Charles Dickens at 200

Dickens' principal illustrator: H.K. Browne

Bleak House cover


Hablot Knight Browne (1815-1882) was the illustrator paired most often with Charles Dickens. During a 23-year period, Browne illustrated ten of fifteen novels by Dickens. In this exhibition, his work is represented in: Bleak House, David Copperfield, Martin Chuzzlewit, The Pickwick Papers, and A Tale of Two Cities. His images for The Pickwick Papers established Browne's career when he was only 20, and Dickens was 23. He often was identified as Phiz to balance with Dickens' early pseudonym, Boz. When Dickens was disappointed with Browne's images for A Tale of Two Cities, the two parted somewhat bitterly. Browne also worked for other Victorian novelists and for the major illustrated periodicals of the period.



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illustrations from Bleak House

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illustration from Bleak House


H.K. Browne's best illustrations for Dickens' novels are said to occur in Dombey and Son, David Copperfield, and Bleak House Dickens' ninth novel. For Bleak House, Browne developed a new technique, referred to as "dark plates," which aptly renders the somber mood of the work. The novel describes England as a "bleak house," devastated by an irresponsible, self-serving legal system and a patriarchal society. The dark plate technique involved using a ruling-machine (operated by an assistant) which cut a close-spaced criss-cross pattern of lines into the plate, thus creating an overall dark cast on the resulting print. The illustrations shown here reveal the marked contrast between regular etching on steel and the dark plate method ("Tom all alone's").

Bleak House. By Charles Dickens. Illustrations by H.K. Browne
London: Bradbury and Evans. 20 parts, 1852-1853. 1 volume, 1853  



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