Durdles, Deputy, and Jasper — Page 51
Felix O. C. Darley
9.1 x 8.5 cm vignetted
Frontispiece for Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood, the final volume in the Hurd and Houghton (NewYork) Household Edition.
[Click on illustration to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham from his personal collection.
[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]
John Jasper, on his way home through the Close, is brought to a stand-still by the spectacle of Stony Durdles, dinner-bundle and all, leaning his back against the iron railing of the burial-ground enclosing it from the old cloister-arches; and a hideous small boy in rags flinging stones at him as a well-defined mark in the moonlight. Sometimes the stones hit him, and sometimes they miss him, but Durdles seems indifferent to either fortune. The hideous small boy, on the contrary, whenever he hits Durdles, blows a whistle of triumph through a jagged gap, convenient for the purpose, in the front of his mouth, where half his teeth are wanting; and whenever he misses him, yelps out "Mulled agin!" and tries to atone for the failure by taking a more correct and vicious aim.
"What are you doing to the man?" demands Jasper, stepping out into the moonlight from the shade.
"Making a cock-shy of him," replies the hideous small boy.
"Give me those stones in your hand."
"Yes, I'll give 'em you down your throat, if you come a-ketching hold of me," says the small boy, shaking himself loose, and backing. "I'll smash your eye, if you don't look out!"
"Baby-Devil that you are, what has the man done to you?"
"He won’t go home."
"What is that to you?"
"He gives me a 'apenny to pelt him home if I ketches him out too late," says the boy. — Ch. 5, "Mr. Durdles and Friend," p. 51.
Commentary: Deputy and Durdles
"Deputy," a street-wise adolescent in rags surviving as best he can is not an unfamiliar figure in Dickens's work, whether one is considering Fagin's gang in Oliver Twist or Jo the crossing-sweeper in Bleak House, but the edgy, aggressive patter he delivers makes him a close relative of The Artful Dodger. The cathedral sexton, on the other hand, is something of an original, a character whom Dickens based on personal experiences in Rochester, the basis for Cloisterham in Dickens's last novel.
The scene is the cathedral close, suggested by the area railing and ecclesiastical architecture in the background of the frontispiece. In contrast to the respectably clad church musician, John Jasper (characterized here by a bowler hat and umbrella), Stony Durdles, representative of the proletariat, possesses the expert knowledge of the crypt and precincts of the cathedral that Jasper will later need to carry out his diabolical designs against his nephew, Edwin Drood. Apparently, Dickens based Durdles the stone-mason on a local Rochester character, whose physical features and mode of dress he may well have described to his illustrator at one of their Hyde Park meetings. Whereas Sir Luke Fildes treats Durdles with respect when he challenges the town's mayor, Mr. Sapsea (by trade an auctioneer but by ambition the secular Bishop of Cloisterham), the Dean, the Verger, and the Choirmaster conversing in the street, Darley makes the stone-mason (even though he is indeed the worse for drink) look shabby and stupid, and Deputy a savage street-waif; since these interpretations are not sustained by a careful reading of the text, it may well be that Darley was somewhat rushed. Moreover, the illustration, unlike all his others in the series, has neither caption nor page number for the passage realised. The picture's saving grace is its handling of Jasper: since his face is hidden from the reader, his expression and motivation here must be assessed by the reader, and then reassessed once the reader has encountered the passage.
Stony Durdles in the original edition, 1870
Above: Luke Fildes' depiction of the confrontation between the opinionated working man and the respectably clad bourgeoisie of Cloisterham, Durdles Cautions Mr. Sapsea Against Boasting (Chapter 12, June 1870). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. "The Illustrators of Our Mutual Friend, and The Mystery of Edwin Drood: Marcus Stone, Charles Collins, Luke Fildes." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Canton: Ohio U. P., 1980. Pp. 203-228.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Illustrated by Luke Fildes [517 composite wood-block engravings]. London: Chapman and Hall, 1880.
Dickens, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Works of Charles Dickens. The Household Edition. New York: Hurd and Houghton; Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1871.
Hammerton, J. A. "Chapter 21: The Other Novels." The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 17. Pp.441-442.
Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators. (1899). Rpt. Honolulu: University of Hawaii, 2004.
Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: Modern Language Association, 1985.
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Last modified 15 November 2015