I. Oliver and His Mother’s Portrait

Left: Oliver recovering from fever (1837) by George Cruikshank. Right: Oliver and His Mother's Portrait (1910) by Harry Furniss. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Whereas Charles Dickens begins the novel with the death of Oliver's mother in the workhouse a considerable distance north of London, Harry Furniss's first lithograph from a pen-and-ink wash drawing focuses on the boy's comfortably dozing in an easy chair in the housekeeper's room of Mr. Brownlow's house in Pentonville, north London. Recovering from an acute fever, Oliver finds himself in a comfortable easy-chair and presented with a bowl of hot broth; above him is the oil-portrait of a fashionably dressed young woman of about twenty years of age. In the frontispiece, Furniss combines the passage describes Oliver's fitful slumber over a number of days upstairs with his questioning Mrs. Bedlow about the portrait in her room downstairs. In the frontispiece, the young lady (in fact, Oliver's mother) seems to be looking out of the frame and directly at the reader. The placement and subject matter of this frontispiece reflect Furniss's detailed knowledge of the plot of the entire novel, a knowledge that the original serial illustrator, George Cruikshank, probably lacked when he bagan the commission for Bentley's Miscellany in January 1837.

Like the Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney in 1871, Furniss in 1910 had the definite advantage of having read the entire novel in advance, as well as of having seen Mahoney's twenty-eight wood-engravingsfor the novel and the twenty-four steel-engravings from 1837-38 by Dickens's original illustrator. For his program of "34 original illustrations" announced on the title-page, Furniss rarely elected merely to emulate past practice for the first half of volume III of the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910). Although the influence of Cruikshank predominates, Furniss is often "original" in his treatment of Cruikshank's subjects, as in his re-thinking and reconfiguration of Oliver recovering from fever (see below), Cruikshank's serial illustration for August 1837, a drawing made expressly at Dickens's behest to make plain Oliver's much-improved circumstances ordained by a beneficent Providence. The Furniss caption makes the identity of the young woman perfectly clear, but (unlike the majority of Furnnis's illustrations) does not point through a quotation or extended caption to a specific moment in the text. On the other hand, in Cruikshank's illustration the portrait's initial relationship to the boy is not clear at all, but the juxtaposition of the plate and the text, and the illustration's placement within the book, point to a highly specific passage. Dickens first draws the reader's attention to the likeness between the portrait in Mr. Brownlow's Pentonville home and the recently arrived "Tom White" in Chapter 12, preparing the reader for the whole series of coincidences involving Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie in the novel's "inheritance" plot.

Weeks after his release from detention and the sentence of three months' hard labour after the bookstall owner's testimony has exonerated him, Oliver, weak but recovered from the fever, awakens at Mr. Brownlow's home in Pentonville, north London. Carried downstairs to the room of the grandmotherly housekeeper, Mrs. Bedwin, Oliver pays special attention to a portrait of a young lady in her room. Cruikshank's treatment of the subject of the poor boy taken in and nursed back to health by the elderly bachelor and his kindly housekeeper, Mrs. Bedwin, is both theatrical and narrative; that is, the Regency illustrator has included all the elements that Dickens describes, including the feverish boy in his chair, Mr. Brownlow in his embroidered dressing-gown, such theatrical properties as the table, fireplace, and wardrobe (producing a rather crowded effect), and, above Oliver, the small portrait, a taken-from-the-life study which is complemented by the ornately framed oil painting above the mantelpiece of a suitable biblical analogue, the kindness of the Good Samaritan in Christ's New Testament parable in "The Gospel According to St. Luke" (10: 25-37).

Conspicuous on the wall immediately above and behind Oliver is yet another inset picture, a portrait that proves to be that of Oliver's mother, about whom in his delirium he has dreamed, as if she were his guardian angel. This scene of Oliver's charitable and even loving adults contrasts previous scenes, including that of the "false" Samaritan, the master-thief Fagin; again, as in Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman, Cruikshank has positioned Oliver to the right and his saviours to the left, Mrs. Bedwin occupying the central position taken by the Artful Dodger in the earlier illustration. Despite the effectiveness of these juxtapositions, the reader has to sort through the crowded details to study the likeness of the tiny portrait and the sickly Oliver.

The Good Samaritan, by the way, was something of a favourite subject with Victorian painters such as George Frederic Watts (1852) and John Everett Millais (1863). Indeed, the parable seems to have been a commonplace for philanthropic activity among the upper-middle and upper classes, as in the low relief sculpture for Sarah Elizabeth Wardroper by George Tinworth (1893-94).

Representations of the Good Samaritan by Watts, Millais, and Tinworth. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Although in composing the series for the 1871 Household Edition Mahoney had the advantage of being able to study Cruikshank's plates assiduously well in advance of his receiving the Chapman and Hall commission for the first volume in the new edition, he rarely pays homage to Cruikshank's original conceptions, which are often caricatural rather than examples of social realism. Instead, for example, of depicting the tenderness of Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Bedwin in caring for Oliver, Mahoney elects to show a parallel scene of the boy's ill-treatment by Monks and Fain once they have recaptured Oliver, The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor (see below), in Chapter 19, "In Which a Notable Plan is Discussed and Determined On."

Rejecting the obvious sentimentality and detailism of the Cruikshank original, Furniss dispenses with the other embedded painting, the furnishings, and the attendants in order to focus on the irony of Oliver's dozing beneath the portrait that turns out to be that of the mother whom he never knew but whom he has sensed as an abiding presence. As opposed to the 1846 frontispiece by Cruikshank, which merely alludes to the first of Oliver's "adventures," when he asks the master of the workhouse for more gruel, the Furniss frontispiece refers to the overarching "lost heir" plot in which Providence directs the boy unwittingly to connect with his mother's sister and his father's best friend. Mahoney's 1871 frontispiece (see below) likewise directs the reader to the "lost heir" plot through depicting Monks's attempting to destroy the evidence of Oliver's true identity.

II. "Please, Sir, I want some more."

Left: Oliver Asking for More (1837) by George Cruikshank. Right: Starvation in the Workhouse (1910) by Harry Furniss. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Passage Illustrated: Oliver Asks for More

The evening arrived; the boys took their places. The master, in his cook's uniform, stationed himself at the copper; his pauper assistants ranged themselves behind him; the gruel was served out; and a long grace was said over the short commons. The gruel disappeared; the boys whispered each other, and winked at Oliver; while his next neighbours nudged him. Child as he was, he was desperate with hunger, and reckless with misery. He rose from the table; and advancing to the master, basin and spoon in hand, said: somewhat alarmed at his own temerity:

"Please, Sir, I want some more."

The master was a fat, healthy man; but he turned very pale. He gazed in stupified astonishment on the small rebel for some seconds, and then clung for support to the copper. The assistants were paralysed with wonder; the boys with fear.

"What!" said the master at length, in a faint voice.

The master aimed a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle. . . . [Chapter 2, "Treats of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, and Board," 13]

Whereas Dickens's description of "Oliver's Asking for More" (Chapter 2) suggests that the protagonist succumbs to group pressure when he approaches the well-fed master of the workhouse on behalf of the entire body of starving juvenile inmates, Furniss's interpretation depicts Oliver as a plucky rebel confronting insensitive, bloated authority.

Almost two centuries after this scene in the workhouse appeared before the British reading public in the initial (February 1837) number of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress, it remains familiar to even non-English speakers as a result of dramatisations on stage and film, and even through such cartoons as Oliver Asks for a Doggy Bag in The New Yorker Magazine (2 December 1992). Perhaps few modern readers would identify the plate's stinging social criticism of the workhouse system with an obscure Victorian periodical entitled Bentley's Miscellany, in which the novel first appeared in twenty-four monthly instalments, each with a single-page steel engraving by the celebrated caricaturist George Cruikshank.

To grab a sizeable readership for his new serial, Dickens began the first instalment with the death of a young woman in the workhouse, then quickly moved ahead a decade to show her ill-fed, abused, neglected child confronting a personification of the callous administrators of the new Poor Law. Having been raised in Mrs. Mann's baby farm, on his ninth birthday, the boy returns to "learn a useful trade" (picking oakum, in fact), if he does not succumb to the workhouse regimen, which tends to starve boys to death. In James Mahoney's redrafting (see below) of the famous scene for the The Household Edition in 1871, a rake-thin Oliver innocently gestures towards the fat master with his bowl.

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of the gaunt Oliver's acting as a spokesperson for his fellow starving inmates, Uncaptioned Headpiece for Chapter One. Although the famous incident actually occurs in the second chapter, the Household Edition uses it as a keynote.

The focal point of the picture is clearly the boy and the master, the largest figures in the picture, and nothing separates the the viewer from the naive boy in penitential uniform. In the original 1837 steel engraving the overfed "master" scowls at the temerity of the scrawny waif, while the eight other survivors of the starving system look on in suspense; in contrast, in the Household Edition four decades later, Mahoney has turned the master's face away from the reader, and has repositioned the matron, who now expresses merely modest astonishment (centre rear) at Oliver's unorthodox behaviour. Both the original steel and the later composite woodblock engraving seem to have influenced Furniss's conception of the scene.

Although the lineaments of the scenario are much the same in Furniss's 1910 reinterpretation, the overall effect is far more kinetic and emotionally charged — and not without some comic distortion and melodramatic exaggeration. In particular, Furniss has given the tiny protagonist a look of stern defiance wholly absent in previous interpretations in this David-versus-Goliath confrontation of scrawny underdog taking on the corpulent establishmentarian figure in what amounts to Socialistic propaganda. Whereas previous illustrators have focussed on the plump, incredulous functionary and the emaciated petitioner, Furniss presents the entire social context of the dramatic moment, placing the eight other boys, individually realised, in the foreground so that the reader approaches the lithograph as if it were a theatrical scene, including two shocked elderly female assistants (upper centre).

Left: Charles Pears' early 20th c. revision, focussing on the two contrasting figures, Oliver Twist and the Master of the Workhouse. Centre and right: Clayton J. Clarke's (Kyd's) early 20th c. studies of the rake-then Oliver presenting his plate to the Master of the Workhouse (off-left in e ach case): Oliver Twist (No. 4 in John Player's Cigarette Cards) and Oliver Twist, a watercolour in The Characters of Charles Dickens (c. 1900).

III. Oliver refuses to be Bound over to the Sweep

Passage Illustrated

It was the critical moment of Oliver's fate. If the inkstand had been where the old gentleman thought it was, he would have dipped his pen into it, and signed the indentures, and Oliver would have been straightway hurried off. But, as it chanced to be immediately under his nose, it followed, as a matter of course, that he looked all over his desk for it, without finding it; and happening in the course of his search to look straight before him, his gaze encountered the pale and terrified face of Oliver Twist: who, despite all the admonitory looks and pinches of Bumble, was regarding the repulsive countenance of his future master, with a mingled expression of horror and fear, too palpable to be mistaken, even by a half-blind magistrate.

"The old gentleman stopped, laid down his pen, and looked from Oliver to Mr. Limbkins; who attempted to take snuff with a cheerful and unconcerned aspect.

"My boy!" said the old gentleman, "you look pale and alarmed. What is the matter?"

"Stand a little away from him, Beadle," said the other magistrate: laying aside the paper, and leaning forward with an expression of interest. "Now, boy, tell us what's the matter: don't be afraid."

Oliver fell on his knees, and clasping his hands together, prayed that they would order him back to the dark room — that they would starve him — beat him — kill him if they pleased — rather than send him away with that dreadful man.

"Well!" said Mr. Bumble, raising his hands and eyes with most impressive solemnity. "Well! of all the artful and designing orphans that ever I see, Oliver, you are one of the most bare-facedest." [Chapter 3, "Relates How Oliver Twist was Very Near Getting a Place, Which Would Not Have Been a Sinecure," 20-21]

Dickens's description of Oliver's entreating the guardians to reject Gummidge's application to have the boy bound over as his apprentice (Chapter 2, "Treats of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, and Board") is effectively rendered in a melodramatic scene of heightened gestures and charged poses in George Cruikshank’s Oliver Escapes Being Bound to a Sweep.

Again, Oliver astonishes an authority figure — this time, the parish Beadle, Mr. Bumble — by daring to assert himself. In both the Cruikshank original (see below) and the Furniss revision, Oliver is dwarfed by the adults who will determine his future: looking piously heavenward in Cruikshank but merely indignant in Furniss, Mr. Bumble in uniform; the master of the workhouse, Mr. Limbkins (centre, in front of the magistrate's desk), taking snuff and disregarding the boy entirely; the sooty chimney-sweep Mr. Gamfield, whose villainous, Neanderthal-like countenance is in complete contradiction to the magistrate's describing him as "an honest, open-hearted man" (20); and the benevolent, elderly magistrate with poor vision. Furniss has reorganised the scene so that the trustees (rear) play a diminished role in the hearing. For Chapter 3, "Relates How Oliver Twist was Very Near Getting a Place, Which Would Not Have Been a Sinecure"), Furniss has provided a reinterpretation of the same Cruikshank illustration, magnifying the already considerable proportions of the self-important beadle, Mr. Bumble, with a diminutive Oliver squeezed between the beadle's massive stomach and the bow-legged, sour-faced chimney-sweep (exactly as depicted in his Characters in the Story, the engraved title-page).

Harry Furniss has revised the serial composition so that Oliver's persecutors, Gamfield the chimney-sweep and Bumble the parish beadle, are prominent (shown in close-up), and the chief of the board of trustees, the kindly "magistrate" who actually attends to Oliver's wishes, is considerably reduced and placed in the background; moreover, he is hardly in his stern look in this Furniss re-working an anticipation of the humanitarian Mr. Bownlow. The Master of the Workhouse, Mr. Limkins, is now just an unsympathetic head enjoying snuff and disregarding the proceedings entirely. What matters to Furniss is communicating Oliver's genuine terror. The analeptic reading makes the plate less suspenseful as the reader has already encountered the text realised three pages earlier.

IV. Oliver Aroused

Left: Oliver plucks up a spirit(1837) by George Cruikshank. Right: Oliver Aroused (1910) by Furniss.

Passage Illustrated

"What did you say?" inquired Oliver, looking up very quickly.

"A regular right-down bad 'un, Work'us," replied Noah, coolly. "And it's a great deal better, Work'us, that she died when she did, or else she'd have been hard labouring in Bridewell, or transported, or hung; which is more likely than either, isn't it?"

Crimson with fury, Oliver started up; overthrew the chair and table; seized Noah by the throat; shook him, in the violence of his rage, till his teeth chattered in his head; and collecting his whole force into one heavy blow, felled him to the ground.

A minute ago, the boy had looked the quiet child, mild, dejected creature that harsh treatment had made him. But his spirit was roused at last; the cruel insult to his dead mother had set his blood on fire. His breast heaved; his attitude was erect; his eye bright and vivid; his whole person changed, as he stood glaring over the cowardly tormentor who now lay crouching at his feet; and defied him with an energy he had never known before.

"He'll murder me!" blubbered Noah. "Charlotte! missis! Here's the new boy a murdering of me! Help! help! Oliver's gone mad! Char — lotte!" [Chapter 6, "Oliver, Being Goaded by the Taunts of Noah, Rouses into Action, and Rather Astonishes Him," 42-43]

The scene is one which Dickens himself selected for illustration by the resident artist of Bentley's Miscellanyearly in the 1837-39 serial run of the picaresque novel. Although the scene strikes one as melodramatic, with the underdog protagonist thoroughly thrashing the physically superior but cowardly bully, Noah Claypole, undertaker Sowerberry's other apprentice. However, Furniss transforms the scene to comedy with a spindly-shanked waif terrifying the loutish bully. The passage realised actually occurs ten pages later, so that one must read the the illustration proleptically, then flip back to it once one reaches page 43.The reader, even if unaware of the story's trajectory at this point, can anticipate that Oliver's being indentured to the local undertaker will be fraught with complications, despite his being a natural as a mute at funerals, and therefore a genuine asset to Sowerberry.

This subject, like Oliver's asking for more and Oliver's narrowly escaping being apprenticed to a chimney-sweep, was one which Dickens directly proposed to his original illustrator George Cruikshank forBentley's Miscellany as Oliver plucks up a spirit (see above: April 1837). At this point in concluding The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, that other Dickensian protagonist has been unjustly accused and pronounced guilty, and therefore liable for substantial damages, in the March 1837 instalment containing the courtroom scene The Trial (Chapter 34), so that Dickens seems to have been acutely aware of the essential unfairness of life as the bullies and manipulators get the better of his well-meaning central characters.

As the present subject suggests, Dickens realized that Cruikshank excelled at depicting violence and repressed emotion with explosive force, and grotesquerie such as Noah Claypole's grimacing. Cruikshank's organization of the dramatic scene is masterful, with each character in an appropriate pose, the juxtapositions of the four revealing their attitudes to one another, and the whole shaped into a pyramid with the wide-mouthed Mrs. Sowerberry (centre, rear) at the peak, the cowering, gangly-legged Noah at the base, right, and the overturned table drawing the eye to the left-hand corner. As in the accompanying narrative, Oliver in combative stance is centre, and the muscular Charlotte, trying to restrain him, left of centre. Thus, the original serial illustration (April 1837) and its re-issue in 1846 offered Furniss an excellent model, but also posed him a problem in that he could hardly simply copy the original engraving. The Household Edition illustrator, James Mahoney, likewise used the Cruikshank plate as a point of departure for Oliver rather astonishes Noah.

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of the enraged Oliver triumphing over the fallen bully, Oliver rather astonishes Noah.

In Mahoney's engraving, however, Oliver is not being restrained by a towering Charlotte and Mrs. Sowerberry has yet to come through the door, so that the focus in the 1871 Household Edition version is upon a victorious Oliver, standing coolly above the cowering and terrified bully, who lies on the floor amidst shards of shattered china. As is consistent with Mahoney's realistic style, the wood-engraving constitutes a close-up which focusses upon the contrasting reactions of three actors rather than, as in Cruikshank, the chaotic background, or in Furniss, the violent action caught in a freeze-frame, and the sheer terror on Noah's face. Everything in the Mahoney plate seems solid and three-dimensional, as if the reader is a member of an audience watching a theatrical action in which the mayhem has concluded and Oliver's indignation has subsided, so that the overall effect is realistic rather than, as in the other illustrators' treatments, hyperbolic and comical. The treatment of the subject in the Charles Dickens Library Edition is radically different.

Since Furniss enjoyed character comedy immensely, he delights in graphing the chaos that the diminutive Oliver has caused to the kitchen. His enemy, the surly Noah, cries out in terror as Oliver lunges towards him, his fist not quite reaching the bully because a much larger Charlotte has grabbed him by the collar. In the midst of this scene of wanton destruction, a sour-faced Mrs. Sowerberry is glaring are at adversaries from the central door. Everywhere the illustrator's exuberant use of swirling lines creates a sense of the tremendous energy that Noah's taunts have unleashed.

V. Oliver's Flight to London

Left: Harry Furniss’s Oliver on his long weary journey haunted by visions of those whose cruelty forced him to run away. Middle: James Mahoney's title-page vignette of Oliver at the Milestone prepares the reader from the outset for Oliver's escaping the Sowerberrys (1871). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s Oliver and Little Dick (1867).

Passage Illustrated: Oliver starts for London

Oliver reached the stile at which the by-path terminated; and once more gained the high-road. It was eight o'clock now. Though he was nearly five miles away from the town, he ran, and hid behind the hedges, by turns, till noon: fearing that he might be pursued and overtaken. Then he sat down to rest by the side of the milestone, and began to think, for the first time, where he had better go and try to live.

The stone by which he was seated, bore, in large characters, an intimation that it was just seventy miles from that spot to London. The name awakened a new train of ideas in the boy's mind.

London! — that great place! — nobody — not even Mr. Bumble — could ever find him there! He had often heard the old men in the workhouse, too, say that no lad of spirit need want in London; and that there were ways of living in that vast city, which those who had been bred up in country parts had no idea of. It was the very place for a homeless boy, who must die in the streets unless some one helped him. As these things passed through his thoughts, he jumped upon his feet, and again walked forward. [Chapter 8, "Oliver Walks to London. He Encounters on the Road a Strange Sort of Young Gentleman," 51-52]

Dickens's description of Oliver's stopping by Mrs. Mann's baby-farm to bid little Dick, his only friend, a fond and reluctant farewell (Chapter 7) is the subject of Eytinge's only illustration of the protagonist in the Diamond Edition, Oliver and Little Dick (see below); there is no comparable illustration in the instalments of the novel as originally published in Bentley's Miscellany. However, alluding to Oliver's departure for London in Chapter 8, Mahoney has provided a title-page vignette for the 1871 that depicts Oliver after the tearful scene with little Dick, Oliver at the Milestone (see above), which dramatizes the boy's confusion as to what he should do.

The keynote for Furniss's illustration of a scene heretofore unattempted by illustrators is not the description of the natural environment or the hgh-road to London, but the briefly sketched in psychological dimension of Oliver's running away from everything he has ever known: "fearing that he might be pursued and overtaken" (51) is the basis for the grotesque vegetation and the psychologically projected figures in the sky. Although the above passage is, indeed, that which both Mahoney and Furniss had in mind for their illustrations of Oliver's running away to London, Mahoney does not specify a particular passage in Chapter 8, and Furniss provides a caption that synthesizes the opening two paragraphs: "Oliver on his long weary journey haunted by visions of those whose cruelty forced him to run away" (48). The nightmarish figures fill the sky above a horizon-line of five coffins which echo the shape of the milestone on which the already-weary Oliver, with packsack and staff, rests, as a gnarled, denuded tree, upper left, reinforces the threat that the environment poses the child-traveller, in contrast to the inhumanity of the exploitative society he now leaves behind him.

