The Wrapper for January 1846
George Cruikshank, 1792-1878
Part 23, March 1839
Wood-engraving composite block
For the first monthly instalment of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress
Although Dickens and Cruikshank parted company with perhaps a little ill-feeling as a result of Dickens's requiring the artist to redraft entirely the final serial illustration, The Fireside, or Cancelled Plate after the final sequences of plates had, in fact, been printed in the third volume of the Richard Bentley triple-decker, Dickens later compensated Cruikshank for any inconvenience by recommending him to Chapman and Hall for the design of the 1846 serial wrapper.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.].
With considerable time to reflect on the significance of the various scenes and characters whom he encountered in the monthly serialisation of Dickens's second novel in Bentley's Miscellany between February 1837 and the autumn of 1838 as he finished drafting the final illustrations for the three-volume version that Richard Bentley published in November 1838, George Cruikshank reached firm conclusions about the relative importance of certain characters and events. Realising that the story is at least partly a condemnation of the New Poor Law, the workhouse, and the venial functionaries administering the system, Cruikshank gave the Beadle, Mr. Bumble, a prominent position in the wrapper's eleven vignettes; he appears lower left, escorting Oliver from Mrs. Mann's baby-farm to the workhouse. The majority of the remaining ten scenes, however, concern the London criminal underworld that constitutes the "Newgate" dimension of Oliver's adventures: in the upper left, Bill Sikes gives instructions to Oliver about breaking into the Maylies' house in Chertsey; below that scene, intoduced by the Artful Dodger, Oliver meets the kindly old gentleman, Mr. Fagin, in his East End hideout; left of centre, Oliver meets Jack Dawkins (otherwise, "The Artful Dodger") at a market-town north of London. Before that, however, Oliver is shown as the unhappy apprentice of the undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. Occupying the strongest position in the wrapper, top centre, Oliver is embraced by his aunt, Rose Maylie. Then, down the right-hand margin, the pickpockets attempt to flee arrest by the Bowstreet Runners; Sikes attempts to eliminate his dog; Oliver chastizes Noah Claypole, the charity boy already apprenticed to Sowerberrry; Sikes meets a poetically just end, falling from the roof of Toby Crackit's safe-house on Jacob's Island and accidentally hanging himself; and, bottom centre, Fagin, a temporary occupant of the condemned cell at Newgate Prison, faces the prospect of his public execution the next morning.
On the title-page of the 1838 novel, the author is identified as "Boz" — that is to say, the author of the humorous Sketches by Boz. Illustrative of every-day life and every-day people, based on jounalistic pieces published between 1833 and 1836 in three periodicals: The Monthly Magazine, The Morning Chronicle, and Bell's Life in London. It was not until after the appearance of Oliver Twist in volume form that the collected edition of the fifty-six sketches was published in volume form. By 1846, however, the name of the novelist "Charles Dickens" has replaced that of the comic anecdotalist ("Boz"), and George Cruikshank's name is displayed prominently — although in much smaller type than the name "Dickens." Curiously, Cruikshank has elected to give the superior position to a version of the plate that Dickens rejected in the autumn of 1838, Oliver's Family, and has juxtaposed an early scene (Bumble and Oliver, bottom left) against two late scenes, in which the villains Fagin and Sikes receive their due. Maqny of these vignettes, in fact, repeat in miniature form the full-page steel-engravings with which Cruikshank supplied the original serial, Although in that serial, perhaps to maintain suspense, Cruikshank shows Sikes on the roof, confident that he can make his escape by dropping to the tidal flats in The Last Chance, for Part 22. Moreover, whereas Sikes's dog, Bull's-Eye, is hiding behind the chimney in the earlier illustration, as Sikes tumbles to his death in the wrapper vignette, Bull's-Eye has come forward to the edge of the roof.
In the designs of the eleven vignettes, Oliver appears seven times; Sikes three times; and Fagin, Jack Dawkins, and Bull's-Eye twice each. Not mentioned visually although important to the plot, are Monks, Mr. Brownlow, and Nancy — and, indeed, Cruikshank seems to have avoided showing female characters as much as possible. Again at Dickens's instigation, he subsequently provided Chapman and Hall with a frontispiece for the Cheap Edition and a title-page vignette for the Library Edition, tasks that logically should have fallen to Dickens's principal illustrator in the 1840s, Hablot Knight Browne.
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. "George Cruikshank." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980. Pp. 15-38.
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.
Davies, Philip. "Warren of Sunless Courts." Lost London, 1870-1945. Croxley Green, Hertfordshire: Transatlantic, 2009. Pp. 258-60.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Bradbury and Evans; Chapman and Hall, 1846.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. . Household Edition. Illustrated by James Mahoney. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. The Annotated Dickens. Ed. Edward Guiliano and Philip Collins. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1986. I, 534-823.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens Library Edition. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 3.
Forster, John. "Oliver Twist 1838." The Life of Charles Dickens. Ed. B. W. Matz. The Memorial Edition. 2 vols. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1911. Vol. 1, book 2, chapter 3. Pp. 91-99.
Kitton, Frederic G. "George Cruikshank." Dickens and His Illustrators: Cruikshank, Seymour, Buss, "Phiz," Cattermole, Leech, Doyle, Stanfield, Maclise, Tenniel, Frank Stone, Topham, Marcus Stone, and Luke Fildes. 1899. Rpt. Honolulu: U. Press of the Pacific, 2004. Pp. 1-28.
Last modified 16 October 2014