The antic fellow and Sikes
Frederic W. Pailthorpe
10.4 x 8.1 cm vignetted
Eighteenth illustration for Oliver Twist in F. W. Pailthorpe's twenty-one hand-tinted engravings for the 1838 three-volume Richard Bentley (first) edition. This illustration is keyed to vol. 3, p. 205.
Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank, did not illustrate the scene at the tap-room at the Eight Bells at Hatfield. Instead, he provided the scene in which Sikes, escaping possible arrest in London, attempts to drown the only witness to the deed — his dog, Bull's-Eye.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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There were two buyers directly, and more of the listeners plainly hesitated. The vendor observing this, increased in loquacity.
"It's all bought up as fast as it can be made," said the fellow. "There are fourteen water-mills, six steam-engines, and a galvanic battery, always a-working upon it, and they can't make it fast enough, though the men work so hard that they die off, and the widows is pensioned directly, with twenty pound a-year for each of the children, and a premium of fifty for twins. One penny a square! Two half-pence is all the same, and four farthings is received with joy. One penny a square! Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains, pitch-stains, mud-stains, blood-stains! Here is a stain upon the hat of a gentleman in company, that I'll take clean out, before he can order me a pint of ale."
"Hah!" cried Sikes starting up. "Give that back."
"I'll take it clean out, sir," replied the man, winking to the company, "before you can come across the room to get it. Gentlemen all, observe the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat, no wider than a shilling, but thicker than a half-crown. Whether it is a wine-stain, fruit-stain, beer-stain, water-stain, paint-stain, pitch-stain, mud-stain, or blood-stain —
The man got no further, for Sikes with a hideous imprecation overthrew the table, and tearing the hat from him, burst out of the house.
[Chapter 48, "The Flight of Sikes," p. 274 in the 1846 edition]
Having brutally murdered Nancy in Chapter 47 on the supposition that she has impeached on the gang, Sikes escapes northward. While in the little village of Hatfield, near the great house built by Sir Robert Cecil in 1611 (replacing the late 15th c. palace on this site where the future Queen Elizabeth spent part of her childhood, and held her first council of state as monarch in 1558), Sikes visits the nearby Eight Bells, a public house familiar to Dickens when as a young reporter in 1835 he covered the disastrous fire that destroyed much of the Jacobean mansion. Dick Turpin, the infamous highwayman, is reputed to have jumped from the second-storey of The Eight Bells onto his steed, Black Bess, to avoid capture by the Bow Street Runners, an historical feature that may have prompted the young author to associate the brutal burglar with the public house.
Here, the fugitive Sikes hears passengers just alighted from a London coach discussing the recently discovered murder of a woman in Spitalfields, so that he now realizes that hue and cry is about to be raised for him. When a conflagration breaks out in the manor house, Sikes heroically joins the firefighters and works tirelessly to save as much property as possible. Tony Lynch in Dickens' England adds that Dickens uses this occasion to insert what amounts to a topical allusion in having Sikes (perhaps suddenly struck by altruism, but more likely tempting Providence to punish him) fight the fire, for "Dickens was in fact remembering the fire of 1835 at Hatfield House" (109).
Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series offers three illustrations depicting the sensational events in the final days of the Hogarthian blackguard: the dark plate The Death of Nancy, the humorous taproom scene at The Eight Bells, The Flight of Bill Sikes, and the peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The End of Sikes, the 1871 Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney depicts Sikes's dragging his dog away from the corpse in He moved backward, towards the door: dragging the dog with him, but does not focus at all upon the murder's flight northward, resolving his story with the scene on the roof-tiles of the gang's hideout at Jacob's Island rookery with And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. Like Furniss a quarter-of-a-century later, Pailthorpe attempts to describe the scene in the taproom at The Eight Bells when a mountebank (an "antic fellow") tries to make Sikes's blood-stained hat the object of a demonstration of the efficacy of a patent product that removes stains. Sikes responds with fear and suspicion when the enterprising salesman grabs his hat. Compare Pailthorpe's caricatural treatment with the more impressionistic style in Furniss's The Flight of Bill Sikes after the Murder.
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Created 14 February 2015