The Mahoney and Furniss images of Oliver — alone, unfriended, and in doubt as to his course in life as he puts behind him childhood in the workhouse and his apprenticeship to the grim undertaker (whom Furniss characterizes as a top hatted skeleton waving an umbrella, upper left) — is a suitable keynote for the adventures of the orphan in the criminal underworld of the metropolis. In the Cruikshank illustration after Oliver's outburst at the undertaker's, Oliver is already on the northern outskirts of London, at the marketplace of Barnet at sunrise, when he encounters the outlandish figure of Jack Dawkins (otherwise, The Artful Dodger), who introduces the waif to that "kindly, old gentleman," Fagin, in Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman (May 1837), a characterisation of the juvenile pickpocket which Mahoney used as the basis for "Hello, my covey! What's the row?" (see below). Chipper, self-confident, and self-assured, The Artful at this point is everything that Oliver is not.

Furniss has assimilated the earlier Mahoney composition so that Oliver, like Dante at the beginning of The Divine Comedy, is lost in a dense wood without a guide at the beginning of his journey towards enlightenment. The proleptic reading of the Mahoney and Furniss illustrations alerts the reader to Oliver's being forced out of his place at Sowerrberry's and determining to undertake the journey on foot to London without resources or assistance. The trauma he has endured over the course of his miserable childhood is represented by the aetherial, cartoon-like figures in the sky, while the continual prospect of death, by starvation and neglect, is suggested by the five coffins on the skyline. Furniss's treatment is an interesting and innovative synthesis of the melodramatic pose of the boy and the psychological terrors he must now confront: the fear of the turbulent and menacing woods (left) and the fear of being apprehended and returned the world of the workhouse (as represented by Bumble, swinging his cane; the chairman of the trustees, pointing at Oliver; and the black-faced chimney sweep, waving his broom, upper right) and the undertaker's (Sowerberry, his wife, Charlotte, and, most prominently, a hectoring Noah Claypole above three of the coffins on the horizon).

Having bid his only friend in the world, Little Dick, a tearful farewell at Mrs. Mann's baby-farm, Oliver now strikes out on the high road to London, as so many picaresque heroes before him — including Henry Fielding's Tom Jones and Sir Walter Scott's Jeanie Deanes (figures who, like Roderick Random and Peregrine Pickle, Dickens encountered in his boyhood reading). In his Household Edition volume of David Copperfield (which he illustrated just the year after Mahoney's volume for Oliver Twist came out in the same edition) lead Household Edition illustrator Fred Barnard makes palpable the connection between the earlier picaresque "adventure" of 1837-39 and the classic Bildungsroman of 1849-50 by making his keynote the title-page vignette of the wayfaring David, exhausted and in rags, escaping the misery of his working-class existence in the metropolis for the hope of a better, middle-class life with a distant relative in Dover.

Although David is escaping from London rather than hastening towards it as a refuge, the similarity in the plates suggests that Barnard may have seen the connection between Sowerberry's runaway apprentice, the victim of a stern stepfather, and the boy who worked in Warren's Blacking at Hungerford Stairs. Both title-page vignettes reveal Dickens's deep concern with abandoned and abused children — a reflection of his own troubled and psychologically damaging experiences with child labour. Then, too, as a student of the great visual satirist William Hogarth, like Dickens Barnard could not have missed the connection between the novelist's picaresque heroes and the protagonists of the visual "progresses" of The Rake's Progress (1733) and The Harlot's Progress (1734). Oliver, after all, is about to enter the world of Henry Fielding's Jonathan Wilde and William Hogarth's Gin Lane, inhabited by the criminal mastermind, a gang of pickpockets, a violent housebreaker, and a prostitute with a heart of gold.

VI. Oliver falls in with the Artful Dodger

Left: Harry Furniss’s "Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" said this strange young gentleman to Oliver. "I am very hungry and tired," replied Oliver; the tears standing in his eyes as he spoke. "I have walked a long way. I have been walking these seven days." (1910). Right: James Mahoney's engraving of Oliver's fateful meeting with The Artful Dodger at Barnet, "Hello, my covey! What's the row?" (1871)

Passage Illustrated

The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was about his own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had ever seen. He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bowlegs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment — and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in his bluchers.

"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" said this strange young gentleman to Oliver.

"I am very hungry and tired," replied Oliver: the tears standing in his eyes as he spoke. "I have walked a long way. I have been walking these seven days."

Cruikshank did not illustrate Dickens's description of Oliver's meeting the curious figure of the London pickpocket at the marketplace in Barnet; Mahoney was the first illustrator to do so.

Having run away from his apprenticeship with Sowerberry, Oliver determines to walk the Great North Road to London after he has visited Mrs. Mann's baby-farm to say goodbye to Little Dick, the only friend he made there. Befriended on the road by a charitable turnpike keeper and an elderly lady, on the seventh morning Oliver limps slowly into the marketplace of Barnet at sunrise. At this point, he encounters a boy only a little older than himself, but wearing the clothing and affecting the self-confident manner of an adult. In fact, today the Borough of Barnet is Greater London's second-largest, but in the period in which Dickens has set the story, it was still a small market-town north of central London, in the county of Hertfordshire.

Mahoney, the previous significant illustrator of the novel, provided Furniss with a likely model in the highly popular 1871 volume in the Household Edition, showing Oliver's initial encounter with the self-confident Artful Dodger (and by extension London's criminal underworld) in "Hullo, my covey!What's the row?" The Mahoney and Furniss images of Oliver, alone, unfriended, and in doubt as to his course in life, contrast the runaway apprentice from the north of England workhouse with the streetsmart figure, who introduces the waif to that "kindly, old gentleman," Fagin. Chipper, self-confident, and self-assured, The Dodger at this point is everything that Oliver is not.

Furniss has assimilated the earlier Mahoney composition, but unlike Mahoney's generalized background, he particularizes the morning scene in the suburban marketplace with public houses on either side of the borough high street, as well as the substantial publican conversing with the uniformed postman (surely an anachronism), rear centre. Far from being a realistic representation of the morning scene, despite the architectural backdrop and the birds, Furniss's interpretation is markedly impressionistic, with jagged lines representing the energy of the Cockney youth.

Depictions of The Artful Dodger, 1837 to 1910

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates. Centre: George Cruikshank's original version of Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman. Right: Clayton J. Clarke's watercolour version of The Artful Dodger for Player's Cigarette Cards (1910).

VII. The Thieves' Kitchen. Oliver is Shown 'How It Is Done'

Left: Cruikshank’s Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman (May 1837). Right: Furniss’s The Thieves' Kitchen. Oliver is Shown "How It Is Done (1910).

Passage Illustrated

When the breakfast was cleared away; the merry old gentleman and the two boys played at a very curious and uncommon game, which was performed in this way. The merry old gentleman, placing a snuff-box in one pocket of his trousers, a note-case in the other, and a watch in his waistcoat pocket, with a guard-chain round his neck, and sticking a mock diamond pin in his shirt: buttoned his coat tight round him, and putting his spectacle-case and handkerchief in his pockets, trotted up and down the room with a stick, in imitation of the manner in which old gentlemen walk about the streets any hour in the day. Sometimes he stopped at the fire-place, and sometimes at the door, making believe that he was staring with all his might into shop-windows. At such times, he would look constantly round him, for fear of thieves, and would keep slapping all his pockets in turn, to see that he hadn’t lost anything, in such a very funny and natural manner, that Oliver laughed till the tears ran down his face. All this time, the two boys followed him closely about: getting out of his sight, so nimbly, every time he turned round, that it was impossible to follow their motions. At last, the Dodger trod upon his toes, or ran upon his boot accidentally, while Charley Bates stumbled up against him behind; and in that one moment they took from him, with the most extraordinary rapidity, snuff-box, note-case, watch-guard, chain, shirt-pin, pocket-handkerchief, even the spectacle-case. If the old gentleman felt a hand in any one of his pockets, he cried out where it was; and then the game began all over again. [Chapter 9, "Containing Further Particulars Concerning the Pleasant Old Gentleman, and his Hopeful Pupils," 63]

This subject, like Oliver's asking for more and Oliver's narrowly escaping being apprenticed to a chimney-sweep, was probably one that Dickens directly proposed to George Cruikshank. In this early plate, Fagin acts as a surrogate father to five boys, including Charley Bates (right) and Jack Dawkins (centre). However, since he seems oblivious to the fact that two of the boys are smoking long, clayed pipes as he prepares supper with a gridiron, Fagin may be in middle-class terms an inadequate or inappropriate father figure. The multiply-pronged toasting fork he holds may even imply his fiendish machinations and Satanic powers, but literally it points towards his domestic supervisory capacity in the Thieves' Kitchen.

At the end of the century for his Character Sketches from Dickens, the celebrated Dickens illustrator Kyd (J. Clayton Clarke) depicted Fagin not as the boys' instructor or tutor in the criminal arts, but as the boys' provider, toasting fork in hand, in Fagin (see below), an image he reproduced for Player's Cigarette Card No. 2 in a series of fifty: a hideous, red-bearded, red-haired monster in tattered dressing-gown and slippers, with a toothy, atavistic smile. Other illustrators have kinder to the master-thief, and Furniss's initial illustration of Fagin, in top hat and tailcoat, and striding forward, cane in hand, is more flattering by far than Kyd's as it shows a dynamic, active, bustling teacher rather than a hideous troll with fangs ready to devour incautious children. Dark, menacing, unkempt, Fagin in Eytinge's single Diamond Edition illustration is neither parent, nor tutor, nor yet a monster, but the quintessential miser who neglects even personal hygiene and adequate clothing in his pursuit of "personal property."

The character of Fagin is neither a Dickens or Cruikshank original, for such thief-takers, fences, and master criminals were commonplace in London lore and street gazettes. Dickens may have based Fagin partly upon Peachum in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1726) and partly upon such actual nefarious characters such as Ikey Solomon (1787-1850), born in the east end of London and notorious as a receiver of stolen goods. However, unlike Fagin, he was a practising Jew who successfully avoided capture on a number of occasions before sacrificing his freedom in the United States to join his wife, who had been sentenced to transportation to Tasmania (in those days, Van Diemen's Land). Like The Artful Dodger, Fagin is now part of our popular culture, and remains one of Dickens's most frequently illustrated and most recognizable characters thanks in part to Lionel Bart's West End production (1960), David Merrick's Broadway (1963) musical Oliver!, and on David Lean's 1948 cinematic adaptation with Ron Moody starring as Fagin).

Dickens, realizing that Cruikshank excelled at depicting the sordid, grotesque criminal underworld of the metropolis, gave him a suitable subject. Cruikshank organizes the dramatic scene masterfully, with each character in an appropriate pose, the juxtapositions of the four revealing their attitudes to one another, and the whole organized by the gestures and eye contact of the three principals: Fagin, juxtaposed with the cooking fire (left), the casual Dodger, indicating by his gesture the new-comer, and Oliver, curious and respectful (right). The moment, however, is static, like a theatrical tableau. In contrast, Furniss, who avoids much background detail, highlights the four figures as he gives us a "freeze-frame" in which he captures all four characters in motion; Oliver, no longer the victim, is being entertained as he seems to have found a home and family at last. That he is deluded in so thinking will become shortly apparent. An extension of this scene, which Felix Octavius Carr Darley provides in his 1888 Character Sketches from Dickens, is Oliver's trying out his own pickpocketing skills on a playful Fagin, a scene which perhaps undermines the naiveté with which Dickens invests Oliver in the Thieves' Kitchen.

Left: Darley's version of the same scene selected by Furniss, Fagan [sic] and Oliver Twist (1888). Centre: Eytinge's Diamond Edition wood-engraving of the master thief examining his secret strongbox in Fagin (1867). Right: Kyd's widely-disseminated study of Fagin on a Player's cigarette card, Fagin (1910).

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Fagin's chagrin when he learns that Charley and The Dodger have botched their pickpocketing expedition at The Green, and have lost Oliver, in "What's become of the boy?".

VIII. Oliver's Eyes are opened

Left: Cruikshank’s Oliver amazed at the Dodger's mode of going to work (July 1837). Right: Furniss’s The Thieves' Kitchen. Oliver's Eyes are opened (1910).

Passage Illustrated

The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with a powdered head and gold spectacles. He was dressed in a bottle-green coat with a black velvet collar; wore white trousers; and carried a smart bamboo cane under his arm. He had taken up a book from the stall, and there he stood, reading away, as hard as if he were in his elbow-chair, in his own study. It is very possible that he fancied himself there, indeed; for it was plain, from his abstraction, that he saw not the book-stall, nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short, anything but the book itself — which he was reading straight through: turning over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a page, beginning at the top line of the next one, and going regularly on, with the greatest interest and eagerness.

What was Oliver's horror and alarm as he stood a few paces off, looking on with his eyelids as wide open as they would possibly go, to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's pocket, and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold them, both, running away round the corner at full speed.

In an instant the whole mystery of the handkerchiefs, and the watches, and the Jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind. He stood, for a moment, with the blood so tingling through all his veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning fire; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and, not knowing what he did, made off as fast as he could lay his feet to the ground. [Chapter 10, "Oliver becomes better acquainted with the characters of his new associates; and purchases experience at a high price. Being a short, but very important chapter, in this history," 67-68]

Dickens's description of the attempted robbery in Chapter 10 emphasizes Oliver’s strong emotional reactions: He looks surprised when Charley Bates describes the "very respectable-looking personage, with a powdered head and gold spectacles . . . in a bottle-green coat with a black-velvet collar" (67), and then becomes shocked and horrified as the Dodger picks the gentleman's pocket to purloin his silk handkerchief. Furniss, however, captures neither of these stronger emotions. A scene well-known from the original Cruikshank series in the July 1837 issue of Bentley's Miscellany, the theft of Mr. Brownlow's silk handkerchief continues the boy's "progress" through criminal underworld in the tradition of Henry Fielding's Jonathon Wilde and William Hogarth's Gin Lane. For the London readers of the 1830s the scene would have seemed frighteningly real because it draws the viewer's attention to those executing the crime, since the light-fingered street boys often absconded with the fruits of their crime without even being detected. However, the scenario of street urchins robbing an oblivious victim would have been almost hackneyed by 1910. Whereas in Cruikshank's illustration the bookseller (left) observes with growing alarm what is happening to his customer, in the Furniss treatment the bookseller (centre) cannot see Oliver at all, and probably cannot see The Artful Dodger; he is curious but does not cry out in alarm to warn his customer. His testimony, therefore, several pages after the illustration placed in Chapter 11, is somewhat suspect in that, at least according to Furniss's plate, he can have seen only Charley Bates clearly, and would have had Oliver outside his field of vision. In this sense he misrepresents or misrealizes Dickens’s text.

Other illustrators approached this scene differently. Mahoney, the illustrator of the 1871 Household Edition, depicts the pursuit of Oliver by the mob through the marketplace, but he does not actually show the robbery.

Mahoney’s "Stop thief!"

Mahoney depicted Oliver's genuine terror at being mistaken for the actual thief while the real culprits, part of the mob (left) are already looking for an opportunity to break away. In the Furniss sequence, we proceed from the robbery to Mr. Grimwig and Mr. Brownlow waiting for Oliver's return from that same book-seller, whereas in the original sequence we advance directly to the more dramatic moment in which Sikes and Nancy apprehend Oliver. Mahoney, on the other hand, lays the groundwork for the revelation of the plot between Monks and Fagin in "What's become of the boy?" (Ch. 13).

In Furniss's introduction of Mr. Brownlow, who becomes a significant character in the latter part of the novel, the viewer learns very little about him, and may also be surprised that Oliver (left), the waif from the northern workhouse, is so well dressed. Charley and The Artful Dodger appear here in precisely the clothing in which Furniss dresses them in The Dodger's Toilet in Chapter 17. Such visual continuity is important in the Furniss sequence because he effectively foregrounds the figures by moving the background into obscurity, minimally sketching in such details as are consistent with the settings that Dickens has stipulated. This particular plate provides an unusual degree of detail by sketching in the bookstall, which contains prints as well as volumes. By the time that the reader encounters the robbery scene in the text, Oliver is being arraigned before the severe police magistrate Mr. Fang, in Chapter Eleven.

IX. Waiting for Oliver

Left: Eytinge’s Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig (1867). Right: Furniss’s Waiting for Oliver (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"Let me see: He'll be back in twenty minutes, at the longest," said Mr. Brownlow, pulling out his watch, and placing it on the table. "It will be dark by that time."

"Oh! you really expect him to come back, do you?" inquired Mr. Grimwig.

"Don't you?" asked Mr. Brownlow, smiling.

The spirit of contradiction was strong in Mr. Grimwig's breast, at the moment; and it was rendered stronger by his friend's confident smile.

"No," he said, smiting the table with his fist, "I do not. The boy has a new suit of clothes on his back, a set of valuable books under his arm, and a five-pound note in his pocket. He'll join his old friends the thieves, and laugh at you. If ever that boy returns to this house, sir, I'll eat my head."

With these words he drew his chair closer to the table; and there the two friends sat, in silent expectation, with the watch between them. [Chapter 14, "Comprising further particulars of Oliver's stay at Mr. Brownlow's, with the remarkable prediction which one Mr. Grimwig uttered concerning him, when he went out on an errand," 104]

There is no surviving correspondence regarding the novelist's instructions about the initial appearance of either the kindly Mr. Brownlow or his sardonic opposite, Mr. Grimwig. Furniss elevates the status of Brownlow's cynical friend by depicting him at this critical junction in the story. Indeed, Furniss shows Grimwig's expression, and distinguishes him from Brownlow by his full head of hair, his rather old-fashioned clothing (he wears breeches, whereas Browlow wears trousers), and his greater physical bulk. This Bunyanesquely-named character’s studied misanthropy is only superficial. Put on like a costume, it hides a kind heart as Mr. Grimwig counters his friend's optimistic appraisal of Oliver with world-weary pessimism. Furniss portrays the two wealthy, middle-aged bourgeoisie,seen in earlier editions such as the Diamond Edition (1867) wood-engraving Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig, as rather different physical types. In the 1837-38 serial publication, Cruikshank does not represent Mr. Grimwig at all, but does depict Mr. Brownlow in a series of illustrations, notably Oliver recovering from fever. In this early illustration, Cruikshank presents Mr. Brownlow as an antitype to Fagin — an authentic rather than an ersatz Good Samaritan, wearing a clean dressing-gown, and facilitating the boy's recovering from a fever.

The Furniss illustration emphasis the different attitudes that the friends bring towards the putative return of the boy that the humanitarian Brownlow has brought into his own home to nurse back to health. Grimwig is certain that the boy will revert to his criminal associates (with the books and the five-pound note), and Brownlow certain that the boy will return shortly from returning the books to the book-seller at The Green. The cynical Grimwig, at heart a decent man who does not want to see his friend disappointed, revises his opinion of Oliver later in the story. Although many illustrators of the novel offer several interpretations of the philanthropic Brownlow, the only other artist to do justice to Grimwig as a student of human nature is Harry Furniss in his rather more animated treatment of this scene in Waiting for Oliver, in which the pair are studying Brownlow's gold pocket-watch open on the table between them (and therefore the focal point of the illustration) and awaiting the end of the predicted twenty minutes. Eytinge's illustration conveys a far subtler sense of the elderly bachelors with contrasting natures — and includes both the pocket-watch and the portrait of Oliver's mother (strategically placed, upper centre). Mahoney's study of the pair fails to distinguish one friend from the other in the scene in chapter seventeen in which the avaricious Bumble turns up at Brownlow's home in Pentonville in response to the advertisement in theLondon newspaper offering five guineas for information that will "tend to throw any light upon [Oliver's] previous history" (Illustrated Library Edition, 126).

Furniss permits us to study Grimwig's bluff, slightly smiling visage ("I told you so," the smile implies), but leaves Brownlow's undoubtedly more concerned facial expression a matter for the sympathetic reader to construct. He effectively differentiates the two old friends by their hairstyles and fashions, for Grimwig wears breaches but has a full head of hair (Brownlow, in contrast, is balding, bespectacled, and dressed in Regency stovepipe trousers and tailcoat). Ridiculing the notion that the child will remain faithful, Grimwig leans back slightly, quite certain that he is correct about Oliver's thanklessness; however, the apprehensive Brownlow leans forward to study the movement of the minute-hand assiduously. The picture creates suspense as to whether Oliver will return, and the text does nothing to alleviate that suspense. Rather, cliff-hanging chapter ending and illustration combine to heighten suspense and propel reader forward into the next chapter, which was originally the second of two in instalment no. 7. At the end of the September 1837 number the pair are still sitting "perseveringly, in the dark parlour: with the watch between them" (111). Thus, the watch and the passage of time and the exhaustion of trust that it implies, is foregrounded in the reader's consciousness by the illustration, which applies the conclusions of both Chapters 14 and 15 — in the original serial leading to a genuine curtain as the reader wonders what steps Brownlow will take to retrieve the lost prodigal and redeem his faith in the boy upon whom he has bestowed his charity and affection.

X. Oliver Trapped by Nancy and Sikes

Left: Eytinge’s Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends. Right: Furniss’s Oliver Trapped by Nancy and Sikes (1867).

Passage Illustrated

[Oliver] was walking along, thinking how happy and contented he ought to feel; and how much he would give for only one look at poor little Dick, who, starved and beaten, might be weeping bitterly at that very moment; when he was startled by a young woman screaming out very loud. "Oh, my dear brother!" And he had hardly looked up, to see what the matter was, when he was stopped by having a pair of arms thrown tight round his neck.

"Don't," cried Oliver, struggling. "Let go of me. Who is it? What are you stopping me for?"

The only reply to this, was a great number of loud lamentations from the young woman who had embraced him; and who had a little basket and a street-door key in her hand.

