The Death-Struggle in the Lock
13.7 x 8.9 cm framed
Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Vol. 15 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, for Book 4, Chapter 15, "What was Caught in the Traps that were Set," facing p. 832.
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
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.]
"Come, come, Master," urged Riderhood, at his side. "This is a dry game. And where's the good of it? You can't get rid of me, except by coming to a settlement. I am a going along with you wherever you go."
Without a word of reply, Bradley passed quickly from him over the wooden bridge on the lock gates. "Why, there's even less sense in this move than t'other," said Riderhood, following. "The Weir's there, and you'll have to come back, you know."
Without taking the least notice, Bradley leaned his body against a post, in a resting attitude, and there rested with his eyes cast down. "Being brought here," said Riderhood, gruffly, "I'll turn it to some use by changing my gates." With a rattle and a rush of water, he then swung-to the lock gates that were standing open, before opening the others. So, both sets of gates were, for the moment, closed.
"You'd better by far be reasonable, Bradley Headstone, Master," said Riderhood, passing him, "or I'll drain you all the dryer for it, when we do settle. — Ah! Would you!"
Bradley had caught him round the body. He seemed to be girdled with an iron ring. They were on the brink of the Lock, about midway between the two sets of gates.
"Let go!" said Riderhood, "or I'll get my knife out and slash you wherever I can cut you. Let go!"
Bradley was drawing to the Lock-edge. Riderhood was drawing away from it. It was a strong grapple, and a fierce struggle, arm and leg. Bradley got him round, with his back to the Lock, and still worked him backward.
"Let go!' said Riderhood. "Stop! What are you trying at? You can't drown Me. Ain't I told you that the man as has come through drowning can never be drowned? I can't be drowned."
"I can be!" returned Bradley, in a desperate, clenched voice. "I am resolved to be. I'll hold you living, and I'll hold you dead. Come down!"
Riderhood went over into the smooth pit, backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him. When the two were found, lying under the ooze and scum behind one of the rotting gates, Riderhood's hold had relaxed, probably in falling, and his eyes were staring upward. But, he was girdled still with Bradley's iron ring, and the rivets of the iron ring held tight. — Book Four, "A Turning"; Ch. 15, "What was Caught in the Traps that were Set," p. 836-837.
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.]
In "The Death-Struggle in the Lock," Harry Furniss draws upon the work of two earlier British illustrators, Marcus Stone in the ultimate number of the 1864-65 nineteen-month serialisation and James Mahoney in the penultimate plate in the 1875 Household Edition volume. Whereas Furniss utilizes the panoramic view of the upper Thames lock and weir in the November 1865 wood-engraving Not to be Shaken Off, with an instinct for the dramatic he shifts the moment captured from the tranquil verbal sparring of the antagonists to the moment that James Mahoney elected to illustrate when, fed up with Riderhood's demands, Headstone suddenly grapples with the old salt as he prepares to tumble both of them into the water in Riderhood went over into the smooth pit backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him, reinforcing to Victorian readers the power of poetic justice.
Whereas F. O. C. Darley in the fourth American "Household" Edition volume of 1866 had focussed in the frontispiece on Rogue Riderhood's surveillance of Headstone as he attempts to destroy the evidence of his involvement in what he believes to be the murder of the young lawyer in On the Track, the crime-and-detection aspect of the novel, Furniss has seized upon the most suspenseful scene in the final movement of the story, which he would have recognised as the origin of the climactic scene in No Thoroughfare, the collaborative Wilkie Collins-Charles Dickens novella for Christmas 1867 in All the Year Round in which the young English protagonist George Vendale wrestles with his Swiss antagonist, Jules Obenreizer, on the edge of a glacier — the scene appears in the 1877 Household Edition volume Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. G. Dalziel, He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow, although Furniss's interpretation, like Mahoney's in 1875, may well have been conditioned by Charles Green's 1868 Illustrated Library Edition wood-engraving No Thoroughfare. Although the mountain scene is set in the Simplon Pass, near the village of Brieg, above Lausanne, the text realised — two figures in a natural setting grappling with one another and about to experience a fatal fall — is decidedly similar to this in the fourth book's fifteenth chapter; however, in the 1864-65 novel the adversaries are the greedy working-class villain Rogue Riderhood and his middle-class counterpart, the obsessed and psychologically damaged schoolmaster Bradley Headstone. Whereas the reader is engaged on behalf of neither figure in the combat, in the 1867 novella the reader is on the edge of his seat to discover whether the English protagonist lives or dies. Since Harry Furniss in the Charles Dickens Library Edition illustrated both Our Mutual Friend and No Thoroughfare and had undoubtedly studied the illustrations of earlier British editions, he would have recognized the parallels as well as the significant differences between various artists' handlings of the two suspenseful scenes from the 1860s.
In his version of the Stone and Mahoney illustrations for the 1864-65 novel, Furniss shows the pair hurtling through the air towards the frigid Thames water in the lock rather than still on the right bank near the lock stairs, partially covered in snow. The pair are distinguished principally by their hats: whereas Riderhood is still wearing his proletarian fur cap (centre), Headstone has already lost his top-hat (right). To balance the figures in the centre of the composition, Furniss has made the snow-covered lock-keeper's house much more substantial than the mere "hut" in the earlier illustrations. Furniss's illustration of Lizzie Hexam's recue of Eugene Wrayburn (preceding this) likewise reinforces his interest in these active, secondary characters and his artistic fascination with the dramatic scenes of the novel.
Comparable Chapter Illustrations in the original & Household Editions, 1865-1875
Left: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's 1866 frontispiece, showing Riderhood, following Headstone to the river bank in Book 4, Chapter 7, "Better to be Cain than Abel, On the Track (New York "Household Edition," vol. 4). Right: Harry Furniss's more violent reinterpretation of Marcus Stone's handling of the confrontation at the lock, The Death-Struggle in the Lock. (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Marcus Stone's sentimental interpretation of the scene in which, rather than be blackmailed, Bradley Headstone ponders attacking Rogue Riderhood by the river lock, Not to be Shaken Off (Book 4, "A Turning," Ch. 15, "What was Caught in the Traps that were Set," November 1865, the final, "double" number). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Above: James Mahoney's interpretation of the violent scene in which, rather than be blackmailed, Bradley Headstone determines to do away with Rogue Riderhood even if doing so means self-destruction, in Riderhood went over into the smooth pit backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him (Book 4, "A Turning," Ch. 15, "What was Caught in the Traps that were Set"). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Comparable Scenes in "No Thoroughfare" (1867): 1868-1910
Left: Harry Furniss's The Struggle on the Mountain (1910). Centre: E. G. Dalziel's "He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow." (1877). Right: Charles Green's dramatic illustration of the struggle in "No Thoroughfare" (1868). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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Last modified 10 January 2016