chapter  2
74 Pages

Illustrating Cranford, Illustrating the Nation

A chronological analysis of the illustrated editions of Cranford demonstrates the role that novel played in the history of Victorian book illustration on the one hand and the role of illustration in the long-term cultural phenomenon of English fiction becoming identified with the English as a people and England as a nation on the other. Histories of Victorian book illustration tend to focus on two decades of distinctive illustration practices: the revival of woodblock print illustrations in the 1860s (see Reid) and the development of pen-and-ink techniques in the 1890s (see Thorpe). In addition, some histories emphasize the relationship between authors and illustrators in the work of Dickens and Thackeray, for example, in order to explore text and image relations in the novel as a simultaneously collaborative and contested practice, the story of Dickens’s relationship with his illustrators-Robert Seymour, George Cruickshank, and “Phiz” (Hablot Browne), are the primary figures-establishing the terms of discussion (see Harvey 1971). The most recent and most ambitious study of Victorian book illustration broadly conceived-including the novel, journalism, the adventure story, and poetry, for example-focuses on illustrated first editions published in the 1890s (Kooistra). Playing off F.J. Harvey Darton’s claim that book illustration in its combination of art and literature is a specific “branch of aesthetics” (4), Lorraine Kooistra names that branch “‘bitextuality,’” which she defines as a critical approach that “incorporate[s] the strategies of both visual and verbal interpretation in order to understand how the dialogue between picture and word produces meaning within a network of cultural discourses” (5). Taken as a whole, these histories highlight author/illustrator relations in the dynamics of the original publication of the novels under discussion. Subsequent considerations of illustrated editions done after the death of a particular author, however, are generally focused on the work of the illustrator, the status and meanings of the novels simply taken for granted.