"Oh my gracious!" said the young woman, "I have found him! Oh! Oliver! Oliver! Oh you naughty boy, to make me suffer such distress on your account! Come home, dear, come. Oh, I've found him. Thank gracious goodness heavins, I've found him!" . . . .

"What the devil's this?" said a man, bursting out of a beer-shop, with a white dog at his heels; "young Oliver! Come home to your poor mother, you young dog! Come home directly."

"I don't belong to them. I don't know them. Help! help!" cried Oliver, struggling in the man's powerful grasp. [Chapter 15, "Showing How Very Fond of Oliver Twist, The Merry Old Jew and Miss Nancy were," 110]

Chapter Sixteen, "Relates What Became of Oliver Twist," involves Oliver's being recaptured by the gang at Fagin's instigation. Furniss's illustration follows the Cruikshank original, introducing the two adult career criminals associated with Fagin's juvenile crew, the loutish Bill Sikes, a housebreaker or burglar, and his common-law wife, Nancy. Although she is a shrewish figure here, the young prostitute with the heart of gold proves instrumental in the authorities' apprehending Monks later in the novel. Furniss describes the brutal burglar as long, lanky, and physically powerful, but does not employ the romanticism that one finds in the contemporary images of Sikes by Kyd: the tankard-carrying tough with the penetrating gaze of Chapter 16, Bill Sikes, or the somewhat less handsome and less polished thug of the Player's cigarette cards, Bill Sikes (1910). Nor does Furniss provide us with the beautiful, wistful, anxious Nancy (see below) of Charles Pears in the 1912 Waverley Edition. Rather, Furniss's overblown, overdressed Nancy is reminiscent of Cruikshank's original frowzy figure in such illustrations as Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends, which, indeed, is the basis for Furniss's version of the scene.

Introducing Nancy and Sykes

Whereas Cruikshank, in collaboration with Dickens himself, elected to realize the scene in which Nancy and Sikes abduct Oliver on his way to Mr. Brownlow's book-seller with a package of books, Mahoney instead introduces the villainous couple prior to their recapturing the boy at Clerkenwell, thereby underscoring the fact that the couple act as Fagin's agents. Thus, Mahoney reveals that, early on, Oliver seems to be the object of behind-the-scenes machinations orchestrated by the master-thief, preparing the reader for the compact between Oliver's half-brother, the malevolent Monks, and Fagin. Neither Cruikshank nor Furniss dwells upon the plot involving Oliver at this point in the story.

Left: Eytinge's Bill Sikes and Nancy show the ill-effects of too much drink while they have been hiding from the authorities (1867). Centre: Darley's highly realistic and technically superior study of the trio as they return to Fagin's hideout, Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver Twist (1888). Right: Kyd's study of Sikes undoubtedly reflects the popular conception of Dickens's thug, Bill Sikes (1910).

Eytinge’s Bill Sikes and Nancy (1867) presents a thoroughly disreputable, ill-kempt, and disconsolate couple after the botched robbery. Darley (1888) full-page lithograph revises in a much more realistic manner the original Cruikshank interpretation of the abduction scene in Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver Twist. In contrast to Mahoney, Furniss revises the abduction scene in Oliver trapped by Nancy and Sikes with a dynamic, baroque treatment of the original, with Sikes suddenly bursting out of the beer-shop and into the street as Nancy grabs Oliver.

The Furniss illustration reflects a fundamental re-thinking of the dramatic scene outside the plebeian beer-house, not so far in distance from the respectable book-seller's at The Green, but socially a very great distance away indeed. Furniss reorganizes the scene so that Oliver's being engulfed by Nancy is foregrounded and Sikes, the enforcer, is caught in the act of entering the scene. Furniss is content not to have so many of the scene's onlookers present (he includes justfour), and to focus instead on the three principals, Nancy (centre), Oliver (left of centre) and, looming large, Sikes to the right. Through the hitching post and glass door (on which "Spirits" appears prominently) Furniss implies rather than graphs the beer-shop from which Sikes enters the square. He also gives prominence to Nancy's house-key which she drops in wrestling with Oliver, a popular token of a young woman's being a prostitute. The pair become the evil antithesis of the kindly samaritans Mr. Brownlow and his housekeeper, Mrs. Bedwin.

XII. The Dodger's Toilet

Left: Eytinge’s Oliver's reception by Fagin and the boys (1867). Right: Furniss’s The Dodger's Toilet (1910).

Passage Illustrated: Thieves' Cant

"Look here!" said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of shillings and halfpence. "Here's a jolly life! What's the odds where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious flat!"

"It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?" inquired Charley Bates. "He'll come to be scragged, won't he?"

"I don't know what that means," replied Oliver.

"Something in this way, old feller," said Charley. As he said it, Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively pantomimic representation, that scragging and hanging were one and the same thing.

"That's what it means," said Charley. "Look how he stares, Jack!" [Chapter 18, "How Oliver passed his time in the improving society of his reputable friends," 134]


Cruikshank’s Master Bates Explains a Professional Technicality responded to Dickens's November 1837 suggestion for an illustration that alludes to hanging even street-boys for petty theft. The picture shows Oliver's being re-indoctrinated into Fagin's criminal ethos through the companionship of the hardened thieves Charles Bates and Jack Dawkins ("The Artful Dodger"). By the time that Furniss portrayed this once-cautionary scene, even transportation had ceased, and the harsh 18th-century code of justice much ameliorated.

There is no comparable scene of youthful horseplay in the 1871 Household Edition volume because realist Mahoney takes this opportunity to prepare the reader for Fagin's lending Oliver to housebreaker Bill Sikes to assist in the ill-fated robbery at Chertsey in The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor, in Chapter 19, "In Which a Notable Plan is Discussed and Determined On."

Furniss has modelled his illustration of Oliver's reprogramming, then, directly on the Cruikshank original. Despite his being the resident clown of the gang, Charley Bates lives very much in the shadow of his more famous friend, The Artful Dodger, whose wit and personality are markedly more brazen. The November 1837 letter in which Dickens arranges to meet his illustrator to "settle the Illustration" (Letters, I: 329) sheds little light on why the author and artist settled upon this "gallows humour" scene with "Master Bates." However, one may speculate that, having given Jack Dawkins and Fagin centre stage in both Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman and Oliver amazed at the Dodger's mode of going to work, author and illustrator wanted to showcase the waggish Charley Bates. Certainly, he has not continued to enjoy the celebrity in which his partner-in-crime has basked (thanks in part to Lionel Bart's 1969 musical adapted for the cinema, Oliver!. As the plot thickens and the gang plans to use Oliver to break into the manor house at Chertsey, Surrey, the scene provides necessary welcome comic relief. As Monroe Engle remarks, the Dodger's later "bravado before the court [at his hearing regarding transportation], for example, is moving because it is in the face of heavy consequences. The point is not only that the criminals are threatened by death, but that they are all of them, even the most hardened, aware of the imminence of this threat almost all the time" (106).

Thus, when Charley mimics being hanged by the neck until dead, the usual sentence for even the most trivial of crimes against property prior to the reforms of the 1830s, he is not merely laughing in the face of death, but ridiculing a heartless system. In his horseplay he becomes Dickens's spokesperson for reform. The tom foolery, of course, is Dickens's strategy for creating an ambivalent response in his middle-class readers, who, despite their deploring crimes against property, cannot help but laugh at Charley's antics, in both text and illustration. To fully enjoy Charley's act as the class clown we must become members of the class.

During the period in which Dickens's Newgate Novel is set, criminals were hanged for offences other than murder: in 1820, moreover, a year when nobody was hanged for homicide, 29 people were hanged at Newgate for such lesser crimes as uttering forged notes (twelve instances) and for theft (twelve for robbery or burglary, and five for highway robbery). Charley Bates was quite right, then, about the fate that would probably attend his following the "trade." Ironically, were he to be tried and found guilty of anything other than theft, rape, murder, arson, or forgery, he would most certainly be transported and not hanged until well into the century. Typically in the eighteenth century, crimes against property merited hanging: there were roughly two hundred such crimes, that number only being reduced to just over one hundred in 1823 by the Tory administration of Sir Robert Peel. If the period of the main action of the novel is "Post-Reform Bill," so to speak, Charley's chances of escaping the noose would increase, as, seven years after Peel's initiative, the Liberal administration of Lord John Russellabolished the death sentence for horse stealing and housebreaking. One must assume that, if the story occurs in the early 1830s, Bill Sikes would have hanged as a murderer rather than a mere burglar, but Fagin's hanging for his crimes against property, although on a massive scale, would be less likely — we must assume, therefore, that he is condemned to death for "criminal conspiracy" in the murder of Nancy.

Although Furniss at the turn of the century may not have been acutely aware of the draconian laws which menace Charley and the Dodger on their every expedition, and was not then able to peruse the Dickens-Cruikshank correspondence regarding the choice of this subject, he certainly could have evaluated the strengths and demerits of Cruikshank's original steel engraving. In consequence, the present illustration represents both Furniss's homage to the earlier illustrator and a critical re-thinking. In the original, behind Charley, simulating the noose, is a very stout wooden door which represents enforced isolation. Welcoming any company whatsoever, Oliver gladly becomes the Dodger's bootblack, in thieves' cant, "japanning his trotter-cases" (132). In Furniss's impressionistic revision, the stout door of Oliver's cell all but disappears as the illustrator presents the young thieves not as Fagin's agents but as boozy puppets,and Oliver, now to the side (rather than sandwiched in between them, as in Cruikshank's plate), as the only undistorted human form in the scene. The juxtaposition makes Oliver the normative observer and Charley the entertainer. Under the influence of the large tankards of London ale, the pickpockets jeer at capital punishment, even though Charley's parodying of hanging is not likely to induce Oliver to become an active member of the gang — even though, in fact, that is exactly what he is about to become. So effective is Charley as a comedian that in Furniss's illustration Oliver appears to be highly entertained, whereas in the Cruikshank original he looks somewhat alarmed at the grim fate that awaits these youthful criminals.

XIII. Bill Sikes, Career Criminal

Left: Kyd’s Bill Sikes. Right: Furniss’s Bill Sikes (1910).

The Textual Basis for the Illustration

"Why, what the blazes is in the wind now!" growled a deep voice. "Who pitched that 'ere at me? It's well it's the beer, and not the pot, as hit me, or I'd have settled somebody. I might have know'd, as nobody but an infernal, rich, plundering, thundering old Jew could afford to throw away any drink but water — and not that, unless he done the River Company every quarter. Wot's it all about, Fagin? D—me, if my neck-handkercher an't lined with beer! Come in, you sneaking warmint; wot are you stopping outside for, as if you was ashamed of your master! Come in!"

The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings which inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves; — the kind of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke. He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a beard of three days' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.

"Come in, d'ye hear?" growled this engaging ruffian. [Chapter 13, "Some New Acquaintances are introduced to the Intelligent Reader; Connected with whom, Various Pleasant Matters are Related, Appertaining to this History," 87-88]

Left: J. Clayton Clarke's 1890 portrait "Bill Sikes. Right: James Mahoney's "You are still on the scent, are you, Nancy?".

Part of Dickens's intention for Sikes seems to have been to use him to debunk the romance of the dashing professional thief established by such figures as Henry Fielding's Jonathan Wilde, William Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Shepherd, Edward Bulwer Lytton's Paul Clifford, and — ultimately — John Gay's rakish highwayman Macheath in The Beggar's Opera (1728).

George Cruikshank introduced the surly burglar Bill Sikes.As the gang's chief outside contractor Sikes together with his doxy, Nancy, undertakes to recapture Oliver after his apprehension in the abortive robbery of book-browsing Mr. Brownlow. Until he becomes unnerved after murdering Nancy, Sikes is much the same throughout the novel: brutal, determined, and without compassion or imagination. Although he does not include the burglar's constant companion, the "white-coated, red-eyed dog" the ill-treated cur Bull's-eye, Furniss has modelled his full-length portrait of the scowling Sikes on both realisations by Cruikshank and Mahoney, notably the thug in the dingy white beaver and long greatcoat in "You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?" (see below). Both Sikes attempting to destroy his dog and The Last Chance also offered Furniss workable models, both of which, of course, are directly based on Dickens's original descriptions of the brutal housebreaker and, ultimately, murderer.

In the original serial illustration introducing Sikes, Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends, Cruikshank depicts the tall, unshaven thug as he grabs Oliver in the back streets of Clerkenwell on his way to return Mr. Brownlow's books. There is no comparable scene in the 1871 Household Edition volume; rather, avoiding a scene already competently rendered by Cruikshank, Mahoney shows Oliver being pursued as a pickpocket by a mob.

Cruikshank, Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist in the 1837-9 serial, depicts the housebreaker as the sordid, lower-class villain out of contemporary melodrama, the figure whom Felix Octavius Carr Darley describes in his series of Character Sketches from Dickens (1888) is once again much more of an individual (despite his characteristic long face and white top hat) than a type. In the chapter 22 illustration which depicts Oliver's being surprised and shot at as soon as he has entered to house that Sikes is attempting to rob, The Burglary, Cruikshank depicts the burglar in a framed portrait, as an apparently helpless Sikes watches the unfolding scene with interest. Effectively rendered, Cruikshank's ruffian is unshaven, unkempt, and full-faced. Selecting an equally dramatic moment in the story, Darley depicts Sikes in action, rather than as a static figure, whereas in the Diamond Edition of 1867, Sol Eytinge, Jr., in Bill Sikes and Nancy (see below) captures the disreputable couple's desperation and despondency after the botched robbery at Chertsey. Taking a little more pity on the down-and-out couple, in the Household Edition, the realist Mahoney focuses on Nancy's tenderness for the exhausted Skies, whom she tends as if he were her child in Then, stooping over the bed, she kissed the robber's lips (Chapter 39) — a highly ironic scene, given Sikes's subsequent treatment of the woman whom he believes has betrayed him and Fagin's gang. In the 1890 collection of Dickens's characters, The Characters of Charles Dickens pourtrayed in a series of original watercolours by "Kyd", J. Clayton Clarke romantizes the ill-shaven thug with the swaggering gait and penetrating gaze. Perhaps the quintessential realisation of Fagin's burly associateis that by Felix Octavius Carr Darley in his Character Sketches from Dickens.

Actors who have portrayed Sikes on film include Robert Newton in the 1948 David Lean film, Oliver Reed in the 1968 musical Oliver! (replacing Danny Sewell from the original stage production), and Tim Curry (1982), Robert Loggia (voice, 1988), Michael McAnallen (1995), David O'Hara (1997), Andy Serkis (1999), Jamie Foreman (2005), Tom Hardy (2007), Burn Gorman (2009), Steven Hartley (2009), Shannon Wise (2010), Jake Thomas (2011), and Anthony Brown (2012).

XIV. Making Oliver Take Part in a Burglary

Furniss’s Oliver in the Grip of Sikes (1910).

Context of the Illustration

"Come here, young 'un; and let me read you a lectur', which is as well got over at once."

Thus addressing his new pupil, Mr. Sikes pulled off Oliver’s cap and threw it into a corner; and then, taking him by the shoulder, sat himself down by the table, and stood the boy in front of him.

"Now, first: do you know wot this is?" inquired Sikes, taking up a pocket-pistol which lay on the table.

Oliver replied in the affirmative.

"Well, then, look here," continued Sikes. "This is powder; that 'ere's a bullet; and this is a little bit of a old hat for waddin'." [Chapter 20, "Wherein Oliver is Delivered over to Mr. William Sikes," 152]


In this scene the burglars and Nancy terrify Oliver into cooperating to rob a mansion at Chertsey in Surrey, a house that Flash Toby Crackit has been "casing" on behalf of the gang. The illustration, which is another instance of Oliver's being menaced by adults, repeats the themes of Oliver refuses to be Bound over to the Sweep (Chapter 3), but here Furniss introduces a direct threat of violence should Oliver exhibit any signs of non-compliance: the two adult career criminals, Sikes and Nancy, threaten the terrified, writhing boy — Nancy with a reproving finger pointed at Oliver, and a Neanderthal-like Sikes with a small flintlock pistol, its barrel only inches from Oliver's face. Later illustrator Kyd depicts a rakish Sikes as a tankard-carrying tough with fitting clothes and a penetrating gaze, as in Chapter 16, Bill Sikes (see above), rather than a grim-faced bully. Nor does Furniss provide us with the beautiful, wistful, anxious Nancy of Charles Pears in the 1912 Waverley Edition (see below). Furniss's overblown, overdressed Nancy is reminiscent of Cruikshank's original frowzy figure in such illustrations as Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends, which offered Furniss a viable model for Nancy in bonnet and shawl, hardly the delicate beauty of Pears' romanticized version of the young prostitute.

Whereas Cruikshank, working in collaboration with Dickens himself, elected to depict the scene in which Nancy and Sikes abduct Oliver on his way to Mr. Brownlow's book-seller with a package of books, Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends, Mahoney instead introduces the villainous couple prior to their recapturing the boy at Clerkenwell, underscoring the fact that the couple are acting as Fagin's agents in "You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?" (Chapter 15). Then, in the Household Edition Mahoney depicts Oliver and Sikes on the way to the advanced post for the robbery in Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch (Chapter 21, "The Expedition" — see below). Oliver in this instance is clearly Sikes's pawn, but Furniss offers the scene of Sikes's threatening Oliver to exonerate the boy of any taint of criminality as he is acting strictly under duress.

Although in the 1867 Diamond Edition Sol Eytinge presents a thoroughly disreputable, ill-kempt, and disconsolate couple in his dual character study entitled Bill Sikes and Nancy, realising them as they appear after the botched robbery, in Chapter 39, Darley in his 1888 Character Sketches from Dickens, revises in a much more realistic manner the original Cruikshank interpretation of the abduction scene in Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver Twist.

Above: Mahoney's Household Edition illustration of Sikes's dragging an unwilling Oliver into a life of crime in Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch (1871).

XV. The Botched Burglary at the Maylies' home in Chertsey

Left: Cruikshank's original version of The Burglary (January 1838). Right: Furniss’s The Burglary (1910).

Passage Illustrated

In the short time he had had to collect his senses, the boy had firmly resolved that, whether he died in the attempt or not, he would make one effort to dart upstairs from the hall, and alarm the family. Filled with this idea, he advanced at once, but stealthily.

"Come back!" suddenly cried Sikes aloud. "Back! back!"

"Scared by the sudden breaking of the dead stillness of the place, and by a loud cry which followed it, Oliver let his lantern fall, and knew not whether to advance or fly.

The cry was repeated — a light appeared — a vision of two terrified half-dressed men at the top of the stairs swam before his eyes — a flash — a loud noise — a smoke — a crash somewhere, but where he knew not, — and he staggered back. [Chapter 22, "The Burglary," 166]


In the January 1838 number of Bentley's Miscellany Cruikshank depicted yet another turning point in Oliver's life as the boy fails to admit the gang to the house. In Cruikshank's dramatic realisation of The Burglary, the reader encounters the scene of Oliver's discovery by the servants shortly after he had climbed in through a small window in at the Maylies' home in suburban Chertsey. In contrast, Furniss radically reconstructs the Cruikshank illustration, for by throwing Oliver off the central axis, he injects considerable emotion into both the terrified servants at the rear and wounded Oliver in the foreground while transforming Sikes's head from a framed portrait to a trophy mounted on the wall. The botched robbery is crucial to the plot because it transfers Oliver once again from the grip of the gang to those associated with his mother; before, the botched pickpocketing expedition had resulted in Oliver's being placed in Mr. Bownlow's custody; now, left for deadin a ditch, Oliver is recalled to life and taken in by the Maylies — his mother's family.

Although Cruikshank depicts the housebreaker Bill Sikes as the sordid, lower-class villain out of contemporary melodrama, the figure whom Darley in his 1888 series of Character Sketches from Dickens describes is much more of an individual (despite his characteristic long face and white top hat derived directly from Cruikshank) than a type. In the chapter 22 illustration which depicts Oliver's being surprised and shot at as soon as he has entered the Chertsey house that Sikes is attempting to rob, Cruikshank minimizes the previously intimidating bulk of the notorious housebreaker by confining him to a mere facial likeness in the frame window five-and-a-half feet off the ground outside — in a framed portrait, so to speak — as Sikes watches the unfolding scene with interest and relative impotence as he seems powerless to intervene to save Oliver or assault the servants who are discharging firearms. Effectively rendered, Cruikshank's ruffian is unshaven, unkempt, and full-faced — but the small window through which he peers would prevent him from firing his own weapon on the two servants, let alone haul Oliver out if harm's way by the collar in the text on the page facing the steel-engraving, which intensifies the suspense at the end of the monthly part, as the author reports the protagonist's sensations of being hauled up through the window, dragged across the ground, and left to die in a ditch. The same improbability associated with the window is apparent in Furniss's highly-charged rendition of the same dramatic moment.

With a greater number of plates to provide for the novel and a knowledge of the trajectory of the plot, both Mahoney and Furniss emphasized the criminal career of the murderer Bill Sikes, brought brilliantly to twentieth-century cinema by Robert Newton, Oliver Reed, and a host of other actors — whereas Cruikshank has just four representations of Sikes in twenty-four illustrations, Mahoney has six out of twenty-nine, and Furniss nine thirty three. By the time that Cruikshank executed the monthly wrapper for the 1846 re-serialisation, he appreciated Sikes's importance, showing him in three of the the monthly wrapper's eleven vignettes; likewise, in Furniss's Characters in the Story, Sikes and his dog appear prominently in the middle of the right-hand frame, Sikes being the largest by far of the forty-four figures (the lifeless Nancy is also in a prominent position, the centre of the bottom frame).

Mahoney's 1871 realisation of the scene immediately preceding the robbery, outside the house at Chertsey, "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!"

