Edward Oxford is the only one of Queen Victoria’s seven would-be assassins who makes an appearance in a classic work of literature.
He appears in Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop, the novel that Dickens was writing during the months before and after Oxford’s attempt. Although Dickens took a strong interest in the case, Oxford does not show up in Dickens’s text, but in an illustration by the novel’s artist, Halbot K. Browne, popularly known as “Phiz.”
In Chapter 28 of the novel Mrs. Jarley, the proprietress of a waxworks, teaches the protagonist, Little Nell, to be a guide. Even though the novel is set a good 15 years before 1840, Phiz was inspired by the leading exhibits of 1840 at the more-famous Madame Tussaud’s waxworks in London (where during the second half of the year Edward Oxford was a star attraction). At the far right of the illustration stands a wide-eyed, goofy child, holding a flintlock in his left hand and a pot of beer in his right, with a sheet of paper marked “Young England” bulging out of his pocket: a caricature any reader at the time would recognize as that of the foolish pot-boy, Oxford.
To the right of Oxford sits an equally anachronistic Queen Victoria, dressed as she appeared at her coronation in 1838. Oxford’s pistol may be pointing at her, but she sits calmly and happily above and beyond the threat. Unwittingly or—as I assume—wittingly, Phiz thus presents a waxwork representation of the attempt itself, with its happy outcome for the Queen.