4 x 3 inches"
Thirteenth Illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend in the Lee & Shepard (Boston), and Charles T. Dillingham (New York) 1870 Illustrated Household Edition.
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
[You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. ]
Sol Eytinge, Ticknor-Fields' house illustrator, had a distinct advantage of Dickens's original illustrator for the 19-part novel, Marcus Stone: he, unlike Stone, had read the entire text beforehand, and therefore already knew the plot secret surrounding the supposed murder of John Harmon before he received the Boston publisher's commission. Although presumed drowned in the Thames after being thrown overboard from his vessel as it was returning from South Africa, Harmon assumes such identities as Julius Handford and John Rokesmith in order to win Bella Wilfer as a modest bourgeois rather than a millionaire. Thus, Eytinge would have appreciated the fact that Stone very rarely depicts John Harmon (in any one of his identities) until Stone's "Mrs. Boffin discovers an Orphan" (Sept., 1864), in which he appears as the shadowy John Rokesmith behind Mrs. Boffin when she visits Betty Higden's cottage. Eytinge has waited to depict John Harmon until late in the narrative-pictorial sequence; moreover, while Eytinge has typically depicted pairs of characters associated with one another, he has elected to foreground Harmon and show Bella in the background — but then Harmon/ Rokesmith/Handford is a multi-faceted character.
Arriving at the [Boffins'] house, he found that Mr. and Mrs. Boffin were out, but that Miss Wilfer was in the drawing-room Miss Wilfer had remained at home, in consequence of not feeling very well, and had inquired in the evening if Mr. Rokesmith were in his room. 
Although Eytinge defines by his setting and pose of the character no particular moment, the passage suggested by his picture is conditioned by the presence of a young woman in the next room, apparently sewing, an activity suggested to the American illustrator by the phrase "her book and her work" (234), in Harmon's eyes "a Home Goddess" consistent with the notions about the respectable, middle-class chatelaine that Coventry Patmore would subsequently articulate in the long narrative poem The Angel in the House (first published in 1854, and expanded in 1862).
At this point in chapter 13, "a Solo and a Duett," the secretary accedes to Miss Wilfer's suggestion (presumably delivered by a servant) that he come up to the parlour. Eytinge imagines Harmon in the hall, outside the drawing-room, contemplating how his father had willed that he should marry her, regardless of the feelings of either his son or the young woman:
Oh, she looked very pretty, she looked very, very pretty! If the father of the late John Harmon had but left his money unconditionally to his son, and if his son had but lighted on this loveable girl for himself, and had the happiness to make her loving as well as loveable! 
Shortly the self-assessing John Harmon in his guise as the Boffins' Secretary, John Rokesmith, will propose to Bella Wilfer, quietly sewing in the upstairs parlour, and she will refuse him. Eytinge has captured well his subject's reflective mood in which, as he walked towards the Boffins' Bower he has been reviewing the chain of circumstances that led to his assuming a succession of identities and proposing (under an assumed name) marriage to the woman whom his father had chosen as a suitable wife.
Last modified 20 November 2010