In the Bitter Cold

In the Bitter Cold

As the subscribers of the magazine Stereo World and the readers of the London Stereoscopic Company’s book The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery [1] know pretty well by now I really get thrilled whenever I can trace the source of a genre stereoview back to an engraving, a painting, an illustration in a book, a satirical cartoon, or any other image. Today’s article was made possible not only thanks to Rebecca who kindly opened her blog to me one more time, but also to my very good friend and mentor, photo historian professor Roger Taylor, who contacted me a couple of weeks ago to let me know about an auction in which the contents of a British country house were sold. Among the items to go under the auctioneer’s hammer were the first three volumes of The Illustrated Times covering the period 1855 to 1858. I am a great fan of illustrated magazines as they have proved over the years a wonderful source of information, and although I was aware of the existence of this periodical I had never come across actual copies of it as it is much more difficult to find than its direct competitor, The Illustrated London News. I was therefore determined to win those three volumes, which I eventually did. Professor Taylor kindly offered to collect them from the auction house, as it was close to his place, and brought me the three volumes a few days ago when I drove to Bradford, north of England, to give a talk at the Science and Media Museum. I spent the whole evening going through those volumes and struck gold three times. My heart skipped a beat when I opened page 417 of the 1857 volume and saw the following woodcut.

Small Illustration1-In the Bitter Cold-Woodcut

The Illustrated Times, 19 December 1857. “In the Bitter Cold”. Engraving by Henry Linton after a drawing by Jonathan Abbott Pasquier.

The image is called In the Bitter Cold and we owe the original, apparently a drawing, to the pencil of British artist Jonathan Abbott Pasquier. Pasquier was born on 26 July 1826, the third child of Edward James Pasquier, also an artist, and his wife Mary Abbott Studd. Another son was born in April 1828 and all four boys were baptised on the same day, on 27 April 1830. Three years later, they lost their mother and in 1840 their father married another woman, Harriet Hammond, the widow of one Thomas Croose. The 1841 census reveals they were all living at Upper Gower Street, Saint-Pancras, London, except for the eldest son who had been apprenticed to a Merchant Navy captain in December 1839, and was probably at sea at the time the enumerator knocked on their door.

Pasquier’s father died in the first quarter of 1851 and his sons, who were all over twenty by then, were left to fend for themselves. Although 1851 is another census year, I have not been able to find trace of the whereabouts and occupations of the Pasquier boys, which is not entirely surprising as a lot of enumeration records are missing for that year. All I know is that Jonathan Abbot Pasquier was already an artist by that time and had one of his works – portraits of the children of the Honourable Lloyd Kenon – on display at the Royal Academy exhibition. He was back at the Royal Academy the following year with a portrait of Lord Francis Gordon (1808-1857), a lieutenant colonel and a keen amateur cricketer. He did not exhibit again at the Royal Academy until 1860 but his drawings and paintings were on display at other venues. On 19 December 1857, The Illustrated Times, published the drawing “In the Bitter Cold” engraved on wood by Henry Duff Linton (1816-1819). As was usually the case, a short introductory text was printed on the next page. The image belonging to the “narrative” genre, the author of this short paragraph gave the readers some hints as to how the story was to be read:

IN THE BITTER COLD.

THIS picture tells its own story. In its every touch, its every starved, pinched, frozen, bitten, nipped, blighted lineament – garment, leaf, bough, snow-flake, nay, blade of herbage – there is the same eloquently mute tale of misery, the same cry of “in the Bitter cold.” Scant need to descent on the history of the poor girl – for she is scarcely more – who, with her two children, crouch, as if utterly hopeless, beneath the lee of the snow-tipped park-palings. The placard, half-torn, tells us of the furniture that has been seized and sold by auction. The widow’s cap, the faded black raiment, are sufficient narrators of the rest of to the mournful tale. In the Bitter Cold ! surely some Samaritan will take pity on the widow and the orphans ere long, and save them from the horrors of the drifting snow, and the piercing blast.

I have written it several times before, the Victorians simply loved narrative paintings and images.  These were very popular then because in a day and age when there was no radio, no cinema and no TV, everyone could imagine their own story, add to it at leisure, embellish it, etc., which they usually did.

Pasquier’s drawing is actually a very good case in point.

It first inspired one of the masters of genre stereo cards, photographer Alfred Silvester (1831-1886) who, at some unknown date – probably between 1858 and 1860 – issued a card bearing the same title as the drawing and rather faithfully reproducing the original composition. The main difference resides in the omission of the half-torn poster telling about the auction, an omission which, in a way, leaves more scope for the viewer’s imagination.

Small Illustration2-Stereo Silvester after JA Pasquier-In the Bitter Cold-front-editing

Alfred Silvester. In the Bitter Cold. After Pasquier’s drawing and Linton’s wood engraving.

