Jo, The Crossing-Sweeper
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
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Passage Illustrated: The Waif who stirred the Social Conscience of a Nation
Come night, come darkness, for you cannot come too soon or stay too long by such a place as this! Come, straggling lights into the windows of the ugly houses; and you who do iniquity therein, do it at least with this dread scene shut out! Come, flame of gas, burning so sullenly above the iron gate, on which the poisoned air deposits its witch-ointment slimy to the touch! It is well that you should call to every passerby, "Look here!"
With the night comes a slouching figure through the tunnel-court to the outside of the iron gate. It holds the gate with its hands and looks in between the bars, stands looking in for a little while.
It then, with an old broom it carries, softly sweeps the step and makes the archway clean. It does so very busily and trimly, looks in again a little while, and so departs.
Jo, is it thou? Well, well! Though a rejected witness, who "can't exactly say" what will be done to him in greater hands than men's, thou art not quite in outer darkness. There is something like a distant ray of light in thy muttered reason for this: "He wos wery good to me, he wos!" [Chapter XI, "Our Dear Brother," 86-87]
As Michael Steig notes, the title-page vignette of Jo sweeping a crossing in front of a London public building sets the keynote for the social range of the novel. If Jarndyce and the Dedlocks and their mansion, Chesney Wold, represent the aristocracy, and Jarndyce and his wards the affluent upper class, Jo represents their antithesis, the lowest reaches of urban society. "The subject is taken from chapter 16 (pp. 156-58), the first description of Jo the crossing-sweeper, and the comparison between the conditions of boy and dog in which the narrator argues that the "brute" is in most respects "far above the human" (157). Steig interprets the contrast between the frontispiece and the title-page vignette (with the figures of the women quarreling in the background) as suggestive of "the indifference of the powerful classes toward the powerless, but also conveys the feeling that the former, especially the nobility, are to be associated with death, the lower classes with life" (157).
Other Illustrations of Jo, 1852-1910
Left: Fred Barnard's 1873 Household Edition full-page composite woodblock wood-engraving of Joe in a crowd on London Bridge: Frontispiece: Jo. Centre: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s 1867 Diamond Edition of Joe at work outside Tom-all-Alone's: Jo. Right: Harry Furniss's study of Joe places him against no background to suggest, perhaps, his alienation: Jo (1910) in the Charles Dickens Library Edition.
Related material, including front matter and sketches, by other illustrators for Bleak House (1852-1910)
- Bleak House (homepage)
- Cover for monthly parts
- Sol Eytinge, Junior: 18 illustrations for Bleak House, vol. 4 of the Diamond Edition (1867)
- Fred Barnard's Household Edition illustrations (1873)
- Harry Furniss's illustrations for the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
- Kyd's four Player's Cigarette Cards (1910)
- Metropolitan mud, filthy streets, and “A Thaw in the Streets of London (1865)”
- Sanitation and Its absence
- Ideas of Childhood in Victorian Children's Fiction: Orphans, Outcasts and Rebels
Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. Illustrated by Hablot Knight Browne. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1853.
_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. The Works of Charles Dickens. The Household Edition. New York: Sheldon and Company, 1863. Vols. 1-4.
_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr, and engraved by A. V. S. Anthony. 14 vols. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. VI.
_______. Bleak House, with 61 illustrations by Fred Barnard. Household Edition, volume IV. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873.
_______. Bleak House. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. XI.
Hammerton, J. A. "Ch. XVIII. Bleak House." The Dickens Picture-Book. London: Educational Book Co., , 294-338.
Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.
Morley, John. Death, Heaven and the Victorians,. London: Studio Vista, 1971; Pittsburg: Universit of Pittsburg Press, 1971.
Steig, Michael. Chapter 6. "Bleak House and Little Dorrit: Iconography of Darkness." Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington & London: Indiana U. P., 1978. 131-172.
Vann, J. Don. "Bleak House, twenty parts in nineteen monthly instalments, October 1846—April 1848." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985. 69-70./
Created 21 January 2015