Oliver at Mrs. Maylie's door
George Cruikshank, 1792-1878
Part 13, April 1838
Etching on steel
Thirteenth monthly illustration, The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress
After the botched robbery, Sikes and his housebreaking crew abandon the apparently lifeless Oliver in a ditch, but the boy recovers consciousness and struggles back to the Maylies' doorstep at Chertsey in Surrey, more than a little apprehensive about his reception there.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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These precautions having been taken, Mr. Giles held on fast by the tinker's arm (to prevent his running away, as he pleasantly said), and gave the word of command to open the door. Brittles obeyed; the group, peeping timorously over each other's shoulders, beheld no more formidable object than poor little Oliver Twist, speechless and exhausted, who raised his heavy eyes, and mutely solicited their compassion.
"A boy!" exclaimed Mr. Giles, valiantly, pushing the tinker into the background. 'What's the matter with the — eh? — Why — Brittles — look here — don't you know?"
Brittles, who had got behind the door to open it, no sooner saw Oliver, than he uttered a loud cry. Mr. Giles, seizing the boy by one leg and one arm (fortunately not the broken limb) lugged him straight into the hall, and deposited him at full length on the floor thereof.
"Here he is!" bawled Giles, calling in a state of great excitement, up the staircase; "here's one of the thieves, ma'am! Here's a thief, miss! Wounded, miss! I shot him, miss; and Brittles held the light." [Chapter 28, "Looks after Oliver, and proceeds with his Adventures," p. 156-157]
Here the picture is literally only half of the story in that the servants are as terrified of the person at the door as Oliver is at the kind of reception he may receive at the hands of those whom he had conspired to rob. Dickens has specified that the front of the house has a neoclassical, pillared portico in the style of Robert Adam. However, Cruikshank has had to complement Dickens's text by drawing a convincing picture of the liveried male servants Giles and Brittles, and the timid female servants behind them. But the picture does not prepare the reader for the intervention of the young mistress on the boy's behalf. Then, too, this illustration of an emaciated, ill-clothed child begging for entry contrasts the image of a well-dressed, pampered Noah Claypole, Oliver's nemesis at the Sowerberrys, gluttonously devouring oysters, the illustration immediately preceding this.
Subsequent studies of Oliver's being "recalled to life" after his harrowing experience hours earlier contrast the boy's situation just before and during the robbery with his present impotence. In the Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney seems more interested in the events leading up to this moment and the arrival of the Bow Street Runners than he is Oliver's harrowing ordeal. Although "Just send somebody out to relieve my mate, will you, young man?" is positioned at the head of Chapter 29, just after Oliver has been carried into the house, the rather prosaic illustration of the police officer and the servant anticipates Chapter 31, "Involves a Critical Position." On the other hand, Harry Furniss in the Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) specifically depicts Sikes and his confederate, Toby Crackit, fleeing into the woods after dropping the unconscious Oliver into a ditch. Moreover, Furniss omits Oliver's interrogation by the minions of the law, and focusses instead upon Rose Maylie's tender care of the recuperating child.
Relevant Illustrations from the serial edition (1837-39), Diamond Edition (1867), Household Edition (1871), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Left: George Cruikshank's The Robbery. Right: James Mahoney's Household Edition illustration (1871) "Just send somebody out to relieve my mate, will you, young man?". [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Two 1910 illustrations by Harry Furniss. Left: "The wounded Oliver thrown into a ditch". Right: "The Wounded Oliver smiles in his Sleep". [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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Last modified 9 September 2014