However, instead of realizing the botched robbery itself as Cruikshank had done some thirty years earlier, Mahoney focussed on two scenes immediately preceding the burglary, perhaps aware that his readers would inevitably compare his treatment of The Burglary to that by Cruikshank. Such a consideration, however, did not prevent Furniss from attempting a much more dynamic composition in which the focus is the four servants who burst into the storeroom as Oliver is about to pass out. Seeing the picture before reading the accompanying text, one might expect the worst, but by the end of the closing narrative curtain Sikes has at least abstracted Oliver from the immediate danger posed by the armed servants — who become four in number in the Furniss illustration.

The rooms look entirely different in the 1838 and 1910 illustrations. Dickens himself is equivocal about the nature of the backroom into which Sikes lowers the terrified boy: "at the back of the house: which belonged to a scullery, or a small brewing-place, at the end of the passage" (164). Having to make a choice, Cruikshank decided it would be a "brewing-place" and accordingly inserted a wooden vat and long-handled implement on the wall, leaving the space uncluttered. The only chaos in his picture is the frightened servants, the discharge of a pistol, the smoke of the gunpowder, and the wounded boy, crying out. In contrast, transforming the room into a cluttered scullery, Furniss re-arranges the layout of the room and alters the juxtaposition of the figures (now six in number) in such a way that Oliver is no longer the obvious focus of the illustration. In the somewhat theatrical original in Bentley's, Cruikshank has stationed the two frightened servants to the left, just entering through the open doorway; Oliver, holding his arm (centre); a large brewing-tub, lower right, and Sikes's troll-like face, upper right. Although he minimizes the clouds of gunpowder, Furniss provides considerably more clutter in the scullery, places the comic servants upper centre (one with a sword, a second with a pistol, a third with a raised lantern), and relegates an obviously wounded Oliver to the lower left and an angry Sikes to the upper left, leaving the centre of the composition vacant, so that the reader-viewer in anticipation must be read the plate proleptically; only five pages later will the reader find its textual equivalent and learn Oliver's fate.

XVI. Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney, Unlikely Lovers

Left: Cruikshank's Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea. Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble. Right: Charles Pears' more naturalistic treatment of the same scene, Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea (1912).

Passage Illustrated

Whatever were Mr. Bumble's intentions, however (and no doubt they were of the best): it unfortunately happened, as has been twice before remarked, that the table was a round one; consequently Mr. Bumble, moving his chair by little and little, soon began to diminish the distance between himself and the matron; and, continuing to travel round the outer edge of the circle, brought his chair, in time, close to that in which the matron was seated.

Indeed, the two chairs touched; and when they did so, Mr. Bumble stopped.

Now, if the matron had moved her chair to the right, she would have been scorched by the fire; and if to the left, she must have fallen into Mr. Bumble’s arms; so (being a discreet matron, and no doubt foreseeing these consequences at a glance) she remained where she was, and handed Mr. Bumble another cup of tea. [Chapter 23, "Which contains the substance of a pleasant conversation between Mr. Bumble and a lady; and shews that even a beadle may be susceptible on some points," 172]

Commentary: Mr. Bumble, The Parish Beadle, from Cruikshank to Furniss

Cruikshank several times portrayed the self-important bully Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle who acts as the agent for the trustees of the workhouse in which Oliver's mother dies at the beginning of the novel. The parallel study to Furniss's here is Cruikshank's Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea (see below). These images are consistent with Dickens's conviction that Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble are irresponsible public servants who exploit positions of trust for personal gain. For Dickens poetic justice is ultimately served when he places the couple as inmates into the workhouse they had once administered. They are justly punished for attempting to suppress the truth of Oliver's birth by secreting the locket that belonged to his mother.

Left: J. Clayton Clarke's 1890 full-length portrait of the beadle Mr. Bumble (1890). Centre: Kyd's Player's Cigarette Card no. 3, Mr. Bumble (1910). Right: F. W. Pailthorpe's Inexplicable conduct of Mr. Bumble when Mrs. Corney left the room (1886).

Cruikshank in both instances undercuts the romance by the leering, smirking faces of the would-be lovers. We note in the Cruikshank version of the tea-drinking scene at Mrs. Corney's the effective detailism of the furnishings and theatrical properties, including a teakettle singing on the hob. Emulating Cruikshank's handling of the scenes, Furniss revisits both of these unlikely romance interludes, undoubtedly enjoying the opportunity to show the exploiters in love. Hat and rod, symbols of his office and public persona put aside temporarily (down left), Bumble, who reveals a side of his personality not seen before, becomes utterly ridiculous in Furniss's illustration. Taking a slightly different approach in his 1886 representation of Bumble, F. W. Pailthorpe presents his motivation as strictly avaricious and not in the least amorous when he does a jog as he inspects Mrs. Corney's possessions while she is out of room.

The flirtatiousness of both Mrs. Corney and Charlotte is particularly delightful in these illustrations. The couple actually become charming under Charles Pears' sentimentalizing pencil, and almost serious players in Oliver's drama in James Mahoney's rendition of the same scene. Caricaturist Kyd, however, views Bumble with a probing, satirical eye, perhaps as Dickens would have us view the pompous, calculating, hypocritical embodiment of the most callous aspects of the 1834 New Poor Law.

Above: Mahoney's Mahoney's Household Edition illustration "Don't sigh, Mrs. Corney". (1871).

Furniss depicts the couple in the manner of caricature, satirizing their complacency, their love of comfort, and their lack of concern for anyone but themselves. As in the text, in the Furniss illustration tea is poured, Bumble expresses his devotion and amorousness with eye and gesture, and a family of cats play at their feet. On the sideboard (upper left) are the two bottles of wine that Bumble has expropriated from the stock ordered for the workhouse infirmary, a detail that reveals Furniss's appreciation of Dickens's pointed criticism of these self-serving "parochial officers" (169). Furniss exploits the possibilities of illustration by placing it in the midst of the text describing Mr. Bumble's visit to the widow, leaving the reader to anticipate Bumble's popping the question by its caption (see above), the climax of which is "Mr. Bumble stopped."

Cruikshank took obvious delight in depicting the budding romance of the parish beadle and the workhouse matron (a match made in the bureaucracy of the Poor Law, if not in Heaven). He had already depicted the self-satisfied humbug in Oliver Escapes Being Bound Apprentice to the Sweep (Part 2, March 1837), and he now shows Bumble in love — or as much in love with somebody else as an acquisitive character such as the parish beadle can be. With an eye for the grotesque developed in his former career as a political cartoonist in the Regency, Cruikshank found the notion of the courtship of Mrs. Corney by the arrogant, ridiculous Bumble irresistible, a scene which he echoed subsequently in the adolescent romance of the infatuated housemaid Charlotte and the greedy undertaker's apprentice Noah Claypole, Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out (Part 12, March 1838), in which the fatuous Bumble has a minor role, indignantly peering in at the window.

XVII. Toby Crackit

Left: Pailthorpe's study of Toby Crackit and Tom Chitling in Mr. Crackit's 'good natur'. Right: Eytinge's Diamond Edition wood-engraving of the rakish thief in Toby Crackit (1867).

Passage Illustrated

To judge from appearances, Toby was by no means in a hurry to open the conversation. At first, the Jew contented himself with patiently watching his countenance, as if to gain from its expression some clue to the intelligence he brought; but in vain. He looked tired and worn, but there was the same complacent repose upon his features that they always wore: and through dirt, and beard, and whisker, there still shone, unimpaired, the self-satisfied smirk of flash Toby Crackit. Then, the Jew, in an agony of impatience, watched every morsel he put into his mouth; pacing up and down the room, meanwhile, in irrepressible excitement. It was all of no use. Toby continued to eat with the utmost outward indifference, until he could eat no more; then, ordering the Dodger out, he closed the door, mixed a glass of spirits and water, and composed himself for talking.

"First and foremost, Faguey," said Toby.

"Yes, yes," interposed the Jew, drawing up his chair.

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and to declare that the gin was excellent; then placing his feet against the low mantelpiece, so as to bring his boots to about the level of his eye, he quietly resumed. [Chapter Twenty-Five, "Wherein This History Reverts to Mr. Fagin and Company," 184]


This subject, unlike Oliver's asking for more and Oliver's narrowly escaping being apprenticed to a chimney-sweep, was not one which Dickens directly proposed to his original illustrator George Cruikshank. Toby Crackit, the "flash" or fashionably (and somewhat ostentatiously) dressed member of the gang and resident lock-picking expert, appears in very few narrative-pictorial sequences for Oliver Twist. However, Toby does appear at least twice in the Cruikshank 1846 Chapman and Hall wrapper vignettes: at the top, left, standing immediately behind Bill Sikes as the burglar prepares to lower Oliver through the window, and again among the gang members being apprehended by the Bow Street Runners (upper right). One can see a little of him in Mahoney's 1871 wood-engraving "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!" (see below) in the robbery scene for the first volume in the Household Edition.

Furniss’s Toby Crackit Exasperates the Jew.

The most extensive treatment of him, in Frederic W. Pailthorpe's 1886 series — Mr. Crackit's 'good natur' is a caricature. In contrast, Furniss creates a realistic portraiture. Although the fundamentals of the card-playing scene, including the cribbage board, are correct and faithful to the text, in which an overawed Chitling is fearfully considering his play as he admires the suave criminal in elegant topboots as Fagin (left, readily identifiable by his caricatural nose) enters the room, Pailthorpe seems to have modelled his Toby Crackit on Bill Sikes rather than sought to distinguish him from his choleric colleague. Such details as a large pewter tankard, silk neckerchief, and slightly dingy white top-hat lend Pailthorpe's chromolithograph verisimilitude, but the "flash" waistcoat that the fin-de-siecle illustrator has given the character his epithet is not consistent with Chapter Twenty-two's description: "a coarse, staring, shawl-pattern waistcoat" (160). However, Pailthorpe's Toby has scanty red hair and admirable legs that Dickens reiterates. Furniss, on the other hand, has delivered an individualized and credible portrait of the swaggering thief, still ebullient after three days on the run. This characterisation is consistent with Sol Eytinge, Junior's description of the flash cracksman or break-and-enter artist in the Diamond Edition volume (1867).

XVIII. Bumble surprises Noah and Charlotte

Left: Cruikshank’s Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out. Right: Furniss’s Bumble surprises Noah and Charlotte (1867).

Passage Illustrated

"What a delicious thing is a oyster!" remarked Mr. Claypole, after he had swallowed it. "What a pity it is, a number of 'em should ever make you feel uncomfortable; isn't it, Charlotte?" . . .

"Have another," said Charlotte. "Here's one with such a beautiful, delicate beard!"

"I can't manage any more," said Noah. "I'm very sorry. Come here, Charlotte, and I'll kiss yer."

"What!" said Mr. Bumble, bursting into the room. "Say that again, sir."

Charlotte uttered a scream, and hid her face in her apron. Mr. Claypole, without making any further change in his position than suffering his legs to reach the ground, gazed at the beadle in drunken terror. [Chapter 27, "Atones for the Unpoliteness of a Former Chapter; Which Deserted a Lady , Most Unceremoniously," 202]


Cruikshank, the novels's original illustrator, provided a study of the self-important bully Mr. Bumble, the parish beadle, interrupting the romantic and gustatory idyll of apprentice Noah Claypole and the Sowerberrys' maid, the flirtatious and smitten Charlotte, in what constitutes an Anglicized version of a French farce. Dickens regards the temporary romance of workhouse matron Mrs. Corney and parish beadle Mr. Bumble not merely as ridiculous, but as setting the stage for their nemesis, just as the clandestine "below-stairs" affair between the Sowerberrys' maid, Charlotte, and the charity boy apprentice Noah Claypole will develop into mutual torment and antipathy that justly rewards them both for their ill-treatment of Oliver. Thus, the middle-aged flirtatiousness of Bumble and Mrs. Corney precedes the scene of Noah's amorous oyster consumption in Furniss as in Cruikshank, Furniss's model here being Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out.

Bumble Surprises Noah and Charlotte, positionedin the volume some ten pages ahead of the scene in the text, sets up a deliciously comedic anticipation in the reader as he or she progresses through Chapter 27, 202-3. In her shock at being discovered in a compromising situation, Charlotte has lifted both feet off the floor as she has covered her embarrassment with the sign of her domestic status, her servant's apron. Although Noah is slow in reacting to Bumble's bursting in upon his oyster repast and romantic idyll (it cannot have been lost on readers that oysters were regarded as aphrodisiacs), Charlotte, already having screamed, has dropped an oyster and the bread-and-butter knife (lower left). Furniss makes the apron obvious as it is the outward and visible sign of Charlotte's inferior social status, her badge as a servant.

Over-Reacher Noah Claypole's Surprise; or, The Charity Boy's Downward Progress

The gangly Noah, has been taken unawares as the beadle bursts into the shop's back-parlour from the space defined as "commercial" (off left) into this private space. He is still lolling awkwardly in the easy chair (presumably his master's seat) with both a pot of porter and a wine bottle strategically ready to hand between himself and Charlotte, seated rather than standing, right. Although somewhat cramped in order to accommodate the furnishings and the comic principals, the shop's back parlour seems well appointed, with prints on the walls, a cabinet surmounted by books (behind Noah), a small clock and assorted bric-a-brac (including a miniature coffin) on the fireplace mantle, behind the maid servant. The centrepiece of the interrupted feast, the small wooden keg of oysters, sits on the table behind Charlotte (right). The accumulation of these smaller items plus the figures of the lovers balances the large figure of the uniformed beadle, staff of office in hand (left). Noah is so stunned by Bumble's unexpected intrusion that he appears oblivious to the fact that his left hand is near the candle flame (centre), a symbol of sexual ardour suddenly cooled.

The glass window of the shop's parlour in the Furniss illustration has become a door with multiple panes. Behind Noah is yet another door, presumably connecting the parlour and the kitchen below stairs, where Charlotte and Noah ought to be conducting their gustatory tryst. Theatrically, the set and properties are otherwise exactly as specified in the text, although the room is much smaller. Since Dickens has little to say about the indignant authority figure (who supervises the moral climate of the parish), Furniss supplies details of costume including Bumble's traditional hat, top coat, breeches. and staff of office from earlier textual descriptions. The juxtaposition of all three incommoded figures intensifies the farce, although the illustrator has avoided any suggestion of sexually tinged French situation comedy by not depicting Charlotte about to kiss Noah.

Left: Kyd's Noah Claypole. Middle: Frederic W. Pailthorpe's ridiculing of the cowardly Noah, Noah running for Mr. Bumble (1886). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.’s Noah and Charlotte (1867).

As John O. Jordan has pointed out, the clothing of all three points to their social status, real (as in the case of Bumble and Charlotte) or assumed (as in the case of the pretentious Noah). Bumble's authority as the executive arm of the parochial boards is vested in "his beadle's cocked hat, laced coat, and cane" (173-74). Noah is a poser and an over-reacher, affecting a swagger and assuming a status to which, as a charity boy, he is hardly entitled by wearing the fashionable clothing of a regency "buck" and by engaging in a sexual and culinary idyll with the maid. As distinct from the illegitimate workhouse boy, Oliver, Noah is an orphan, legitimate by birth but still a case for parish charity — but still fellow apprentice Oliver's social superior. Thus, Noah, with his sense of entitlement, has been affronted by Sowerberry's promoting his rival to the role of funeral mute. Noah feels that Oliver threatens his status, although Noah is really just another lowly apprentice. He appropriates the master's chair and parlour, consumes his porter and wine, and makes love to the housemaid in the master's space rather than below stairs. He appropriates what is not his, and exploits Charlotte for sexual and culinary favours, particularly the luxury dish, the raw oysters. Having pilfered the master's liquor cabinet, Noah is well on his way to emptying the office till and absconding with both the couple's cashbox and their maidservant, who subsequently becomes his beast of burden on their flight to London, as in Eytinge's Noah and Charlotte, in which the illustrator emphasizes Noah's loss of cast by his countryman's linen smockfront having replaced his stylish regency clothing. Mahoney, emphasizes this downward social spiral in his depiction of Noah's shadowing Nancy to new London Bridge in When she was about the same distance in advance as she had been before, he slipped quietly down. Here, Noah has donned a Fagin-provided disguise as a carter. Thus, Noah's appropriation of his master's property (the parlour and alcohol) and authority is consistent with his earlier hectoring of Oliver which resulted in his being beaten, with Bumble's chastising him for his presumption, and with his absconding with the Sowerberrys' maid and money, and ultimately with his descending to the status of underworld spy.

XIX. Oliver after the Failed Burglary: Providence again Intervenes

Left: George Cruikshank’s Oliver at Mrs. Maylie's door (April 1838). Right: Harry Furniss’s The wounded Oliver thrown into the Ditch (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"Bear a hand with the boy," cried Sikes, beckoning furiously to his confederate. "Come back!"

Toby made a show of returning; but ventured, in a low voice, broken for want of breath, to intimate considerable reluctance as he came slowly along.

"Quicker!" cried Sikes, laying the boy in a dry ditch at his feet, and drawing a pistol from his pocket. "Don't play booty with me."

At this moment the noise grew louder. Sikes, again looking round, could discern that the men who had given chase were already climbing the gate of the field in which he stood; and that a couple of dogs were some paces in advance of them.

"It’s all up, Bill!" cried Toby; "drop the kid, and show 'em your heels." With this parting advice, Mr. Crackit, preferring the chance of being shot by his friend, to the certainty of being taken by his enemies, fairly turned tail, and darted off at full speed. Sikes clenched his teeth; took one look around; threw over the prostrate form of Oliver, the cape in which he had been hurriedly muffled; ran along the front of the hedge, as if to distract the attention of those behind, from the spot where the boy lay; paused, for a second, before another hedge which met it at right angles; and whirling his pistol high into the air, cleared it at a bound, and was gone. [Chapter 28, "Looks after Oliver, and Proceeds with His Adventures," 204]


Although Cruikshank, who probably consulted the novelist at this stage, chose an incident for illustration in which Oliver is once again a petitioner, he did not select the far more emotionally compelling moment when Sikes, thinking Oliver near death from the gunshot wound he has just sustained in the botched robbery, abandons the boy in a ditch in the fields of Surrey. Of course, James Mahoney, has provided Furniss with a precedent for depicting other, more dramatic moments in the robbery sequence, in the 1871 wood-engravings — as, for example, "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!" in Chapter 22. Cruikshank's chosen moment, Oliver at Mrs. Maylie's door, has the virtue of enlisting the reader's sympathy for a boy who in attempting to be a perpetrator became a victim; however, once again, Oliver is acted upon rather than acting, and the scene in the periodical illustration hardly exploits the text's possibility for sensational effect. Harry Furniss deftly suggests thechaotic nature of the flight of the thieves after they are compelled to abandon theirburglary and take to their heels across the fields, the vegetation of which threaten toengulf both Sikes and Oliver.

In focussing on the scene in which the thieves flee, abandoning the wounded Oliver for dead, Furniss depicts a particularly dramatic moment, here departing from the approach taken by Cruikshank. After a pair of satirical and romantic illustrations in the preceding months' instalments in Bentley's Miscellany, Dickens's original illustrator provided a melodramatic study of Oliver, near death apparently, asking for help at the portico of the Maylie mansion in Chertsey, Oliver at Mrs. Maylie's door.

As opposed to the work of other fin de siecle Dickens illustrators such as Frederic W. Pailthorpe (1886) and Charles Pears (1912), Furniss was interested in realisation rather than character study, as the detailed captions for the illustrations in 1910 edition. Furthermore, whereas Pailthorpe emulated the style of his friend Cruikshank and Pears adopted a naturalistic manner suggestive of portrait photography, Furniss recasts the early Victorian text in a markedly staccato and impressionistic style consonant with turn-of-the-century developments in painting, in part a reaction to the realism of the illustrators of the sixties such as Fred Walker, George du Maurier, and Charles S. Reinhart. Nowhere are these artistic trends more in evidence in this volume than in Furniss's fluid description of Sikes's abandoning the (apparently) dying Oliver. Furniss has so melded the boy and the vegetation that it is difficult at first glance for readers to discern where Oliver's legs end and the engulfing vegetation begins. A black profile in the night, Sikes is yet to throw the cloak over his body, and grips it as yells at Toby Crackit, already rapidly receding into the distance, upper left. Only Oliver's head distinguishes him from the trees at the bottom, but the artist has rendered that distinct by placing it in the light, whereas he has made the thieves mere shadows to suggest the night-time action.

XX. Oliver at the Maylies

Left: George Cruikshank’s Oliver waited on by the Bow Street Runners (May 1838). Right: Harry Furniss’s The wounded Oliver Smiles in his Sleep (1910).

Passage Illustrated

Stepping before them, he looked into the room. Motioning them to advance, he closed the door when they had entered; and gently drew back the curtains of the bed. Upon it, in lieu of the dogged, black-visaged ruffian they had expected to behold, there lay a mere child: worn with pain and exhaustion, and sunk into a deep sleep. His wounded arm, bound and splintered up, was crossed upon his breast; his head reclined upon the other arm, which was half hidden by his long hair, as it streamed over the pillow.

The honest gentleman held the curtain in his hand, and looked on, for a minute or so, in silence. Whilst he was watching the patient thus, the younger lady glided softly past, and seating herself in a chair by the bedside, gathered Oliver's hair from his face. As she stooped over him, her tears fell upon his forehead.

The boy stirred, and smiled in his sleep, as though these marks of pity and compassion had awakened some pleasant dream of a love and affection he had never known. Thus, a strain of gentle music, or the rippling of water in a silent place, or the odour of a flower, or the mention of a familiar word, will sometimes call up sudden dim remembrances of scenes that never were, in this life; which vanish like a breath; which some brief memory of a happier existence, long gone by, would seem to have awakened; which no voluntary exertion of the mind can ever recall. [Chapter 30, "Relates what Oliver's New Visitors Thought of Him," 217]


Cruikshank took obvious delight in depicting Oliver's reception by the Maylies' comic suspicious servants in Oliver at Mrs. Maylie's door, and his interrogation by the rather thick-headed police officers Blathers and Duff in Oliver waited on by the Bow Street Runners. For the Household Edition, James Mahoney had adopted quite a different tactic by emphasizing the harmonious tranquility into which Oliver's life now flows at the Maylies.

