The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates
Sol Eytinge, Jr.
Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist, also, Pictures from Italy, and American Notes for General Circulation (Diamond Edition)
Although other illustrators have depicted Oliver's dubious companions in Fagin's crib with greater effectiveness, and usually in the act of committing petty thefts, as in George Cruikshank's original 1837 serial plate, Oliver amazed at the Dodger's mode of going to work, Eytinge employs contrast to distinguish their characters.
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.].
One afternoon, the Dodger and Master Bates being engaged out that evening, the first-named young gentleman took it into his head to evince some anxiety regarding the decoration of his person (to do him justice, this was by no means an habitual weakness with him); and, with this end and aim, he condescendingly commanded Oliver to assist him in his toilet, straightway.
Oliver was but too glad to make himself useful; too happy to have some faces, however bad, to look upon; too desirous to conciliate those about him when he could honestly do so; to throw any objection in the way of this proposal. So he at once expressed his readiness; and, kneeling on the floor, while the Dodger sat upon the table so that he could take his foot in his laps, he applied himself to a process which Mr. Dawkins designated as "japanning his trotter-cases." The phrase, rendered into plain English, signifieth, cleaning his boots. [Chapter 18, "How Oliver passed his time in the improving society of his reputable friends," p. 79]
Although Fagin directs a string of street gypsies, the only two who stand out are the quick-witted pickpocket Jack Dawkins (otherwise, "The Artful Dodger," a sobriquet doubtless conferred by Fagin himself) and Charley Bates, far more benign and facetious figures than Fagin's chief criminal associate, the burglar Bill Sikes. For all his wit and "artfulness," Dawking is sentenced to transportation for life to New South Wales, Britain's Australian penal colony. However, Dickens fashions a very different fate for Charley, whose explication of a professional technicality betrays his fear of hanging for his many petty thefts: at the close of the story, Charley reforms, returns to his rural roots as a grazier, becoming a prosperous burgess over time in his native Northamptonshire.
Dressed on casty-off adult clothing, Charley and the Dodger look like a bit like the anonymous street waif depicted in John Leech's 1843 political cartoon Substance and Shadow (left, inspecting a painting) from Punch Magazine. However, the Eytinge rogues are better dressed and less ill-kempt, although the American illustrator captures their grittier natures as he depicts them as street toughs in miniature, smoking, drinking (note the pot of porter on the table, left), and posturing. Purely to distinguish one from the other, Eytinge has Charley (right) laughing, and the Dodger (left, tophat tilted rakishly askew) scowling. The decaying plaster in the background suggests that the boys are in Fagin's garret.
Relevant Illustrations from the serial edition (1838), Household Edition (1871), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Left: George Cruikshank's Master Bates explains a professional technicality (1838). Right: Harry Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Edition illustration The Dodger's Toilet (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: James Mahoney's "What's become of the boy?" (1871). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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Last modified 10 October 2014