“He was a twinkling-eyed, pimple-faced man, with his hair standing upright all over his head; and as he stood with one arm a-kimbo, holding up the glass to the light with the other hand, he looked quite friendly.” —David Copperfield
Among the artwork on display at the Normal Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, is “Boy in a Dining Car.” The painting, which depicts a youngster (the artist’s son) calculating a waiter’s tip for the first time, was inspired by H.K. Browne’s illustration of a scene in Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield.
Rockwell’s work, which appeared on the cover of the December 7, 1946, edition of The Saturday Evening Post, is a decidedly more serious take on David Copperfield’s eatery encounter. The Dickens’ title character is en route to a school in London when the coach in which he’s traveling stops for lunch at an inn, and a seemingly friendly waiter ends up enjoying the meal he’s serving to his young customer.
Dickens was Rockwell’s favorite author, an affinity that extended back to his childhood. A Sunday family tradition was listening to his father read the British scribes’ entertaining tales.