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Oliver's tranquil life at the Maylies', When it became quite dark, and they returned home, the young lady would sit down to the piano, and play some pleasant air.

Harry and Rose present an image of a cultured and sympathetic home-life wholly new to the ex-parish boy and former pickpocket-in-training. Furniss reverts to the original Cruikshank scene while significantly adjusting it. The fin de siecle artist dwells upon providential nature of Oliver's being cared for by his dead mother's younger sister, resident in a house that Oliver's criminal associates had sought to rob. Furniss underscores ironic nature of the improbable reunion by drawing the viewer's eye towards the heads of Oliver and Rose so that the reader notes similarity in hair and profile of the boy and his aunt. In short, Furniss has eliminated the character comedy as if he expected that readers would already be familiar with Cruikshank's steel engravings, and therefore avoided merely repeating those earlier illustrations even as he continues Oliver's "progress" out of the underworld and back into his proper station in English society.

Furniss, the last great Victorian illustrator of Dickens's second novel, depicts the sleeping Oliver watched over by the solicitous Dr. Losberne and the tender Rose Mayliem who is, unbeknownst to him, his aunt. The illustrator has chosen to create a purely sentimental scene rather than follow Cruikshank, who emphasized suspense and comedy. Whereas in the original serial had tended to focus on more dramatic and humorous incidents, such as Oliver's being interviewed by the obtuse police detectives Blathers and Duff, in the first volume of Household Edition, Mahoney had offered a sentimental moment for realisation that provided Furniss with a precedent for depicting other, more sentimental moments at this juncture.

However, Furniss's lithograph does not, like Cruikshank’s original serial steel-engraving for this chapter, immediately lead readers to speculate about whether, once he regains consciousness, Oliver will identify the notorious Bill Sikes as the chief culprit — and whether the police officers will uncover the fact that Oliver was himself involved in the attempted burglary. The present illustration represents Furniss's very different reaction to both the original illustration and Dickens's text, as he eliminates (at least for the moment) any speculation about how much involving the robbery Oliver will choose to disclose to the minions of the law. Moreover, Furniss causes the reader to reflect upon the providential nature of Oliver's "progress." Archly, too, Furniss alludes to this idyllic bedside scene in its sinister parallel, the very next illustration, Monks and Fagin Watching Oliver Asleep.

Having dragged himself to the Maylies' front door (after being dumped in a ditch by the fleeing Sikes), Oliver, near death, is nursed back to health by the kindly Rose Maylie, her adopted mother, and the local physician, all three of whom the illustrator of the 1910 includes. Providentially Oliver is tended by his mother's sister, having by those same powers of Providence already been befriended by his father's best friend from youth, Mr. Brownlow.

For the reader unacquainted with the story's trajectory, a proleptic reading of the passage in the text in the Charles Dickens Library Edition would suggest that Oliver once again will suffer a near death experience, if indeed he does not die of his wound and exposure. However, by the time that readers arrive at the Furniss illustration of that textual moment, they are aware that Oliver has been accepted into the Maylie mansion as a child in need of medical assistance rather than a thief who has been wounded in the commission of a robbery. Providence has decreed that he should be embraced his mother's sister, Rose, and her adoptive family, the Maylies. Thus, the Furniss illustration is not merely sentimental or even coincidental, but providential. In contrast to the original Cruikshank illustration, this 1910 revision lacks the humour afforded by the Bow Street Runners, figures whose self-important foolishness anticipates the utter ineptitude of early film-maker Mack Sennet's Keystone Cops (1912-1917).

Since either the series editor, J. A. Hammerton, or Furniss himself has positioned the illustration for Chapter 30 well into Chapter 31, "Involves a Critical Position," by the time that the reader has encountered the illustration the reader knows that Oliver will make a full recovery, for on p. 225 in Chapter 31 "Mssrs. Blathers and Duff, attended by the native [i. e., local] constable" (225) are interrogating Oliver, as in the 1838 Cruikshank illustration, so that in the original Dickens's satire of the ineptitude of the Bow Street Runners (the pre-Scotland Yard London police force founded by magistrate Henry Fielding) foils the sweet sentimentality of the Oliver's receiving appropriate care from the Maylies and their servants. Furniss underscores the facial similarities between Rose Maylie and Oliver, both of whom he has deliberately drawn in profile. The fourth figure in the scene, just behind the physician, is Mrs. Maylie, an elderly, upper-middle-class lady with a look of deep concern which reveals that she, too, is a female Samaritan figure like Mr. Brownlow's housekeeper, Mrs. Bedwin, earlier in the story. In contrast, Furniss's contemporary, J. Clayton Clarke depicts only the stronger, more threatening, or more amusing characters and scenes, even as contemporary comic artist F. W. Pailthorpe in his 1886 sequence had avoided this tender moment entirely, dwelling instead upon the fashionable lock-picker Toby Crackit. As we shall shortly see, Furniss is also using the tranquil scene of the boy asleep and watched by kindly figures as a contrast to the scene in which Fagin and Monks critically observe Oliver asleep one afternoon.

XXI. Fagin and Monks Find Oliver

Left: George Cruikshank’s Monks and the Jew (JUne 1838). Right: Harry Furniss’s Monks and Fagin watching Oliver sleep (1910).

Passage Illustrated

Oliver knew, perfectly well, that he was in his own little room; that his books were lying on the table before him; that the sweet air was stirring among the creeping plants outside. And yet he was asleep. Suddenly, the scene changed; the air became close and confined; and he thought, with a glow of terror, that he was in the Jew's house again. There sat the hideous old man, in his accustomed corner, pointing at him, and whispering to another man, with his face averted, who sat beside him.

"Hush, my dear!" he thought he heard the Jew say; "it is he, sure enough. Come away."

"He!" the other man seemed to answer; "could I mistake him, think you? If a crowd of ghosts were to put themselves into his exact shape, and he stood amongst them, there is something that would tell me how to point him out. If you buried him fifty feet deep, and took me across his grave, I fancy I should know, if there wasn't a mark above it, that he lay buried there?

The man seemed to say this, with such dreadful hatred, that Oliver awoke with the fear, and started up. [Chapter 34, "Contains Some Introductory Particulars Relative to a Young Gentleman Who now Arrives Upon the Scene; and a New Adventure which Happened to Oliver," 259]

Commentary: A Sharp Contrast to the Previous Plate

As Joelle Herr explains, after having been left for dead in a ditch Oliver "comes to" and "goes to the nearest house, which happens to be where the bungled burglary took place. there, Mrs. Maylie and her niece, Rose, take Oliver in and offer him protection. Oliver spends a lovely summer with them in the countryside." Just as Oliver feels himself safe and completely saved from Fagin, Sikes, and the gang, ":Enter the mysterious Monks. He is working with Fagin in a plot to destroy Oliver's chances of happiness and discovering his background" (43-44). Like the illustration of this scene that Cruikshank published seventy years earlier, this one depicts a mysterious gentleman and his hideous confederate, Fagin, watching while Oliver dozes over his books. Furniss's notion of having Fagin and his unlikely ally, the gentlemanly but equally sinister Monks, watch the sleeping Oliver derived directly from Dickens’s text and Cruikshank’s illustration of it. The arrival of the shadowy figure of "Monks," the alias of Edward Leeford, transforms the narrative from a Newgate Novel and a potential Bildungsroman to a "lost heir" mystery. At this point in the novel Dickens begins to reveal Fagin's true motives for training the boy to become a thief: Oliver will vanish from middle-class eyes into the murky criminal underworld of East-End London, be incarcerated, transported — executed as a felon — and therefore never realise that he is the legitimate heir of Edwin Leeford.

Furniss replicated this plot development by foregrounding Oliver while having Fagin seem to reach in through the open window, as if to wake the boy. The slender writing desk surmounted by books and an ink-pot, the books on the shelves, and the leaded-pane garden windows, like Oliver's ornate chair and respectable, upper middle-class schoolboy clothing, all embody the affluent lifestyle of the Maylies. Oliver's serene face and hair blond contrast the dark-faced, dark-haired, grim-visaged Monks and Sikes, evil characters who threaten Oliver's future. John O. Jordan notes that, in contrast to white-skinned, blemishless, blond-haired Oliver, both Fagin and Monks are "marked" characters. Whereas Fagin is marked by his red hair, traditional Jewish features, and toasting fork as a Satanic avatar, the gloomy, epileptic Monks bears a the mark of Cain on his throat. Fagin, contends John O. Jordan, "seeks to inscribe a narrative of crime on Oliver's blankness by telling him exciting stories about robbery and giving him the Newgate Calendar to read. In this way he hopes to "blacken" Oliver's soul — perhaps an echo of Dickens' blacking factory experience. Oliver, who appears a tabula rasa unmarked by experience, is often described as having a face of perfect innocence" (181). The Maylies may clothe, feed, and even educate the workhouse boy as if he were an upper-middle-class child — inscribing, as it were, a middle-class identity upon the parish boy, but the gang may yet recapture the boy, erasing his new-found identity and sense of security by dragging him back into their malignant designs.

Above: James Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Oliver's tranquil life at the Maylies', "Fagin!" whispered a voice close to his ear.

In the Household Edition, Mahoney focusses on a much earlier part in the narrative-pictorial sequence. In Chapter 34, in which Dickens re-introduces the "gentleman" with the vicious streak, the illustrator does not realize the highly dramatic moment in which the stranger in the marketplace curses Oliver when the boy goes to the market-town to mail a letter to the Maylies' physician, Mr. Losberne, about Rose's deteriorating health. At The George Inn, where Oliver has just posted the letter, he encounters the peculiar stranger, who swears at him, then inexplicably falls to the ground in the throes of an epileptic seizure, "writhing and foaming" (Household Edition, Ch. 34, 121). Instead, Mahoney introduces the shadowy half-brother at the outset in the novel's frontispiece, The Evidence Destroyed, and then re-introduces him as Fagin's confederate in Chapter 26, in the wood-engraving "Fagin!" whispered a voice close to his ear, at the very mid-point in his 1871 narrative-pictorial sequence. The Mahoney scene is mysterious, even inexplicable, but lacks the dramatic force of the Cruikshank illustration. Furniss chosen Cruikshank's strategy rather than Mahoney's in introducing the Monks subplot. Archly, too, Furniss alludes to the previous idyllic bedside scene in its sinister parallel here, which is the very next illustration.

Either the editor, J. A. Hammerton, or the artist positioned the illustration for Chapter 34 just a few pages prior to the passage realised on 259, so that the reader is left in doubt as to the outcome of their surveillance. That he is a victim caught unawares in some sort of snare carefully laid by Fagin and Monks is implied by the web-like design in Oliver's oversized chair. The sleeping boy, now absorbed into the Maylie household, is surrounded by tomes suggestive of middle-class education (not merely the open books over which Oliver dozes, but the books on the shelves just visible in the darkness behind him), but his unsavoury past has come back to haunt him. The nature of the plot against Oliver will become apparent in Chapter 37, where Mahoney had introduced Monks in league with Bumble, in "Were you looking for me," he said, "when you peered in at the window?", whereas Furniss builds anticipation towards the return of Monks to the narrative-pictorial sequence, and next shows him at another highly dramatic moment, The Evidence Destroyed in Chapter 38. Mahoney's visualisation of Monks' clandestine meeting with Fagin at Saffron Hill past eleven o'clock at night accords well with the gothic figure's surreptitious nature, similarly presented in Mahoney's Household Edition frontispiece. In his signature top-hat and black cloak, plotting behind the scenes against his virtuous younger brother, Cain-like Monks looks and acts like a villain straight out of the contemporary melodrama. From the outset in the first volume of the Household Edition by virtue of the frontispiece, the artist telegraphs that black-cloaked Monks will prove a significant figure in the plot — but in undertaking the Chapman and Hall commission in 1870, Mahoney would have known the entire story, whereas Cruikshank knew only as much as he had read in the monthly instalments up to that point — and as much as Dickens himself was prepared to reveal.

The legitimate heir of Edwin Leeford who plots against his illegitimate half-brother because he covets Oliver's portion of the patrimony — a Cain to Oliver's Abel — is the subject of Sol Eytinge, Junior's character 1867 small-scale character study of the caped Monks. Whereas Mahoney, like Eytinge, was well aware of Monks's importance to the "missing heir" plot, Cruikshank may have had no inkling of there even being such a character as Oliver's evil half-brother until Dickens proposed (as he undoubtedly did) that Cruikshank show Monks in company with Fagin at Oliver's window in the garden at Chertsey. Cruikshank's and Furniss's identifying the villains with the green world may at first strike the reader as odd, but Oliver is inside, part of the constructed, civilised world, and both the gentleman plotter and the criminal fence are outside those bounds. Eytinge shows the melodramatic villain by himself, alienated, brooding, and malevolent, the egocentric child of privilege who considers nobody's welfare but his own. The cape in which the various illustrators clothe him is the outward and visible sign of his attempt to act in secret, so that he consorts with his criminal associates under an assumed identity, and often under the cover of night. The cloak, then, is the outward visible sign of his alias. His manner and speech, however, betray his true background. His association with Fagin in Cruikshank's, Mahoney's, and Furniss's illustrations show that he is prepared to violate the barriers of class and propriety in order to advance his fortunes, evenat the cost of Oliver's life. The Victorian illustrators consistently depict the venomous older brother as "a tall man wrapped in a cloak" (Ch. 34), "his face averted," his height consistently exaggerated by his respectable top-hat. Tellingly, in the text Fagin apparently fears even uttering his name.

Monks and Fagin Watching Oliver Asleep

That the 1910 illustrator gives the black-cloaked figure who travels under an alias amongst the lowest elements of society a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) in Characters in the Story, the ornamental border for the title-page of the volume, suggests that the fin de siecle artist felt that his destruction of the evidence was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text. Furniss, also guided by the author's and original illustrator's choice of scenes for the monthly engravings, introduces Monks in a scene precisely paralleling Cruikshank's in Chapter 34, Monks and the Jew (June 1838) with Monks and Fagin watching Oliver sleep. However, Furniss makes several significant changes in that he designates Fagin by name (rather than as "The Jew" in the 1838 serial illustration) in the caption, and places the emphasis on the figure of Oliver who, though asleep, dominates the scene physically as he dominates Monks's thoughts. The boy, in contrast to plotting visitors like black crows at his window, dozes over his school book's on a summer evening, mistakenly believing himself safe at last and well out of Fagin's diabolical clutches. The surreptitious adults, barely visible as black silhouettes in the background, are more threatening in that they are present but not clearly discernible. The Kyd and Pailthorpe sequences, in contrast to those of Cruikshank, Eytinge, Mahoney, and Furniss neglect the figure of Monks, whose function in the plot the 1910 cigarette card only implies in the following line: Fain is "Baffled in his attempts to lure Oliver Twist into a life of crime" (Card No. 2, verso).

XXII. Marital Trouble Affords Comedy: Mrs. Bumble turns Mr. Bumble Out

Left: George Cruikshank's original serial illustration Mr. Bumble degraded in the eyes of the Paupers (July 1838). Right: Harry Furniss's "Mrs. Bumble turns Mr. Bumble out" (1910).

Context of the Illustrations

"I thought they were talking rather too much to be doing their work properly, my dear," replied Mr. Bumble: glancing distractedly at a couple of old women at the wash-tub, who were comparing notes of admiration at the workhouse-master's humility.

"You thought — they were talking too much?" said Mrs. Bumble. "What business is it of yours?"

"Why, my dear —" urged Mr. Bumble submissively.

"What business is it of yours?" demanded Mrs. Bumble, again.

"It's very true, you're matron here, my dear," submitted Mr. Bumble; "but I thought you mightn't be in the way just then."

"I’ll tell you what, Mr. Bumble," returned his lady. "We don't want any of your interference. You're a great deal too fond of poking your nose into things that don't concern you, making everybody in the house laugh, the moment your back is turned, and making yourself look like a fool every hour in the day.

"Be off; come!"

Mr. Bumble, seeing with excruciating feelings, the delight of the two old paupers, who were tittering together most rapturously, hesitated for an instant. Mrs. Bumble, whose patience brooked no delay, caught up a bowl of soap-suds, and motioning him towards the door, ordered him instantly to depart, on pain of receiving the contents upon his portly person.

What could Mr. Bumble do? He looked dejectedly round, and slunk away; and, as he reached the door, the titterings of the paupers broke into a shrill chuckle of irrepressible delight. It wanted but this. He was degraded in their eyes; he had lost caste and station before the very paupers; he had fallen from all the height and pomp of beadleship, to the lowest depth of the most snubbed hen-peckery. [Chapter 37, "In Which the Reader May Perceive a Contrast Not Uncommon in Matrimonial Cases," 274-75]

Commentary: Neither Loved, Honoured, Nor Obeyed

Cruikshank's illustration shows Mrs. Bumble using the women in the workhouse to get the better of her new husband, who cowers before her, before retreating expeditiously in this marital farce, stage left. Furniss seems to have based his illustration Cruikshank’s. Two months after their marriage, Bumble is chagrined to discover that the former Mrs. Corney won’t follow his commands meekly and that, indeed, he is husband in name only with no power whatsoever over his wife. The scene of the contretemps is the feminine sphere of her workplace, the laundry-room of the parish workhouse, and the amused spectators of the uneven combat are the pauper women who are the Matron's subordinates and supporters. Stripped of parochial authority and now plain "Mr." Bumble, but hardly "Master," he finds himself neither, loved, honoured, nor obeyed by his wife, who has suddenly become self-assertive and even obstinate. Dickens regards the temporary romance of workhouse matron Mrs. Corney and parish beadle Mr. Bumble not merely as ridiculous, but as setting the stage for their nemesis, just as the clandestine affair between the Sowerberrys' maid, Charlotte, and the charity boy apprentice Noah Claypole will shortly develop into mutual torment and antipathy that justly rewards them for their ill-treatment of Oliver. Thus, the scene of Bumble's inevitable humiliation is doubly amusing since it occurs before an audience of workhouse crones, from whose perspective the reader views Bumble's hasty retreat as Mrs. Bumble douses him.

Furniss has made interesting modifications to Cruikshank's illustration. Thus revising the Cruikshank orginal was indeed daring since the 1838 cartoon stands as a triumph of visual satire. The five cartoon-like washerwomen of the original become three disembodied heads in the diaphonous backdrop and two emaciated but fully shown spectators whose perception of their social superiors is, implies Furniss, normative. In the 1838 steel engraving, Cruikshank makes husband and wife in the centre the largest figures and the twin focal points of the comic scene: already Mrs. Bumble is forcing her astonished husband towards the right margin (in which Furniss locates a door), much to amusement of the gaunt laundresses (left). Mr. Bumble’s wife is no longer the demure, tea-drinking matron of Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea, in which her suitor dominated the composition, leaning in rather than, as in this later illustration, turning away; here, in a scene played out before her institutional charges, the matron has grown in size and stature, having exchanged her diminutive teacup for a large saucepan. In her workplace identity, no longer a prim Victorian widow, she fills the scene, becoming a vessel of war (with billowing sail) — a veritable virago. Whereas the tea-drinking scene occurs in the confines of a domestic space defined by the furnishing and bric-a-brac typical of a nineteenth-century parlour, Cruikshank and Furniss present no background details to establish the size or nature of the laundry room in the workhouse, so that the figures of the Bumbles stand out against the vapour and suds which obscure the upper register of both the 1838 and 1910 illustrations.

The expectations of the formerly haughty Bumble regarding the obedience of his wife, the former Mrs. Corney, two months after their marriage are dashed by her face-saving ploy in front of her female charges at the workhouse, for such refuges for the destitute, infirm, and unemployed practiced gender segregation infamously dividing families. (Although the underlying intention of workhouse guardians was simply to prevent procreation among the poor, the vast majority of inmates were elderly and infirm.) The incident is not a mere comeuppance for the beadle in that it marks a shift in his erstwhile alliance with the matron of the workhouse. Retreating from his wife's sphere of influence, which the presence of numerous laundry women defines as an Amazonian space, to the masculine sanctuary of a nearby public house, Bumble is approached by a well-dressed, enigmatic stranger who is looking for information about Oliver's mother. Thus, the contest of wills between the formerly self-confident husband and formerly unassertive wife sets up the scene crucial to the plot that involves Monks and the secret of Oliver's birth in Harry Furniss's sequence.

Furniss revisits the comedic scene so deftly handled by Cruikshank, drawing upon his predecessor's highly theatrical composition. Whereas James Mahoney in the 1871 Household Edition volume has illustrated scenes involving Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble that relate them only to the plot, Furniss indulges in his predecessor's penchant for visual satire, borrowing the costumes, juxtapositions, properties, poses, and expressions of Cruikshank's couple, but he does so in a Baroque manner has altered the perspective so that the pauper women, the delighted audience of the momentary domestic comedy, no longer appear at stage right but downstage, so that Furniss's viewer surveys the routing of former beadle from behind the angular, ill-fed women and their washtubs. As in the earlier illustration, clouds of steam (suggestive of Mrs. Bumble's frothing ill-temper) envelop the upper register, but in Furniss's treatment Bumble is only partially visible as he is already abandoning the field of battle to the fairer sex, even as his wife pours the suds on him. He begins by criticizing female unruliness, buts ends engulfed in soap suds, symbol of domestic labour. Thus, Furniss's energetic realisation completes the action begun in Cruikshank's and expands the role of the female audience, foregrounding the observers and relegating the battling principals to the rear of the arena of conflict, the wash-house.

