Toby Crackit. by Sol Eytinge, Jr. 7.5 cm high by 9.9 cm wide, framed. The Diamond Edition of Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Pictures from Italy, American Notes for General Circulation (Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867). 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.]
Muttering a curse upon his tardiness, Sikes pushed Oliver before him; and they entered a low dark room with a smoky fire, two or three broken chairs, a table, and a very old couch: on which, with his legs much higher than his head, a man was reposing at full length, smoking a long clay pipe. He was dressed in a smartly-cut snuff-coloured coat, with large brass buttons; an orange neckerchief; a coarse, staring, shawl-pattern waistcoat; and drab breeches. Mr. Crackit (for he it was) had no very great quantity of hair, either upon his head or face; but what he had, was of a reddish dye, and tortured into long corkscrew curls, through which he occasionally thrust some very dirty fingers, ornamented with large common rings. He was a trifle above the middle size, and apparently rather weak in the legs; but this circumstance by no means detracted from his own admiration of his top-boots, which he contemplated, in their elevated situation, with lively satisfaction.
"Bill, my boy!" said this figure, turning his head towards the door, "I'm glad to see you. I was almost afraid you’d given it up: in which case I should have made a personal wentur. Hallo!"
Uttering this exclamation in a tone of great surprise, as his eyes rested on Oliver, Mr. Toby Crackit brought himself into a sitting posture, and demanded who that was. [Chapter 22, "The Burglary," page 95]
The Hogarthian underworld figures of the dashing young burglar Toby Crackit and his laudanum-addicted servant boy, Barney (characters straight out of the cast of lowlifes in John Gay's The Beggar's Opera) rarely appear in the illustrations of the novel. Bent upon the task of introducing the characters of the story in telling poses, Sol Eytinge does not address one of the principal incidents in the story, Sikes's attempted burglary of the Maylies' home in Chertsey, but instead shows a minor, Newgate character in an habitual pose. The original illustrator, doubtless acting under Dickens's directions, shows Oliver surprised by the Maylies' servants (a scene copied but rendered more dramatic by Harry Furniss), whereas James Mahoney in the 1871 volume for the Household Edition has elected to build up the suspense by depicting two scenes leading up to the burglary, although once again he does not attempt to compete with George Cruikshank by attempting to update and render the scene in the great house more realistically. In Mahoney's second picture associated with the ill-fated burglary, Toby (indistinctly seen) serves as Sikes's stepping stone to the window through which Sikes has just admitted Oliver to the house. Not overly bright, the housebreaker nevertheless has the reputation of being able to seduce housemaids into assisting the gang with their breakins. In fact, he may well have derived his background information about the layout of the house by chatting with servants and tradesmen over the previous fortnight. However, despite his "sham whiskers, and a canary waistcoat" (ch. 19), Crackit has apparently encountered some resistance from even the women servants. However, Toby Crackit has gleaned enough about the floorplan of the house at Chertsey to enable Sikes to proceed with the robbery — but the pair need a boy of Oliver's size to squeeze through a pantry window. However, at the first sign of trouble from the male servants when he accompanies Sikes and Oliver to Chertsey, Crackit cuts and runs, revealing himself not so much as dashing — a slovenly Regency buck in Eytinge's drawing — as cowardly posturer.
Introduced as a peripheral member of the gang in Chapter 19, "Flash Toby Crackit," an expert lock-picker and flashy dresser, has a safe-house on Jacob's Island to which Sikes, after the murder of Nancy and his subsequent flight to Hatfield north of London, repairs in hopes of escaping to France. Eytinge captures Crackit's attitude well, although he shows neither the lock-picker's dirty fingers nor his multitude of rings.
Relevant Original Serial (1838-9), Household Edition (1871) and Illustrated Library Edition (1910) Illustrations
Left: George Cruikshank's The Burglary. Right: James Mahoney's "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!" (1871). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: James Mahoney's Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch. (1871). Right: Harry Furniss's The Burglary (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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Last modified 16 October 2014