J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 42
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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In Kyd's sequence of fifty cards, 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 (two characters) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (no characters depicted) offered little for the caricaturist, the only late characters in the series being the singularly unpleasant and physically odd Silas Wegg and the rough waterman 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 four character cards from the cast of Dombey and Son (October 1846 through April 1848), or 6% of the total: the blustering Major Bagstock, no. 7; the kind-hearted Captain Cuttle, no. 25; the rigid and aloof Mr. Dombey, no. 42; and the brawny, dictatorial Amazon, Mrs. Mac Stinger, Captain Cuttle's termagant landlady, no. 43 — characterisations based on the original serial illustrations of Dickens's regular visual interpreter in the 1840s, Phiz, who produced forty steel-engravings and the wrapper design for the Bradbury and Evans nineteen-month serial, as well as a frontispiece for the first cheap edition (1858) and two vignettes for the two-volume Library Edition: Mr. Dombey and Miss Edith Dombey and Paul and Florence.
Although Kyd's representations are largely based on the original illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), the modelling of the figures is suggestive of those of celebrated Dickensian illustrator Fred Barnard for the Household Edition volume 15 (1877). 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, as he appeared at his trial. 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, Sairey Gamp 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.
Kyd's model for the lonely businessman and self-styled merchant prince was likely Phiz's study of the black-suited Mr. Dombey in The Christening Party (Chapter 5). However, Kyd had no shortage of models since Mr. Dombey appears both on the wrapper, in the frontispiece, and in a total ten plates, most significantly perhaps as the alienated and embittered husband in "Let him remember it in that room, years to come" (Chapter 59).
Created 12 January 2015