XXIII. Monks' Destroying the Evidence of Oliver’s Parentage

Left: George Cruikshank's The Evidence Destroyed (August 1838). Right: Harry Furniss's The Evidence Destroyed (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"Look down," said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf. "Don't fear me. I could have let you down, quietly enough, when you were seated over it, if that had been my game."

Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr. Bumble himself, impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same. The turbid water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that yet remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its headlong course.

"If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be to-morrow morning?" said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro in the dark well. [Chapter 38, "Containing an Account of what Passed between Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, and Mr. Monks, at their Nocturnal Interview," 288]

Commentary: The Plot Thickens

Cruikshank's image of the diabolical Monks destroying the scant evidence of Oliver's true origins (including a locket that would confirm the wealthy Edwin Leeford as his father) influenced later artists, such as James Mahoney who created the frontispiece The Evidence Destroyed, in which the Household Edition illustrator foregrounds the issue of Monks' trying to obliterate the evidence of Oliver's being the lost heir:

Above: Mahoney's 1871 frontispiece which erroneously implies that of Monks will prove triumphant in his quest to obliterate Oliver's true identity, The Evidence Destroyed (1871).

Furniss, who folows both Cruikshank and Mahoney, heightens its drama by the sharpened contrast of the black-and-white shading, the terror on the faces of the Bumbles, and the emphatic gesture of Monks, whose facial expression the viewer cannot apprehend. That Harry Furniss gave the figure of Monks holding the lantern a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) on the title-page suggests that Furniss believed this was a pivotal moment in the narrative.

The destruction of the objects associated with Oliver's birth that might confirm his identity as the illegitimate son but still heir of Edwin Leeford might suggest that the powers of evil have triumphed. The conventional aristocratic villain of melodrama, Edward Leeford (alias "Monks"), having suborned the Bumbles, discards the evidence irretrievably, seemingly guaranteeing Oliver's obscurity. Oliver's evil twin, as naturally bad (although legitimate) as Oliver is naturally good, is "consumed with a desire to corrupt and destroy his brother" (McMaster 185). To underscore this binary difference in the half-brothers, the illustrators consistently depict Monks clothed from head to foot in black and usually show him operating in darkness, whereas they consistently characterise Oliver as pale-faced and blond-haired. Monks, who is apparently not content with his own share of the estate, wants the entire inheritance. To secure it he must make sure that Oliver becomes a criminal, since, according to the peculiar terms of his father's will, one cannot inherit part of the estate. Whereas one might argue that Fagin's evil is a defense against poverty and social exclusion, Monks's evil is evidence of his complete corruption: he has not been forced by economic and social forces beyond his control into being and doing evil. Ironically, the very badge of his respectable, upper-middle-class status — his dark suit, cape, and top-hat — in the Mahoney and Furniss illustrations becomes the signifier of his "apartness," his alienation from the genuinely Christian morality of Mr. Brownlow and the Maylies, Samaritans who show compassion for the orphan child and believe in his innate goodness. His very name is suggestive of his literary origins as the perverted protagonist of the best-selling Gothic novel Ambrosio; or, The Monk, A Romance (1796) by Matthew Gregory Lewis.

XXIV. Nancy in hysterics

Left: George Cruikshank's Mr. Fagin and his pupils recovering Nancy (October 1838). Right: Harry Furniss's Nancy in hysterics (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"What's the matter here, my dear?" said Fagin, looking in.

"Lend a hand to the girl, can't you?" replied Sikes impatiently. "Don't stand chattering and grinning at me!"

With an exclamation of surprise, Fagin hastened to the girl's assistance, while Mr. John Dawkins (otherwise the Artful Dodger), who had followed his venerable friend into the room, hastily deposited on the floor a bundle with which he was laden; and snatching a bottle from the grasp of Master Charles Bates who came close at his heels, uncorked it in a twinkling with his teeth, and poured a portion of its contents down the patient's throat: previously taking a taste, himself, to prevent mistakes.

"Give her a whiff of fresh air with the bellows, Charley," said Mr. Dawkins; "and you slap her hands, Fagin, while Bill undoes the petticuts." [Chapter Thirty-Nine, "Introduces Some Respectable Characters with whom the Reader is already Acquainted, and Shows How Monks and the Jew Laid Their Worthy Heads Together," 291-92]

Commentary: Nancy Collapses under the Stress of Looking after Sikes

Things have not gone well for Sikes and Nancy since the abortive robbery at Chertsey, and the pair on the "lamb" in a shabby apartment not far from Sikes's former East End home, which he has had to abandon for fear that the Bow Street Runners might arrest him for the attempted robbery since he has been clearly identified as the principal participant in the botched robbery at Chertsey. In the meantime, Fagin's diabolical confederate, Edward Leeford (alias, "Monks"), has located and destroyed the objects which might have established Oliver as an heir to the estate of the late Edwin Leeford, his father. In the Furniss scene, it is now early evening in the "mean and badly furnished apartment" (290), and, just as Nancy descends into hysterics as a result of the stress of having to nurse Sikes through the fever for weeks with nothing but remonstrations and blows for recompense, Fagin, Charley, and The Artful Dodger happen by.

In Cruikshank’s depiction of Nancy’s collapse, the crew attempt revive a woman who has become a very different person from the person who shown in Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends and Furniss's Oliver Trapped by Nancy and Sikes. The first major difference in depicting this moment by the novel's first illustrator and the early twentieth-century illustrator lies in the image's basic format: Cruikshank creates a vertical image with rounded corners, two of which are thrown into darkness, while Furniss works with a brightly lit horizontal image. Both artists depict five people plus Sikes's dog. However, whereas Cruikshank has Sikes support the fainting woman as Fagin looks on from the left, Furniss places a Neanderthalthtal-like Sikes at the left as a passive observer while Fagin stands behind Nancy (it is not exactly clear who or what is supporting her).

The Change in Representations of Nancy from Cruikshank to Furniss and Beyond

The plate upon which Furniss based the scene of Fagin, Nancy, Sikes, and the gang by Cruikshank signalled a turning point in the plot as Nancy shortly, having been mistreated by Sikes after nursing him through a fever over the weeks after the robbery, overhears Fagin and Monks plotting against Oliver. She then determines to approach Rose Maylie with the story of Monks's behind-the-scenes manipulations of Oliver's fortunes. In this second August 1838 illustration, Fagin and his chief juvenile collaborators, Charley Bates and Jack Dawkins, arrive at Sikes's "crib" just in time to assist the down-and-out Bill Sikes in recovering Nancy from an hysterical fit.

Although Cruikshank and Furniss focus on Nancy's "hysterics" and the gang's attempting to cure her of them, the other illustrators have dealt instead with the deplorable physical and mental state into which Sikes and his common-law wife have fallen since the botched robbery. In contrast to the original scene of the hysterical Nancy, as well as in the 1846 Chapman and Hall wrapper vignettes at the top, Furniss's is more natural, and his interpretation of Nancy is somewhat different from Cruikshank's fat, slatternly Nancy, in part because he had the benefit of having read the entire text before beginning the illustrations for the Charles Dickens Library Edition of 1910. Furniss has created a Nancy here who corresponds to Dickens's developing Nancy as the attractive, young harlot with the heart of gold whose tender concern for the persecuted child undermines Monks's carefully laid plot. This comic illustration, which follows Dickens's strategy of alternating comic and serious scenes in a melodramatic plot in the manner of "streaky" bacon, also serves to heighten suspense: Nancy's easily falling into hysterics makes one wonder whether she will be equal to the task of holding her emotions in check around Sikes and then slipping away undetected for the fateful meeting with Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie beneath London Bridge.

As William T. Lankford has noted, from this point onward the action abandons Oliver, now comfortably situated in the upper-middle class as the ward of the affluent Maylies, and focuses on Sikes and Nancy:

Oliver has entirely ceased to be the parish boy and remains safe with his patrons from this point on; the novel's thematic concern with with the impact of social injustice on the poor and homeless is now buried beneath the surface development of the plot. Continuity is no longer supplied by Oliver's movement, but by Nancy, who becomes central to the thematic development; Rose and Sikes contest her loyalty, as earlier Fagin and Brownlow competed for control of Oliver. And while the sustained comparison of Nancy and Rose reinforces the original thematic conflict of nature and experience, the supporting pattern of analogy between their social classes narrows to the two girls alone. [90]

Left: Cruikshank's "cancelled plate," Oliver and His Family — The Fireside Plate. Right: Cruikshank's revised version, Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate. [Click on these images to enlarge them.]

Thus, for example, in the original serial illustrations, Oliver now disappears, only to re-emerge in the so-called "cancelled illustration" — Oliver and His Family — and the plate which Dickens requested to replace it, Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate. In the 1871 Household Edition Mahoney likewise shifts the reader's attention from the fortunes of Oliver to the doomed relationship between Nancy and Sikes.

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Bill Sikes and Nancy (1867). Middle: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver Twist (1888). Right: Kyd's original watercolour study Nancy.

In the first half of the 1871 edition of the novel, Oliver appears in eight of the Mahoney wood-engravings, but in only two in the second half, and in none towards the end, when Mahoney focuses on Fagin, Sikes, and Nancy. Conversely, Nancy, a minor figure in the first half of the novel as illustrated by Cruikshank and Mahoney, becomes significant in the second half of the Household Edition: Nancy appears three times towards the end, and her common-law husband in as many. In Frederic W. Pailthorpe's 1886 series of twenty-one engravings — notably in "Has it long gone the half-hour?" (the scene in which Nancy hastens to her rendezvous with Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow on the steps of London Bridge, fearful that Sikes or anothergang member may be following her) Nancy is a significant figure: she appears as Sikes's victim in A foul deed, no longer a slattern as in Cruikshank, but an attractive, respectably dressed young woman.

Charles Pears' pencil study, Nancy.

Charles Pears created undoubtedly the most appealing portrait of Nancy with his image of her in the Waverley Edition: the vulnerable maiden appears haunted by the shadow of Bill Sikes in the tense portrait, Nancy. This sympathetic characterisation, which amounts to a reassessment of her character, portrays her as a blameless victim and is consistent with the Nancy whom we see in the final illustrations in Furniss's sequence. Whereas Furniss depicts her just twice in the first half of his set of illustrations (both with Sikes), in the second half she occurs four times, and most conspicuously as a corpse in the centre of the bottom register of Characters in the Story. This scene in Chapter 39, which the novel's principal illustrators have realised in various ways, marks a shift the reader's understanding of Nancy. Formerly, she was a slattern and the willing accomplice of a street thug, the principal agent in the gang's recovering Oliver. She was apparently tough-minded and wholly without sympathy for the child. Now, even though still fiercely loyal to Sikes, she is a victim of his brutality despite having nursed him though a fever over the course of three weeks. Shortly, in order to expose Monks's plot, she will turn informant, and have the life beaten out of her. Thus, the illustrators graph the moral progress of Nancy, woman of the East End streets and ultimately the redeemed prostitute with a heart of gold whose murder turns the whole metropolis against Sikes, and leads directly to his sensational death on Jacobs Island.

Nancy from the original 1837-38 serial publication and later editions

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Nancy ministering to Sikes, whom she has just drugged, Then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed the robber's lips.

XXV. Nancy and Rose

Left: Pears's Nancy (1912). Right: Furniss's Nancy and Rose (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"Your having interfered in this dear boy's behalf before," said Rose; "your coming here, at so great a risk, to tell me what you have heard; your manner, which convinces me of the truth of what you say; your evident contrition, and sense of shame; all lead me to believe that you might yet be reclaimed. Oh!" said the earnest girl, folding her hands as the tears coursed down her face, "do not turn a deaf ear to the entreaties of one of your own sex; the first — the first, I do believe, who ever appealed to you in the voice of pity and compassion. Do hear my words, and let me save you yet, for better things."

"Lady," cried the girl, sinking on her knees, "dear, sweet, angel lady, you are the first that ever blessed me with such words as these, and if I had heard them years ago, they might have turned me from a life of sin and sorrow; but it is too late, it is too late!"

"It is never too late," said Rose, "for penitence and atonement."

"It is," cried the girl, writhing in agony of her mind; "I cannot leave him now! I could not be his death." [Chapter 40, "A Strange Interview, which is a Sequel to the Last Chapter," 308]

Commentary: Dickens’s Theory of Melodrama and Nancy’s Moral Growth

Harry Furniss follows up the change in Nancy's character by depicting the emotional interview between the virtuous, upper-middle-class Rose and the girl of the streets. Treated with compassion, Nancy breaks down as she reports the Monks-Fagin plot against Oliver. The way Furniss constructs the scene in a way consistent with Dickens's own ideas about melodrama. Earlier in the novel, Dickens stipulates that an effective melodrama requires an alternation of dark, serious and lighter, comic scenes. Conversely, Cruikshank in the periodical sequence follows up the comic scene of Nancy's "hysterics" with yet another comic interlude, The Jew & Morris Both begin to understand each other, in which the devious Noah, having absconded with the contents of the Sowerberrys' shop till — and their maid, Charlotte — follows the Great North Road to London and falls in with Fagin. The master criminal just happens to be looking for a new associate utterly unknown to Nancy so that he can have her watched and followed. Furniss, on the other hand, follows up the comic scene of Nancy, Bill Sikes, and the gang with a highly emotional scene, as is consistent with Dickens's theory of "streaky bacon" scene construction:

It is the custom on the stage, in all good murderous melodramas, to present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky well-cured bacon. The hero sinks upon his straw bed, weighed down by fetters and misfortunes; in the next scene, his faithful but unconscious squire regales the audience with a comic song. [Ch. 17, p. 120 in the 1910 edition]

In Furniss's sequence, the serious scene follows the comic interlude; however, both comic and serious illustrations signal the change in Nancy's character that is necessary to advance the plot of her informing on Fagin and Monks, and of her subsequently being murdered by Sikes (at Fagin's instigation) as a police informant, which in fact, as the Furniss scene underscores, she is not. Other illustrators have shown Nancy's moral growth in less emotional scenes. For example, James Mahoney created a scene in which Nancy tends Sikes, even as she drugs him, Then, stooping softly over the bed, she kissed the robber's lips (see below). Mahoney's treatment of the scene does not make clear, however, that Nancy has, in fact, drugged Sikes to ensure that she can keep her appointment with Rose Maylie at her West End hotel without fear of being followed or interrogated afterwards — an anxious journey that F. W. Pailthorpe describes in his 1886 hand-tinted engraving "Has it long gone the half-hour?", which provides a much more sympathetic Nancy, fearful that she is being trailed by the gang. However, the Mahoney illustration does underscore the anomaly in Nancy's character, expressed in the text accompanying Furniss's, that Nancy believes she can remain true to Sikes even as she seeks to defend Oliver.

In Furniss's illustration, Rose seems shocked at Nancy's breaking down as she grapples with a powerful ethical conflict, namely how to remain true to her brute of a husband while defending Oliver and ensuring the downfall of "Monks" by informing Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie of the plot to drag the boy into the criminal underworld. Thus ennobled by her intent, Nancy speaks the emotionally heightened, grammatically correct language of melodrama rather than the dialect of the streets. Furniss lends her a convincing, entreating, contrite, and even desperate posture as shehides her tearful face from a respectably dressed woman of about her own age. Furniss has lightly sketched in the background to make the contrasting figures stand out: Rose, of the affluent suburbs, stands, but must support herself on a chair, as she looks down in pity and sympathy upon this wayward but reformed young man of the criminal classes. The hotel room bespeaks tasteful and leisured living, with padded furniture, draperies, a painting, bric-a-brac on the mantle, and a fireplace screen. The inward, pained look on Rose's face may well reflect her own inner turmoil as the mystery surrounding her birth has led her to reject her adopted brother, Harry, as a suitor since such a questionablealliance would likely damage his political career. The gulf between herself at seventeen and Nancy (apparently of much the same age) may not be so great, after all, she may be considering, despite their most obvious difference, that of dress, the signifier of their respective classes.

XXVI. Fagin and Noah Claypole

Left:George Cruikshank's Fagin and Noah understand each other (November 1838). Right: Harry Furniss's The Jew & Morris Both begin to understand each other (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"A pleasant night, sir, but cool for the time of year," said Fagin, rubbing his hands. "From the country, I see, sir?"

How do yer see that?" asked Noah Claypole.

"We have not so much dust as that in London," replied Fagin, pointing from Noah's shoes to those of his companion, and from them to the two bundles.

"Yer a sharp feller," said Noah. "Ha! ha! only hear that, Charlotte!"

"Why, one need be sharp in this town, my dear," replied the Jew, sinking his voice to a confidential whisper; "and that's the truth."

Fagin followed up this remark by striking the side of his nose with his right forefinger, — a gesture which Noah attempted to imitate, though not with complete success, in consequence of his own nose not being large enough for the purpose. However, Mr. Fagin seemed to interpret the endeavour as expressing a perfect coincidence with his opinion, and put about the liquor which Barney reappeared with, in a very friendly manner. [Chapter 42, "An old Acquaintance of Oliver's, exhibiting decided marks of Genius, becomes a public Character in the Metropolis," 241]


Although a relatively minor character in Dickens's text, Noah’s distinctive drawl ('yer") renders him instantly recognizable, and as Cruikshank has given him a unique form (long, thin legs and a head like a globe with a fringe of hair obscuring his forehead) that renders him unmistakable in his four appearances, three of which are with Charlotte, the vacuous housemaid infatuated with his irreverent personality. However, in Furniss's version Charlotte seems much more alert and much more astutely following the conversation than her drunken companion.

In the original serial illustrations, Oliver now disappears, only to re-emerge in the so-called "cancelled illustration" — Oliver and His Family — The Fireside Plate — and the plate which Dickens requested to replace it, Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate. In the Household Edition, Mahoney> does not create illustrations of the meeting of the runaways and the master criminal, although he does show the arrival of Noah and Clarlotte on the outskirts of London.

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of the runaways from Mudfog, approaching the outskirts of London, Look there! Those are the lights of London.".

Instead, he shifts the reader's attention momentarily from the doomed relationship between Nancy and Sikes to the Dodger's being sentenced to transportation. In Chapter 43, Claypole, a new hire in the gang and therefore unknown to the police (disguised as a countryman in a linen smock-frock and holding a carter's whip) observes the proceedings on behalf of Fagin. In contrast, Pailthorpe skips the scene in which Nancy rendezvous with Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow at London Bridge, moving directly to Sikes's grisly crime in A Foul Deed.

The Furniss lithograph, which reworks Cruikshank’s The Jew & Morris Both begin to understand each other, depicts another fateful meeting, that of Oliver's old nemesis, the spindly-legged Noah (who has robbed Sowerberry's till and fled to London with the Sowerberrys' maid, Charlotte) and Fagin, who has made his temporary headquarters at the disreputable public house known as The Three Cripples. Cruikshank depicted the moment when Noah believes he has met a kindred spirit, a knowing denizen of the metropolis — just prior to Noah's becoming highly apprehensive when by chance Fagin asserts that making drinking such a beverage will require augmenting one's income by such illegal expedients as robbing the master's till. Furniss's Fagin, in contrast, by his quizzical look implies that he recognizes Noah, already disguised in a carter's smock-frock, as a cowardly braggart and a pompous fool, whose proclivities have only been exaggerated by the contents of the enormous tankard beside him in Chapter 42.

Left: Eytinge's Noah and Charlotte (1867). Centre: Pailthorpe's The Noah running for Mr. Bumble/span> (1886). Right: Kyd's original watercolour study Noah Claypole (c. 1900).

Furniss's characterisation of Noah differs from other illustrators' interpretations: although his Noah has the comic, spindly legs that are a consequence of his poor diet growing up, his hat hides the hairstyle given him by Cruikshank, and the thick neck seems odd — the emphasized, pointed red nose is, one presumes, a cue to his alcoholism. He is, indeed, as in the Kerslake and Robson Edition of 1886, illustrated by Pailthorpe, namely Noah running for Mr. Bumble. Already, he has abandoned his yellow smalls as he has abandoned his former identity to become "Morris Bolter" (as Fagin has nicknamed him, a pseudonym that implies Noah's being an apprentice who has "run off" from his master Mudfog) in an oversized linen smock-frock that exaggerates his girth.

XXVII. The Artful Dodger before the Magistrates

Left: James Mahoney's 1871 engraving of the Dodger's trial, "What is this?" inquired one of the magistrates. — "A pick-pocketing case, Your Worship". Right: Furniss's The Artful Dodger before the Magistrates (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"Now then, where are the witnesses?" said the clerk.

"Ah! that's right," added the Dodger. "Where are they? I should like to see 'em."

This wish was immediately gratified, for a policeman stepped forward who had seen the prisoner attempt the pocket of an unknown gentleman in a crowd, and indeed take a handkerchief therefrom, which, being a very old one, he deliberately put back again, after trying it on his own countenance. For this reason, he took the Dodger into custody as soon as he could get near him, and the said Dodger, being searched, had upon his person a silver snuff-box, with the owner's name engraved upon the lid. This gentleman had been discovered on reference to the Court Guide, and being then and there present, swore that the snuff-box was his, and that he had missed it on the previous day, the moment he had disengaged himself from the crowd before referred to. He had also remarked a young gentleman in the throng, particularly active in making his way about, and that young gentleman was the prisoner before him.

"Have you anything to ask this witness, boy?" said the magistrate.

"I wouldn't abase myself by descending to hold no conversation with him," replied the Dodger. . . .

"I beg your pardon," said the Dodger, looking up with an air of abstraction. "Did you redress yourself to me, my man?"

