J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 23
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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Of the set of 50 cigarette cards, initially produced in 1910 and reissued in 1923, fully 13 or over 25% concern a single novel, The Pickwick Papers, attesting to the enduring popularity of the picaresque comic novel and also suggesting that the later, darker novels such as Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood offered little for the caricaturist, the only late characters in the series being the singularly unpleasant Silas Wegg and Rogue Riderhood from Our Mutual Friend, and Turveydrop, Jo, Bucket, and Chadband from Bleak House. The popular taste was clearly still towards the earlier farce and character comedy of Dickens. The series includes a total of just three character cards from the cast of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44), or 6% of the total: Seth Pecksniff, no. 23; Mr. Pecksmith, no. 24; and the indefatigibly ebullient and "jolly" Mark Tapley, no. 34 — characterisations based on the original serial illustrations of Dickens's regular visual interpreter in the 1840s, Phiz, who produced thirty-eight steel-engravings plates for the Chaopman and Hall serial.
Kyd's representations are largely based on the original illustrations by Phiz, although the modelling of the figures is suggestive of Phiz's own, expanded series for < a href="../barnard/household.html">Household Edition volume of the 1870s. The anomaly, of course, is that Kyd should elect to depict minor figures from the first Dickens novel such as the Dingley Dell cricketers Dumkins and Luffey and the minor antagonist Major Bagstock in Dombey and Son, but omit significant characters from such later, still-much-read novels as A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Five of the fifty cards or 10% of the series come from the cast of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress (1837-39): Oliver himself, asking for more; Fagin with his toasting fork, from the scene in which he prepares dinner for his crew; Sikes holding a beer-mug, and the Artful Dodger in an oversized adult topcoat and crushed top-hat. Surprisingly, some of the other significant characters, including Nancy and Rose Maylie, are not among the first set of fifty characters, in which Kyd exhibits a strong male bias, as he realizes only seven female characters: only the beloved Nell, the abrasive Sally Brass, and the quirky Marchioness from The Old Curiosity Shop, Mr. Pecksmith from Martin Chuzzlewit, Aunt Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield, the burly Mrs. McStinger from Dombey and Son, and the awkward Fanny Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby appear in the essentially comic cavalcade.
The oily hypocrite who steals young Martin's architectural designs and attempts to steal his girl, Mary Graham, Seth Pecksniff is a pious fraud from start to finish. Kyd had two sets of models upon which to base his study of the professional man in the tailcoat, notably Phiz's serial plate Mr. Pecksniff Discharges a Duty Which He Owes to Society (Chapter 31), and Fred Barnard's Rustling among last year's leaves, whose scent woke memory of the past, the placid Pecksniff strolled in Chapter 30 of the Household Edition volume. Kyd deviates from these models, however, in that in this illustration the humbug's distinctive hairstyle is not nearly so apparent as, for example, in the Household Edition's Uncaptioned title-page vignette of Pecksniff contemplating his bust. The 1867 Diamond Edition volume, which Kyd is not likely to have seen, contains an illustration entitrled Mr. Pecksniff and his Daughters, in which Ticknor Fields' house illustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior, reveals by the sanctimonious architect's long chin and tonsorial peak that he had studied the Phiz originals to produce a congruent image. Far more animated and charming than Felix Octavius Carr Darley's frontispiece Mr. Pecksniff's Courtship (1863), Kyd's interpretation of the arch hypocrite is as sleek and unctuous as Phiz's original, even if Kyd's portrait is not as visually amusing as those of his predecessors.
Created 11 January 2015