unscruplous manager Carker manages and Major Joe Bagstock as well as others steal his fortune. In addition Carker ruins his marriage to Edith Granger and Dombey loses his son Paul. Sadly the boy dies young when he is only 6 years old. He had been very fond of his sister. Dombey is left destitute. In a typical Dickesian ending, Florence and her husband (the clerk Dombey sent to the West Indies, take him in and he lives hapily with them.

Clothing

One illustrations we have found of Little Paul picture him in what looks to be a dress with a sash (figure 1). Perhaps it is a kind of tunic outfit, a style that was popular in the early to mid-19th century. There is lace around the cuffs and there is also a fancy lace collar. He does not seem to be wearing stockings. His hair is unkempt and blond. He is wearing strap shoes. In another image, Little Paul is with his sister and wears a much plainer dress. It has a belt across the middle. He is wearing shoes without a strap. His hat is by his side. Paul looks sad as does his sister. The image is full of emotion and concern about how the boy is being cared for. The similarity in the two illustrations suggest that Paul's clothing are described in detail by Dickens. I do not know though if Dickens actually describes Paul's clothes in the book.

Bibliomania

Bibliomania is a free online literature site with more than 2,000 classic texts. Dombey and Sons is ome of them. The site includes literature book notes, author biographies, book summaries, and references. The site includes: classic fiction, drama, poetry, short stories, and contemporary articles and interviews. There are also study guides to the most read books as well as help for teachers. The site invites readers to, "Research our reference books, dictionaries, quotations, classic non-fiction, biographies, and religious texts.

Railways

One intresting aspect of the book is the mention of railways which in the 1840s were beginnng to remake Britain. There are desciptions of railway journeys, at the timeof witing a new way of travelling. Carker is killed in a railway accident. This is one of the earliest litterary treatment of railways. Railways were still fairly primitive in the 1840s, but the system was so efficent that it was already having a major economiv impact.





HBC




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Created: 4:59 AM 1/11/20064
Last updated: 6:48 AM 1/13/2006