"I never see such an out-and-out young wagabond, your worship," observed the officer with a grin. "Do you mean to say anything, you young shaver?" [Chapter 43, "Wherein is shown how the Artful Dodger got into trouble," 337-38]

Commentary: The Artful Dodger and His Fate in Illustrations of Oliver Twist

George Cruikshank did not focus on the Dodger's being sentenced to transportion for petty theft; rather, Furniss's model was apparently the Mahoney courtroom scene in the first volume of the Household Edition, (see above). However, Furniss's Dodger is no diminutive, chirpy Cockney street-child in Chapter 43, but a suave, fashionably dressed young adult.

Furniss's pickpocket, like Mahoney's in the 1871 Household Edition, casually challenges the authority of the magistrate's court; in the text, Noah Claypole, Fagin's new hire in the gang and therefore unknown to the police (disguised as a countryman in a linen smock-frock and holding a carter's whip in the Household Edition wood-engraving) observes the proceedings on behalf of Fagin. He does not, however, appear among the eleven observers of the scene in the Furniss illustration, which focuses on the Dodger by lightly sketching in the background characters, including the court-recorder and the magistrates in their beaver hats. Dickens and Cruikshank had elected to focus the reader's attention instead on the scene in which Fagin enlists the assistance of the fatuous Noah, recently fled to London with the Sowerberrys' maid, Charlotte. This is the beginning of the final sequence of events which include the murder of Nancy and the unmasking of Monks, and yet it is not Furniss's final comic illustration. This scene, however, does mark the departure of that unique Cockney voice from the text when the Artful Dodger is sentenced to transportation Down Under.

Furniss sets up the composition strategically with the youthful, witty, self-confident petty thief (rather more nattily dressed than in other illustrators' conceptions) dominating the plate by virtue of the strong, diagonal lines of his figure and his central position, with the heads of nine old men (both bystanders and court officials), Furniss does not clearly establish the perspective as that of Noah Claypole. Bayed about by old heads representative of the establishment, some affronted and some smirking, the Dodger, hand in trouser pocket and smile fearlessly directed towards the uniformed officer (left), is not cowed by the authorities who now judge him. But his clothes fit too smartly, and he is hardly the disreputable figure that one sees in other programs of illustration for the novel. Whereas the 1871 wood-engraving by Mahoney focuses on the earlier part of the hearing, Furniss realises the latter part of the trial, in which the prisoner has the opportunity to question the witness regarding his testimony about the theft of the snuff-box. At this point, that The Artful Dodger will shortly become a transported felon, like Magwitch in Great Expectations (1861), is a foregone conclusion.

Both Eytinge and Spy create images of the kind of dapper young man that Mahoney and Furniss depict, but Spy also draws two rather ragged, rumpled Artful Dodger while Pailthorpe shows him disguise sitting upon steps while spying on Oliver.

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates (1867). Right: Frederic W. Pailthorpe's realisation of the introduction of the Dodger into the narrative-pictorial sequence, "Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" (1886).

Left: Clayton J. Clarke's Player's Cigarette card image, The Artful Dodger (1910). Centre: Kyd's The Artful Dodger. Right: Kyd's third, hand-painted realisation of the chipper thief, the little-known The Artful Dodger (1900).

XXVIII. The Meeting under London Bridge

Left: Cruikshank's The Meeting (December 1838). Right: Furniss's The Meeting under London Bridge (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"You put yourself beyond its pale," said the gentleman. "The past has been a dreary waste with you, of youthful energies mis-spent, and such priceless treasures lavished, as the Creator bestows but once and never grants again, but, for the future, you may hope. I do not say that it is in our power to offer you peace of heart and mind, for that must come as you seek it; but a quiet asylum, either in England, or, if you fear to remain here, in some foreign country, it is not only within the compass of our ability but our most anxious wish to secure you. Before the dawn of morning, before this river wakes to the first glimpse of day-light, you shall be placed as entirely beyond the reach of your former associates, and leave as utter an absence of all trace behind you, as if you were to disappear from the earth this moment. Come! I would not have you go back to exchange one word with any old companion, or take one look at any old haunt, or breathe the very air which is pestilence and death to you. Quit them all, while there is time and opportunity!" . . .

"No sir, I do not," replied the girl, after a short struggle. "I am chained to my old life. I loathe and hate it now, but I cannot leave it. I must have gone too far to turn back, — and yet I don’t know, for if you had spoken to me so, some time ago, I should have laughed it off. But," she said, looking hastily round, "this fear comes over me again. I must go home." . . .

"What," cried the young lady, "can be the end of this poor creature’s life!"

"What!" repeated the girl. "Look before you, lady. Look at that dark water. How many times do you read of such as I who spring into the tide, and leave no living thing, to care for, or bewail them. It may be years hence, or it may be only months, but I shall come to that at last." [Chapter 46, "The Appointment Kept," 357-58]

The Clandestine Meeting in Illustrations and Dramatic Adaptations

Cruikshank provided a dramatic scene in which Noah Claypole, Fagin's agent, overhears some of the clandestine conversation between Nancy, Mr. Brownlow, and Rose Maylie about Monks' plotting against Oliver. Furniss's impressionistic revision of Cruikshank’s engraving places Noah behind rather than in front of the figures under New London Bridge. To heighten the suspense of the secret rendezvous, the 1868 stage adaptation at the Lyceum substituted Bill Sikes and Fagin for Noah in this critical scene, which served as the basis for the theatre's promotional poster, which alludes to Franklin Dyall as Sikes, and Mary Merrall as Nancy, implying that Nancy's murder rather than the death of Sikes and the arrest of Fagin is the adaptation's climax. The new, wider bridge designed by John Rennie to accommodate increased traffic was itself torn down in 1968. (New London Bridge, carefully reproduced in the stage set as the poster, is now thousands of miles from England as "Nancy's Steps" from the Surrey side, like the rest of the bridge since 1973 been in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, transported and reassembled stone by stone.)

In the celebrated 1838 illustration, Cruikshank depicts the moment when, having tracked Nancy across the East End, Noah overhears Sikes's mistress disclosing the plans laid by Fagin and Monks to ensure that Oliver will never come into his inheritance. In Furniss's sequence this serious scene follows the comic interlude in which, again with Noah as witness to the proceedings, the Artful Dodger is arraigned for petty larceny in the Magistrate's court. In 1871 Mahoney had taken a different approach by showing a disguised Noah shadowing Nancy across London Bridge rather than actually overhearing the conversation on the stairs.

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Noah's trailing Nancy to New London Bridge, fitfully lit by gas lamps, "When she was about the same distance in advance as she had been before, he slipped quietly down.".

Thus, Mahoney builds suspense by positioning the spying Noah in the foreground and Nancy in the distance, thereby avoiding the scene already realized by Cruikshank. In Furniss's illustration, the caption points to a later moment in the interview when,fearing detection, Nancy determines to return to the brutal burglar who frequently abuses her. Again, Rose is shocked at Nancy's predicament, but Mr. Brownlow tries to make the privileged young woman from the suburbs understand that Nancy as a girl of streets has few options. Thus, the caption in Furniss's illustration points towards Nancy's terrible fate at the hands of Bill Sikes, and even foreshadows the destruction of the entire gang. Here, a curious Noah peers around a pillar on the river side (rear) to observe the meeting, the illustrator signalling Nancy's agitation by depicting her dress almost in motion, while Rose's dress is perfectly still. Goggle-eyed, Noah carries the carter's whip that Mahoney gave him in the 1871 illustration. The arches of the bridge now dominate the scene, and one has little sense of the landing-stairs as Furniss has moved in, as it were, for a closeup. Rose remonstrates with Nancy, perhaps naively hoping that she can persuade the girl not to return to Sikes; Nancy, clearly alarmed, gathers her shawl about her and turns, as if making for the stairs.

Dickens had specified in detail the setting for the clandestine meeting — "The steps to which the girl had pointed, were those which, on the Surrey bank, and on the same side of the bridge as Saint Saviour's Church, form a landing-stairs from the river — and even alludes to an architectural element in the new bridge's design as Noah, eavesdropping, has "his back to the pilaster." In contrast, Cruikshank's depiction includes nothing in particular that would suggest New London Bridge. Furniss subtly includes the unicorn boss. This new structure, built in 1831 and inaugurated with much fanfare on 1 August of that year, replaced a 600-year-old medieval structure (dating from 1209) that was literally "falling down." Since the new bridge would have been familiar to Dickens's original serial readers, this setting brought the story into the lives of the book's readers, making the subsequent events (the murder of Nancy, the pursuit of Sikes, and the execution of Fagin) insistently real. This scene provides one of those magic points in the narrative when the fabular city of ballad, the modern Babylon and Dick Whittington's metropolis of opportunity, becomes the actual City of London in the 1830s, and the story a documentary of the criminal underworld at the reader's doorstep: As Michael Slater points out, “The London in which the action takes place is both the actual city of the 1830s — with all the respectable areas left out — and a dark and sinister labyrinth perpetually shrouded in night. The way Dickens describes Oliver's nocturnal entry into the city, escorted by the Artful Dodger, exemplifies this perfectly” (56):

They crossed from the Angel into St. John's Road; struck down the small street which terminates at Sadler's Wells Theatre; through Exmouth Street and Coppice Row; down the little court by the side of the workhouse; across the classic ground which once bore the name of Hockley-in-the-Hole; thence into Little Saffron Hill; and so into Saffron Hill the Great: along which the Dodger scudded at a rapid pace, directing Oliver to follow close at his heels. [Chapter 8]

This sentence creates the feeling “of the hapless Oliver's being drawn deeper and deeper into a dangerous maze” (56). Nonetheless, the specificity of Dickens's description of "The Meeting" in Chapter 46 reminds the thoughtful reader that this is not the historical city of Sir Walter Scott's Jeanie Deans in The Heart of Midlothian (1818) or of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749), the destination at the end of the Great North Road in pre-nineteenth-century picaresque fiction, but the real London of the present, a city whose vice and crime and grinding poverty the thoughtful reader cannot dismiss as the mere fiction of an imaginative, moralising journalist and social activist.

XXIX. Nancy’s Murder in Illustrations of Oliver Twist

Left: Pailtorpe's A Foul Deed (1886). Right: Furniss's The Death of Nancy (1910).

Passage Illustrated

The housebreaker freed one arm, and grasped his pistol. The certainty of immediate detection if he fired, flashed across his mind even in the midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all the force he could summon, upon the upturned face that almost touched his own.

She staggered and fell: nearly blinded with the blood that rained down from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising herself, with difficulty, on her knees, drew from her bosom a white handkerchief — Rose Maylie's own — and holding it up, in her folded hands, as high towards Heaven as her feeble strength would allow, breathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.

It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down. [Chapter 47, "Fatal Consequences," 364-65.]

Since George Cruikshank omitted the the murder of Nancy, Harry Furniss's model was apparently the James Mahoney dark plate for Chapter 48 in the Household Edition, He moved, backwards, towards the door: dragging the dog with him.

However, whereas Mahoney merely darkened the crime scene, depicting Sikes's departure, Furniss has blacked out the room, focussing on Sikes's deadly club and the white handkerchief that Nancy, already struck down, holds aloft as a signifier of her innocence. Perhaps Cruikshank omitted such a grisly scene because he believed it would have been far too gruesome for family reading, but he does show the deed's effects on the killer in Sikes attempting to destroy his dog (see below) and The Last Chance, illustrations which had both already appeared in the final volume of Richard Bentley's triple-decker in November 1838. The readers of theHousehold Edition find an illustration that anticipates both the murder and its aftermath, in Chapter 47, "Fatal Consequences," before the quarrel between the common-law spouses even erupts.

The reader sees Nancy's body in the foreground while Sikes and Bull's-Eye exit to the rear in the Mahoney dark plate. The Furniss illustration has engulfed the room in darkness. Nancy raises the handkerchief recently given her by Rose Maylie, a suggestion of Desdemona's handkerchief in the murder scene in Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Othello.The same shaft of light that reveals the handkerchief descends hand and the club in his right. Thus, Furniss in this highly atmospheric dark plate conveys the writer's horror at the brutality and injustice of Nancy's murder, the direct result of an awakening conscience attempting to protect Oliver from Monks's evil designs. The technique itself is Furniss's homage to another early Dickens illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne who pioneered the style in Bleak House: "Both in combination with and transcending this model the illustrator employs the dark plate technique to convey graphically what is for the Dickens novels a new intensity of darkness" (Steig, Chapter 6, 131).

Furniss’s dark plate does leave readers puzzled, so that they must piece together the murder scene largely from the novel’s text. The lithograph offers a second dark plate of the scene made famous by Dickens's thrilling reading of it in Britain and America, the first being the 1871 Household Edition illustration by Mahoney, who builds up a very different sort of suspense by focussing not on the grisly deed but on its immediate consequences. Accepting the inevitability of Nancy's death as soon as they encounter the illustration, situated in Chapter 47, readers likely would wonder how Sikes will elude detection, and whether authorities will recognise that Sikes committed the murder at Fagin's instigation. Mahoney leaves the reader to imagine the violent scene that has resulted in the contorted body lying in a pool of light on the floor.

Left: Cruikshank’s Sikes attempting to destroy his dog. (January 1839). Middle: Cruikshank’s The Last Chance (February 1839). Right: J. Clayton Clarke's Bill Sikes.

Cruikshank shows the psychological impact of the murder on Sikes. However, like Mahoney, Furniss illustrates the actual murder, placing the viewer at the very scene only moments after the commission of the crime as Sikes exits the room with his dog. Several later illustrators have depicted Sikes as a throwback to the Neanderthal, with a club for a weapon, although in fact he uses the butt of his pistol upon the woman who but recently has tended him through an illness after the abortive Chertsey robbery. The Pailthorpe illustration is somewhat misleading, having already struck Nancy once, Sikes raises his club for the death-blow. Likewise, J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd") in his watercolour study of Sikes shows a grim-faced killer and an overturned chair suggesting that he is about to attack Nancy or already has.

Pailthorpe’s illustration of the murder is somewhat misleading in this respect as, having already struck Nancy once, Sikes raises his club for the death-blow. Likewise, Kyd in his watercolour study of Sikes shows a grim-faced killer and an overturned chair suggesting that he is about to attack Nancy or already has.

XXX. Bill Sikes’s Guilt and Attempt to Flee

Left: Pailtorpe's The antic fellowand Sikes (1886). Right: Furniss's “Gentlemen all, observe the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat” (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"This," said the fellow, producing one, "this is the infallible and invaluable composition for removing all sorts of stain, rust, dirt, mildew, spick, speck, spot, or spatter, from silk, satin, linen, cambric, cloth, crape, stuff, carpet, merino, muslin, bombazeen, or woollen stuff. Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains, pitch-stains, any stains, all come out at one rub with the infallible and invaluable composition. If a lady stains her honour, she has only need to swallow one cake and she’s cured at once — for it's poison. If a gentleman wants to prove this, he has only need to bolt one little square, and he has put it beyond question — for it's quite as satisfactory as a pistol-bullet, and a great deal nastier in the flavour, consequently the more credit in taking it. One penny a square. With all these virtues, one penny a square!"

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 ——" [Chapter 48, "The Flight of Sikes," 368-69]

Commentary: A Comic Interlude intensifies the Suspense

Both the illustrations by Pailthorpe and Furniss depict Sikes, having fled from London, being startled in the taproom at The Eight Bells, Hatfield, by "an antic fellow, half pedlar and half mountebank" (368) — a travelling salesman who wants to demonstrate the efficacy of his patent product by removing an obvious stain from Sikes's hat. In composing this wholly new illustration to complement the flight of the murderer from London, both Pailthorpe and Furniss reject Cruikshank’s Sikes attempting to destroy his dog, a rather static, undramatic illustration that does not effectively reveal the killer's deeply disturbed psychological state following Nancy's murder.

Although depicting Sikes in the public house at Hatfield seems a logical way of suggesting Sikes's unease after the murder, no previous illustrator had attempted this scene. A relatively minor character, the mountebank, in daring to snatch the stained hat from the housebreaker's head, becomes a significant catalyst for the killer's becoming more and more certain that "murder will out." The tension is between the two urbanites, the salesman who dominates the image delivering his fast-paced pitch for the product in his hand and the homicidal housebreaker, depicted as heavy of body with the skull and features of a Neanderthal.

Having brutally murdered Nancy because he mistakenly believes she has betrayed the gang, Sikes now escapes northward. While in the little village of Hatfield, near the great house built by Sir Robert Cecil in 1611 (replacing the late fifteenth-century 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. Moreover, the 1835 fire enables Dickens to have the fictional Sikes enter an historical event recollected by many of his original readers, lending the story the aura of a documentary, even down to the costumes of the village chorus and signs advertising ale and cider in this picture.

Here, the fugitive Sikes, having rushed out of the inn, overhears passengers just alighted from a London coach outside the local post-office 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. Shortly, 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 offers three illustrations depicting the sensational events in the final days of the Hogarthian blackguard — the dark plate The Death of Nancy, this humorous taproom scene at The Eight Bells in Hatfield, north of London, and the peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The Death of Sikes — Mahoney depicts Sikes's dragging his dog away from Nancy's corpse in, but he does not focus at all upon the murderer's flight northward, resolving the story of Sikes pictorially 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 Pailthorpe a quarter-of-a-century earlier, Furniss shows Sikes responding with fear and suspicion when the enterprising salesman grabs his hat in order to remove its stain. The scene, indicated by the high wooden settle in which the massive Sikes lounges (right), is the public house's taproom. occupied by the kinds of village character whom one finds in such scenes in the fiction of Wessex novelist Thomas Hardy and George Eliot — the village character under the mountebank's arm even wears the linen smockfrock of an agricultural labourer, in contrast to the urban salesman's great-coat. Between Sikes, reaching for his hat, and the salesman is the latter's case of samples. The illustrator shows Sikes as somewhat incapacitated, probably by excessive drinking and fatigue from his epic, eighteen-mile walk from the Spitalfields in the East End of London north to the village of Hatfield.

XXXI. Bill Sikes's Death

Left: Cruikshank's The Last Chance (February 1839). Centre: from Cruikshank's 1846 serial wrapper, Sikes's death, detail from the lower-right corner. Right: Furniss’s The Death of Sikes (1910).

Passage Illustrated

"The eyes again!" he cried in an unearthly screech.

Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up with his weight, tight as a bow-string, and swift as the arrow it speeds. He fell for five-and-thirty feet. There was a sudden jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand.

The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely. The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy, thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called to the people to come and take him out, for God's sake.

A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and forwards on the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting himself for a spring, jumped for the dead man's shoulders. Missing his aim, he fell into the ditch, turning completely over as he went; and striking his head against a stone, dashed out his brains. [Chapter 50, "The Pursuit and Escape," 393-94.]

The Death of Sikes from George Cruikshank to Harry Furniss and Beyond

Cruikshank, Oliver Twist's original illustrator, provided a sensational rooftop scene to complement Sikes's accidentally hanging himself in the text in The Last Chance. Furniss's illustration responds to both that Cruikshank’s steel-engraving and James Mahoney’s wood-engraving in the Household Edition:

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Sikes trapped on the roof of Toby Crackit's safehouse on Jacob's Island, London, And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet..

Furniss portrays a cartoon-like Bull's-Eye looking curiously down the length of taught rope, presumably at his master in his death throes. Cruikshank depicts the very moment before Sikes falls to his death, a victim of Nemesis or Poetic Justice, followed shortly by his faithful dog, the enforcer of his master's will. And so the tormentors of Oliver and Nancy's murderer are punished by Fate — or coincidence. The readers of the Household Edition find Mahoney’s illustration that anticipates both Sikes's fall and Bull's-Eye's disclosure before the fatal event.

Thinking to avoid detection and capture, Sikes hopes to throw the authorities off the scent by returning to the vicinity of the crime scene, hoping to lay low for a few days in fellow-burglar Toby Crackit's iron-shuttered safe-house on Jacob's Island (only truly an island in those days when the tide was in) before slipping across the Channel to start a new life in France. In Dickens's England, Tony Lynch notes that the modern tourist, searching the London grid, will be hard pressed to find revenants of Jacob's Island, a byword for vice, crime, and deplorable sanitation in Dickens's time. As Tony Lynch has explained, “Jacob's Island once lay a mile to the east of London Bridge on the south side of the River Thames. The area has long since been 'improved away' and now forms that part of Bermondsley bounded by Mill Street, Jacob Street and George Row. In the 1830s the island — so named because it was cut off at high tide by a stretch of water known as Folly Ditch — was a maze of narrow, muddy alleyways between grim tenement buildings” (122). The squalid slum retained something of its original character even at the turn of the century with its wooden, two-storey houses assembled from material left over from wharf construction and ship-building. In the 1830s it rivalled Field Lane as a centre of vice and crime — and is therefore the logical locale for Toby Crackit's safe-house and Sikes's demise. Mahoney's illustration features the roof and parapet, but not that one of the many chimneys of the houses at Jacob's Island that proves instrumental in Sikes's accidental hanging. Whether he realised it or not, in focussing on the figure of Sikes Mahoney was actually addressing a series of objections that Dickens had posed to Cruikshank regarding making the escape scene the subject of an illustration for the forthcoming Bentley triple-decker: "I find on writing it, that the scene of Sikes's escape will not do for illustration. It is so very complicated, with such a multitude of figures, such violent action, and torch-light to boot, that a small plate could not take in the slightest idea of it" ("?6 October 1838," Letters, I, 440).

Whereas 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 this peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The Death of Sikes, the 1871 volume by the Household Edition illustrator Mahoney depicts Sikes's studying his pursuers from the roof top of the Toby Crackit's hideout on Jacob's Island rookery in And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. In contrast, Dickens's chief American illustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior, offers a portrait of the dissolute burglar and his bedraggled doxy in Chapter 39, but has no illustrations inserted into the chapters in which Sikes murders Nancy, flees, and in a sensational scene worthy of dramatist Dion Boucicault falls to his death in a final bid to cheat the law. F. W. Pailthorpe (1886) effectively dramatizes how the gang respond to Sikes's crime with the recently arrived Charley Bates's denunciation of him at the safe-house, "Don't come near me, You monster!". Furniss's approach is more oblique, and requires more imaginative engagement of the reader.

