Alderman Cute with Meg and her Father
8 x 7.3 cm. vignetted
Dickens's The Chimes, The Pears' Centenary Edition, II, 45.
The text beneath the image reads, “Trotty took Meg’s hand and drew it through his arm.”
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"You see, my friend," pursued the Alderman, "there's a great deal of nonsense talked about Want — "hard up," you know: that's the phrase, isn't it? Ha! ha! ha! — and I intend to Put it Down. There's a certain amount of cant in vogue about Starvation, and I mean to Put it Down. That's all! Lord bless you," said the Alderman, turning to his friends again, "you may Put Down anything among this sort of people, if you only know the way to set about it."
Trotty took Meg's hand and drew it through his arm. He didn't seem to know what he was doing though.
"Your daughter, eh?" said the Alderman, chucking her familiarly under the chin.
Always affable with the working classes, Alderman Cute! Knew what pleased them! Not a bit of pride!
"Where's her mother?" asked that worthy gentleman.
"Dead," said Toby. "Her mother got up linen; and was called to Heaven when She was born." ["First Quarter," pp. 45, 1912 edition]
Alderman Cute with Meg and her Father has a caption that is different from the title in the "List of Illustrations" (p. 15-16). The textual quotation that serves as the caption for this illustration of the alderman (who is also a magistrate) admiring Trotty's daughter as he brags about "putting down" starvation by putting down the starving is "Trotty' took Meg's hand and drew it through his arm" ("First Quarter," p. 45 — the passage realised is immediately to the left of the illustration).
The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang An Old Year Out and a New Year In (1844) provides no equivalent for this illustration of Cute's being overly familiar with the attractive adolescent daughter of the local ticket porter. However, John Leech does depict Cute with Filer, the Young England gentleman, Trotty, Richard, and Meg in Alderman Cute and His Friends ("First Quarter," p. 34). Green's characters are far more realistically drawn, with normal rather than distorted faces and postures. Moreover, he attempts scenes which Leech's limited program did not permit, such as this one in which which the bombastic alderman (based on Middlesex magistrate Sir Peter Laurie) condescends to treat Meg and her father as if they are inferior creatures. Whereas in the study of the same characters in an earlier scene by E. A. Abbey for the American Household Edition of 1876, the urban aristocrat treats Trotty with a mixture of curiosity and contempt, in Green's picture one has the sense that Alderman Cute is attempting to exploit the beauty, but that Meg finds his attentions distasteful, although Trotty does not know what to make of Cute's demeanor. Green was attempting something quite new in a visual program for the novella, as none of the previous illustrators had chosen to realize this moment, which prepares the reader for Lilian Fern's becoming a prostitute in Trotty's dream-vision.
Green has costumed Cute in the height of male fashion for the period, with a silk hat, broadcloth tailcoat, and stirrup trousers; Meg wears a patterned shawl and bonnet of the type worn by middle-class women in the same period, and Trotty is warmly dressed in standard ticket-porter's garb. The railing just visible behind the three figures establishes the setting as the sidewalk on Fleet Street, just in front of Alderman Cute's townhouse. In conclusion, Charles Green, working at the beginning of the twentieth century, has taken pains not only with Dickens's text but with the fashions and styles of the 18450s to render the scenes from the novella realistically.
Dickens, Charles. The Chimes. Introduction by Clement Shorter. Illustrated by Charles Green. The Pears' Centenary Edition. London: A & F Pears, [?1912].
Dickens, Charles. The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang An Old Year Out and a New Year In. Illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Daniel Maclise. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1844.
Dickens, Charles. The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang An Old Year Out and a New Year In. Illustrated by John Leech, Richard Doyle, Clarkson Stanfield, and Daniel Maclise. (1844). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Hardmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978. Pp. 137-252.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
Dickens, Charles. Christmas Books. Illustrated byHarry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.
_____. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
Last modified 28 December 2019