Small Illustration3-Stereo Silvester-after JA Pasquier-In the Bitter Cold-back-editing

Alfred Silvester. In the Bitter Cold. Back of the stereo card showing the title.

Then there was a poem, written by an anonymous hand, which was published, of all places, in the January 1861 issue of Chesson and Woodhall’s Bombay Miscellany. Here is the part devoted to the picture itself:

On their faces there was written,
Sufferings that few have to share :
A widow, and her orphan children,
All this cruel storm must bear.

They have neither home nor shelter,
These poor sheep have lost their fold –
Driven by a soul-less landlord
All alone, “out in the cold” !

All they had was ruthless seized
When her husband's death was known :
He had fought for England’s honour –
Mercy to her ne’er was shown.

He had struggled in the battle,
Foremost in the bloody fight :
She was driven, poor and friendless,
From her home this wintry night !

May some good and kind-souled Christian
Take her to his happy fold, –
Save her from the storm now raging, –
Snatch her from the bitter cold.

On the morrow she will thank him,
For his kind and Christian aid ;
Her widowed heart pour forth its thanks,
And his act will be o’erpaid.

As you can see for yourself, a lot of “information” has been added, which cannot really be inferred from the picture. The fact that the lady’s husband was a soldier who gallantly fought for his country and died on the battlefiled is pure imagination on the author’s part, but it adds more pathos to the story which must have been appreciated by the soldiers and their families stationed in India so soon after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Finally, Pasquier’s picture found its way into a French illustrated magazine, Le Journal Illustré, in its 26 February to 5 March 1865 issue, nearly eight years after the original drawing was made. The wood engraving – exactly the same as the one published in 1857 in The Illustrated Times – bore the title “En Angleterre: Pauvre Jenny” (In England: Poor Jenny) and came with a story, a very different one, written by the prolific writer, journalist, and translator Emile Gigault de la Bédollière (1812-1883).

De la Bédollière tells the sad tale of Jenny, a seamstress, who is married to Dick, a woodcutter. Dick earns a good living by felling trees in the forest of Epping but soon work becomes scarce and Dick decides to risk his luck in the New World. He leaves all his savings with his wife and children and boards a ship bound for New York. For some time he writes regularly and seems to be doing well but then his letters stop. Jenny soon runs out of money and is evicted by her landlord who auctions off her furniture to pay for what she owes him. She is left in the cold and is slowly dying of exposure and starvation. Just before she passes away her husband, who has come back a rich man and found his former house closed and for sale, discovers her in the parish hospital where she is lying at death’s door with her children around her, shedding bitter tears. On hearing Dick’s voice her face lits up and a last but faint smile shines on her emaciated face. Then she breathes her last. Poor Jenny, indeed !

Difficult to come up with a sadder story, don’t you think ? But this was the kind of melodrama the Victorians enjoyed and would go and watch on stage occasionally, when they were not reading it in some penny novels. With so many soap operas these days which are not any better, we should definitely not cast the first stone.

So, widow of a soldier with the hope of some help by a kind Samaritan or wife of a woodcutter dying on a hospital bed ? What would your story be ?

I would obviously love to know what became of Pasquier’s original drawing but its current whereabouts are, unfortunately, unknown [2]. Good thing we have those woodcuts and, of course, Silvester’s stereo card.

As for Pasquier himself, the 1861 census lists him as a cabinet maker living at 12 Westmoreland Street, Marylebone, Portland Place, London, but he was still active as a painter. He had exhibited two portraits at the Royal Academy the year before and would have genre paintings on display there in 1866 and 1868. On 12 August 1861 he married one Jane Wilday, from Birmingham, Warwickshire, who gave him a son, Charles Abbott, born on 21 April 1862, who also became an artist. In the 1871 and 1881 censi he is described as an artist, and passed away on 1 August 1884 at 91, Clifton Hill, Marylebone, London. His works are mostly unknown and do not reach high prices in auctions but he gave us one memorable image that obviously struck a chord with the Victorian public and inspired a beautiful stereoscopic image.

Denis Pellerin.

NOTES:

[1] Stereo World is an America bi-monthly magazine published by the National Stereoscopic Association and entirely devoted to Stereoscopic 3D. I am a regular contributor to the magazine with a section called European Gems and have written several articles about painting-inspired stereo cards.

The Poor Man’s Picture Gallery is a book that I co-wrote with Dr. Brian May and which was published by the London Stereoscopic Company in 2014. It is all about never-researched-before sources to a lot of genre stereo cards and how some of them were made into china figures known as “fairings”.

[2] If anyone knows anything about the location of this work, please drop me a line at denis@londonstereo.com. I would really love to see the original.

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