The dark blotch on the wall of the safe-house may represent the shadow cast by Sikes's lifeless body. That something upon which readers' imaginations must work lies outside the lower left frame is signalled by Bull's-Eye's gaze and the downward pointing gestures of the denizens of Jacob's Island at their windows, a detail borrowed from the Cruikshank original. Opposite the proleptic illustration, ten pages before the passage realised, Furniss's readers would have seen the description of the people watching the drama unfolding on the rooftop opposite:

In such a neighborhood, beyond Dockhead in the Borough of Southwark, stands Jacob’s Island, surrounded by a muddy ditch, six or eight feet deep and fifteen or twenty wide when the tide is in, once called Mill Pond, but known in the days of this story as Folly Ditch. It is a creek or inlet from the Thames, and can always be filled at high water by opening the sluices at the Lead Mills from which it took its old name. At such times, a stranger, looking from one of the wooden bridges thrown across it at Mill Lane, will see the inhabitants of the houses on either side lowering from their back doors and windows, buckets, pails, domestic utensils of all kinds, in which to haul the water up; and when his eye is turned from these operations to the houses themselves, his utmost astonishment will be excited by the scene before him. Crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a dozen houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime beneath; windows, broken and patched, with poles thrust out, on which to dry the linen that is never there; rooms so small, so filthy, so confined, that the air would seem too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud, and threatening to fall into it — as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying foundations; every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage; all these ornament the banks of Folly Ditch. [384]

Furniss's illustration calls for imaginative recreation of the moment of Sikes's death. The artist has provided a wilderness of blackened chimneys, blotched and cracking walls, and spectators at their windows, sashes thrown up. Thus, the picture of the moments after the murder relies for its complete decoding on the material on the facing page which establishes the particulars of the unsavoury setting, Sikes's last resort, hardly the haunt of a dashing highwayman of the John Gay variety; in his ending as in his life, Bill Sikes has proven to be no Captain Macheath from the 1726 ballad opera. There is no romance on Sikes's gloomy road.

XXXII. Rose Maylie

Left: Harry Furniss’s Rose (1910). Right: James Mahoney’s “Do you know this young lady, sir?” (1871).

Passage Illustrated by Mahoney

When one [tear] fell upon the flower over which she bent, and glistened brightly in its cup, making it more beautiful, it seemed as though the outpouring of her fresh young heart, claimed kindred with the loveliest things in nature.


George Cruikshank seems to have regarded Oliver's aunt, Rose Maylie, as a minor character, depicting her clearly only in The Meeting and Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate. Furniss's portrait of Rose is therefore not a response to Cruikshank’s rather prosaic and passive heroine as to the Mahoney wood-engraving for Chapter 51 in the first volume of the Household Edition, "Do you know this young lady, sir?". Whereas Cruikshank, not knowing the entire trajectory of the plot, seems to have underestimated Rose's importance in the story and contributes little through these two plates to Dickens's verbal portraits of Rose, in the Household Edition three illustrations characterise Rose as a sensitive, upper-middle-class beauty: When it became quite dark, and they returned home, the young lady would sit down to the piano, and play some pleasant air (Chapter 32), "A few — a very few — will suffice, Rose,"said the young man, drawing his chair towards her (Chapter 35), and "Do you know this young lady, sir?". However, in terms of youthful beauty and poise Furniss's Rose far surpasses Mahoney's. Furthermore, Furniss distinguishes his fair heroine, in contrast to the darker, heavier Nancy, by her sensitivity and emotionalism, as she pities Nancy and urges Mr. Brownlow to assist her in escaping from moral degradation in The Meeting under London Bridge. Clearly, Furniss in depicting Rose for the last of her four appearances in his sequence had in mind the following passage from much earlier in the novel, when Dickens introduces her:

The younger lady was in the lovely bloom and spring-time of womanhood; at that age, when, if ever angels be for God’s good purposes enthroned in mortal forms, they may be, without impiety, supposed to abide in such as hers.

She was not past seventeen. Cast in so slight and exquisite a mould; so mild and gentle; so pure and beautiful; that earth seemed not her element, nor its rough creatures her fit companions. The very intelligence that shone in her deep blue eye, and was stamped upon her noble head, seemed scarcely of her age, or of the world; and yet the changing expression of sweetness and good humour, the thousand lights that played about the face, and left no shadow there; above all, the smile, the cheerful, happy smile, were made for Home, and fireside peace and happiness. [Chapter 29, "Has an Introductory Account of the Inmates of the House, To Which Oliver Resorted," 213-14]

In Chapter 35, having received Harry's marriage proposal, Rose apparently renounces her own chance for happiness as she cries at the moment of self-sacrifice that will preserve Harry's political career: "when one [tear] fell upon the flower over which she bent, and glistened brightly in its cup, making it more beautiful, it seemed as though the outpouring of her fresh young heart, claimed kindred with the loveliest things in nature" (263). She is, despite the shadow over her birth, an idealised young woman whose sheer sentiment is in complete contrast to the utter lack of sentiment shown by Fagin, Sikes, and Nancy. As William T. Lankford suggests, the slender, physically attractive and impeccably dressed Rose Maylie is the binary opposite to the slovenly, agressive, duplicitous Nancy seen earlier in the novel. Alike in age, Rose and Nancy remain opposites, even after Nancy informs against Monks, for she remains loyal to her criminal associates to the last, despite knowing that they would not hesitate to kill her if they believed she had betrayed them. Rose's sudden illness threatens Oliver's implicit belief in the beneficent powers of Providence (just as the death of Nancy is both senseless and unmerited), but Rose's recovery in her natural milieu, the English countryside, at least temporarily vindicates that trust in natural justice. In the present lithograph, Furniss detaches Rose from any particular scene since the portrait has no quotation: she is presented as the human analogue of the rose.

Left: Cruikshank's The Meeting (Part 20, December 1838). Centre: from Furniss's earlier illustration Rose and Nancy (1910). Right: Cruikshank's final illustration, in which Rose looks rather like George Eliot, Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate (Part 24, April 1839).

XXXIII. Fagin in the Condemned Cell

Left: Cruikshank's initial depiction of Fagin in Newgate, Fagin in the Condemned Cell (1838). Centre: Cruikshank's 1846 thumbnail of Fagin in prison, detail from the wrapper. Right: Charles Pears' Fagin (1912).

Passage Illustrated

He sat down on a stone bench opposite the door, which served for seat and bedstead; and casting his blood-shot eyes upon the ground, tried to collect his thoughts. After awhile, he began to remember a few disjointed fragments of what the judge had said: though it had seemed to him, at the time, that he could not hear a word. These gradually fell into their proper places, and by degrees suggested more: so that in a little time he had the whole, almost as it was delivered. To be hanged by the neck, till he was dead — that was the end. To be hanged by the neck till he was dead.

As it came on very dark, he began to think of all the men he had known who had died upon the scaffold; some of them through his means. They rose up, in such quick succession, that he could hardly count them. [Chapter 52, "Fagin's Last Night Alive," 409]

Illustrations of Fagin, the most interesting character in Oliver Twist

Dickens's description of "Fagin's Last Night Alive" makes him seem all too human as he contemplates not only his own fate — "to be hanged by the neck until dead" the next morning in a public execution — but also the fates of previous occupants of his cell. In contrast, Furniss’s illustration, which depicts Fagin with glowing eyes, suggests that he is a caged beast or man possessed.

In his introduction to the Waverley edition of the novel in 1912, A. C. Benson observes that the novel's good people, the Maylies and Mr. Brownlow in particular, are "intolerably uninteresting," and that even the heroic Oliver for most of the story "is a mere guileless and stainless phantom" (xi).Even the brutal Sikes is more interesting, in his sheer will to survive, no matter what the costs to others. But, best of all is Fagin, a criminal mastermind who nevertheless seems to care about the boys in his charge, although he would never admit to the weakness of caring for anybody but himself. Like Nancy, Fagin has depth, so that it is not his badness that renders him attractive, but his relative complexity.

Fagin appears in six out of Cruikshank’s twenty-four engraving, and our interest him rises to a crescendo in Chapter 52. Although other illustrators have shown the condemned Fagin awaitingexecution at Newgate, Cruikshank's treatment of both the prisoner and the physical setting remains the locus classicus because of the plate's conveying with effective economy the starkness of the chamber and the psychological unravelling of the inmate. Aware that one of the sordid, lower-class villains — Sikes, or Fagin — would probably finish the novel in Newgate Prison, Cruikshank did multiple studies of both criminals in the condemned cell. Eventually, of course, once he had read the concluding chapters in manuscript, he learned that the solitary prisoner facing execution would be Fagin; however, he struggled to find exactly the right poseand facial expression to convey the internal conflict of the condemned man who, in Dickens's text, experiences a greatrange of reactions to his own impending death.

Cruikshank's treatment of the subject of the condemned criminal awaiting execution has, of course, become iconic, influencing numerous later artists' depictions of such situations, and perhaps even influencing illustrators of Great Expectations in the scene in which Magwitch dies in prison after killing Compeyson on the Thames, although, as illustrator John McLenan notes, Magwitch does not die alone and unfriended in The placid look at the white ceiling came back, and passed away, and his head dropped quietly on his breast in Harper's Weekly 5 (27 July 1861): 447. While the 1861 shows Magwitch at peace, facing death with his "dear boy" beside him, the key word in the passage realized in the Mahoney plate is "— alone" (200).

Left: James Mahoney's study of a felon awaiting execution, Fagin in the Condemned Cell (1871). Right: Harry Furniss’s Fagin in the Condemned Cell (1910).

Although the 1870s Household Edition James Mahoney depicts Fagin in his last hours, his treatment of his subject clearly subsumes the slightly more caricaturistic treatment of Cruikshank. Having depicted Fagin with his open cash-box at the very beginning of his sequence of character studies, Sol Eytinge had no opportunity to revisit the character, and, perhaps as a consequence of Cruikshank's memorable plate, no inclination to attempt to outdo the novels's original illustrator. Mahoney, on the other hand, obviously felt that he could recreate the highly dramatic moment in a more realistic manner in the Newgate cell and still pay homage to Cruikshank's original conception. He eliminates the theatrical properties and gestures to focus on Fagin's tortured inner state. Like Mahoney, Furniss includes neither the bars (seen only in a teeth-like shadow cast onto the floor, lower left) or bible and table from the Cruikshank plate, and dispenses with the two embedded, hand-written notes above the prisoner. The only ornamentation in Furniss's lithograph is the figure of the prisoner himself, in the whirling motion of his clothing contrasting his complete stillness. There is neither table, nor Bible, nor window: the focus is entirely on the manacled criminal contemplating his own imminent death — and glaring out of the frame, at the reader.

Whereas Cruikshank provides visual continuity by dressing Fagin in much the same clothing throughout, and consistently emphasizes his bulging eyes, here he is neither in motion or in company; he becomes in his isolation a pitiable figure worthy of some compassion. After all, although a career criminal and receiver of stolen goods, Fagin is hardly guilty of violent crimes so that, unlike Sikes, the death of Fagin seems disproportionate to his actions. In fact, only his inciting Sikes to murder Nancy can excuse Fain's sentence, which otherwise would be transportation, the fate that has attended the other members of his pickpocketing crew. Mahoney seems to have avoided depicting Sikes and other gang members in the illustrations for these later chapters, depicting a fugitive and embayed Bill Sikes without either signature white hat or canine companion in the rooftop scene, And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet, putting this scene of the criminal mastermind facing execution on the morrow as the final plate and climax of his series of twenty-eight, his bandaged head and shrunken posture rendering him pitiable, if not completely sympathetic. One feels no such compassion for the condemned felon with the defiant, smouldering expression in the Furniss illustration. The shading of the figure and strong lines delineating his clothing and beard suggest a pent-up energy. As he stares at the reader, Furniss's Fagin is an enigma, for neither remorse nor reflection is immediately apparent. He is utterly alone as he dominates the confined space surrounding him, without associates and subordinates, or even furniture and a bible. His eyes shining "with a terrible light," Fagin in the Furniss illustration is both a haunted and a haunting presence, drawn with neither sentiment nor humour, but with savage intensity suggestive of a caged animal.

As Tony Lunch notes, Dickens had already employed Newgate as a setting in "A Visit to Newgate," the last of the "Scenes" section of Sketches by Boz, an essay especially written for the first collected edition of 1836. Dickens therein evokes the probable thoughts and feelings of three actual condemned prisoners: Robert Swan, convicted of armed robbery and subsequently reprieved, and two homosexuals, John Smith and John Pratt, who were hanged on the prison grounds on 27 November 1835. In novels after Oliver Twist, Dickens returned to Newgate, but only once to visit an inmate under sentence of death, Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations; however, whereas Fagin suffers execution, Magwitch cheats the system by succumbing to his injuries. "The Central Criminal Court — known as the Old Bailey — now cover the site of Newgate Prison" (Lynch 137), occupying Ludgate Hill.

XXXIV. Memorializing Oliver’s Mother

Left: George Cruikshank's Rose Maylie and Oliver [The Church Plate], Cruikshank's final contribution to the serial program. Right: Harry Furniss’s The Shade of Agness.

Passage Illustrated

Within the altar of the old village church there stands a white marble tablet, which bears as yet but one word:, — ‘AGNES.’ There is no coffin in that tomb; and may it be many, many years, before another name is placed above it! But, if the spirits of the Dead ever come back to earth, to visit spots hallowed by the love — the love beyond the grave — of those whom they knew in life, I believe that the shade of Agnes sometimes hovers round that solemn nook. I believe it none the less because that nook is a Church, and she was weak and erring. [Thus closes the novel. — Chapter 53, "And Last," 418]

Commentary: Sentimentality Accentuated

Cruikshank, Dickens's official illustrator for The Adventures of Oliver Twist in the 1837-38 serial in Bentley's Miscellany, felt that the so-called Fireside plate adequately summed up Providence's rewarding Oliver for his courage and upright character in the face of adversity and moral degradation. However, Dickens, finding the culminating plate trite and conventional, had demanded that Cruikshank replace it. Furniss, who had access to the official biography by Dickens's lifelong friend and business agent, would have known about this issue. John Forster, Dickens's official biographer (and therefore admittedly hardly an unbiased commentator), recounts the story of the so-called "cancelled plate" in such a manner that the biographer mitigates his friend's high-handedness with his veteran illustrator:

when Bentley decided to publish Oliver in book form before its completion in his periodical, Cruikshank had to complete the last few plates in haste. Dickens did not review them until the eve of publication and objected to the Fireside plate ("Rose Maylie and Oliver" [the final plate in vol. III]). Dickens had Cruikshank design a new plate [the Church plate] which retained the same title. This Church plate was not completed in time for incorporation into the early copies of the book, but it replaced the Fireside plate in later copies. Dickens not only objected to the Fireside plate, but also disliked having "Boz" on the title page. He voiced these objections prior to publication and the plate and title page were changed between November 9 [publication date] and 16." The publication had been announced for October, but the third-volume-illustrations intercepted it a little. . . . The matter supplied in advance of the monthly portions in the magazine, formed the bulk of the last volume as published in the book; and for this the plates had to be prepared by Cruikshank also in advance of the magazine, to furnish them in time for the separate publication: Sikes and his dog, Fagin in the cell, and Rose Maylie and Oliver, being the three last. None of these Dickens had seen until he saw them in the book on the eve of its publication; when he so strongly objected to one of them that it had to be cancelled. "I returned suddenly to town yesterday afternoon," he wrote to the artist at the end of October, "to look at the latter pages of Oliver Twist before it was delivered to the booksellers, when I saw the majority of the plates in the last volume for the first time. With reference to the last one — Rose Maylie and Oliver — without entering into the question of great haste, or any other cause, which may have led to its being what it is, I am quite sure there can be little difference of opinion between us with respect to the result. May I ask you whether you will object to designing this plate afresh, and doing so at once, in order that as few impressions as possible of the present one may go forth? [92-94]

Wisely, when Chapman and Hall approached Dickens with the notion of issuing the novel in ten monthly parts for 1846, Dickens — perhaps feeling a little guilty about having compelled the veteran illustrator to replace at short notice the "cancelled" plate — nominated Cruikshank rather than his usual illustrator Hablot Knight Browne to design the green wrapper to contain the serial instalments. Significantly, perhaps, in his eleven vignettes on the wrapper Cruikshank alludes to neither the "Fireside" nor the "Church" scene that replaced it. The virtue of the "Church" plate must be that, although it does not enshrine Victorian family values as the "Fireside" plate does, it brings the story full circle, and ends with a serene contemplation of Oliver's mother, victim of the workhouse system, a pauper not even given a proper burial — hence, the memorial rather than a grave or headstone in the Church that replaced the scene. A thorough Dickensian, Furniss was likely familiar with this background through having read Forster's biography.

Agnes Remembered and Memorialized: Oliver's Mother Gets a Tomb

Since the Victorian reader tended to require the closure of the traditional happy ending, complete with a marriage and an even-handed disposition of poetic justice to all major characters in a story, the so-called "Fireside" plate would seem to be preferable. After all, in summing up the fate of Agnes Dickens (perhaps moved to contemplate the death of Mary Hogarth, his beloved sister-in-law) would seem to be touching on theological doctrine and metaphysical issues that were held to be beyond the scope of a mere mass entertainer, although he does not, like Furniss seventy years later, actually show or narrate The Shade of Agnes hovering about the tombless memorial in the country church. Probably according to Dickens's explicit instructions, although never a good hand at female beauty, Cruikshank nevertheless depicts an almost tearful but dignified Rose patting Oliver on the shoulder as both solemnly contemplate the death of the beloved family member who fell through the gaps of the social welfare safety-net. Later artists have delivered closure by emphasizing the fate of Fagin, but for Dickens that matter had to be relegated to the penultimate illustration, Fagin in the Condemned Cell (March 1839), which served as a model for both Mahoney (1871) and Furniss (1910).

Grim Social Realism: The Disposal of a Workhouse Inmate's Corpse

According to Ruth Richardson in "The Subterranean Topography of Oliver Twist," the composition of the final illustration was informed by Dickens's knowledge of the workhouse located several doors down from where he and his family lived at Norfolk Street in London, although he disguises the location of Oliver's workhouse by placing it well north of instead of in London. When John Dickens was transferred from the Navy Pay Office in Portsmouth back to London in January 1815, the family lodged just off Fitzroy Square, on what was then Norfolk Street. In 1829-30, when Dickens would have been old enough to investigate his surroundings with a critical eye and a social conscience, the family returned to the area, staying above a grocer's shop at Number 10 Norfolk Street (now No. 22 Cleveland Street), the address which Dickens gave for his reader's ticket to the British Museum in February of 1830).

As the author of Dickens and The Workhouse (Oxford U. P., 2012) and Dickens and Angela Burdett Coutts (forthcoming) historian, writer, and broadcaster Richardson, a thorough Londoner, knows much about the burial practices of the Cleveland Street Workhouse; here, just nine doors away, lived young Charles Dickens from 1828-31 in a building now distinguished by a blue historical plaque. The names of the occupants of nearby Marleybone houses and businesses of that period influenced Dickens's naming of characters in the novel: Sowerberry, Sikes, and Maylie. Mr. Baxter's pawnshop, which lay between the Dickenses' home and the workhouse, may have contributed to the plot surrounding Agnes's locket since Mrs. Bumble retrieves it from a nearby pawnbroker's. But, most significantly, Dickens likely knew that the remains of paupers who died in the workhouse were disposed of via a system of subterranean passages, rather than accorded proper Christian burial. Hence, in the final illustration for the November 1838 triple-decker published by Richard Bentley, young radical writer Dickens underscores the plight of the poor and their disrespectful treatment in death as in life. Cruikshank's "revised" illustration is therefore a mute protest against society's regarding the poor as mere "surplus population" to be disposed of as so much "inert matter."

In the Cruikshank illustration, then, Oliver, once again in a tailored suit, stands beside the other respectable orphan, his mother's sister, Rose, who was fortunate enough to be adopted by a kindly, upper-middle-class family, and even more fortunate to become the wife of that family's educated son. To please Dickens, Cruikshank has shown aunt and nephew in solemn profile to accentuate the familial likeness — and to emphasize that in a sense they are Agnes's final resting place, both in terms of sentiment, memory, and family. In accordance with Dickens's Protestant notions about appropriate church ornamentation, the setting is devoid of paintings, crucifixes, and even other memorials to the dead; nothing is to break the reader's identification between the two living figures, so much alike in their facial features that they might be mother and son, and the name "Agnes" in the simple plaque with a peak, suggestive perhaps of a house's roof in the neoclassical manner of monuments and tombs. This, then, was the point of departure for Furniss's ultimate illustration, in which the etherial spirit of Oliver's mother, wearing a nun-like head-dress and assuming a pensive posture, hovers before the plaque in the church. However, Furniss's version of the memorial is a far grander affair, which an elegant newel-post (right) suggesting an ornate railing, and a ledge underneath the inscribed name, the whole contained within a niche surmounted by a rounded cornice, implying that one is pondering the portal to the afterlife. In the Cruikshank original, there is a stone bench beneath the memorial, but in Furniss's there is merely step so that the visitor cannot sit before it, but must stand as he or she contemplates it. The overall effect, too, of these illustrations is quite different as Cruikshank's is at once sentimental, realistic, and understated, whereas Furniss's is romantic, sensuous, and fanciful, energetically sketched in rather than realistically drawn three-dimensionally.

Various Artists’ Illustrations for Dickens's Oliver Twist/span>

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Last modified 6 March 2020