"The Dodger's Toilet"
13.9 x 9.2 cm vignetted
Twelfth illustration for The Adventures of Oliver Twist in Oliver Twist and A Child's History of England, Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), vol. 3, facing p. 128.
Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank responded to Dickens's November 1837 suggestion for an illustration with Master Bates Explains a Professional Technicality, dealing with Oliver's being re-indoctrinated into Fagin's criminal ethos through the companionship of the hardened thieves Charles Bates and Jack Dawkins ("The Artful Dodger") in Part 9, December 1837, in Bentley's Miscellany. [Click on illustration 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.]
"Look here!" said the Dodger, drawing forth a handful of shillings and halfpence. "Here's a jolly life! What's the odds where it comes from? Here, catch hold; there's plenty more where they were took from. You won't, won't you? Oh, you precious flat!"
"It's naughty, ain't it, Oliver?" inquired Charley Bates. " He'll come to be scragged, won't he?"
"I don't know what that means," replied Oliver.
"Something in this way, old feller," said Charley. As he said it, Master Bates caught up an end of his neckerchief; and, holding it erect in the air, dropped his head on his shoulder, and jerked a curious sound through his teeth; thereby indicating, by a lively pantomimic representation, that scragging and hanging were one and the same thing.
"That's what it means," said Charley. "Look how he stares, Jack!"
[Chapter 18, "How Oliver passed his time in the improving society of his reputable friends," p. 134]
There is no comparable scene of youthful horseplay in the 1871 Household Edition volume because realist James Mahoney takes this opportunity to prepare the reader for Fagin's lending Oliver to housebreaker Bill Sikes to assist in the ill-fated robbery at Chertsey in The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor, in Chapter 19, "In Which a Notable Plan is Discussed and Determined On."
Furniss has modelled his illustration of Oliver's reprogramming, then, directly on the Cruikshank original.Despite his being the resident clown of the gang, Charley Bates lives very much in the shadow of his more famous friend, The Artful Dodger, whose wit and personality are markedly more brazen. The November 1837 letter in which Dickens arranges to meet his illustrator to "settle the Illustration" (Letters, I: 329) sheds little light on why the author and artist settled upon this "gallows humour" scene with "Master Bates." However, one may speculate that, having given Jack Dawkins and Fagin centre stage in both Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman and Oliver amazed at the Dodger's mode of going to work (June and July 1837), author and illustrator wanted to showcase the waggish Charley Bates. Certainly, he has not continued to enjoy the literary celebrity in which his partner-in-crime has basked (thanks in part to Lionel Bart's 1969 musical adapted for the cinema, Oliver!. As the plot thickens and the gang plans to use Oliver as its vehicle for breaking into the manor house at Chertsey, Surrey, the scene provides welcome and necessary comic relief. As Monroe Engle remarks, the Dodger's later
bravado before the court [at his hearing regarding transportation], for example, is moving because it is in the face of heavy consequences. The point is not only that the criminals are threatened by death, but that they are all of them, even the most hardened, aware of the imminence of this threat almost all the time. 
Thus, when Charley mimics being hanged by the neck until dead, the usual sentence for even the most trivial of crimes against property prior to the reforms of the 1830s, he is not merely laughing in the face of death, but ridiculing a heartless system. In his horseplay he becomes Dickens's spokesperson for reform. The tom foolery, of course, is Dickens's strategy for creating an ambivalent response in his middle-class readers, who, despite their deploring crimes against property, cannot help but laugh at Charley's antics, in both text and illustration. To fully enjoy Charley's act as the class clown we must become members of the class.
Although Harry Furniss at the turn of the century may not have been acutely aware of the draconian laws which menace Charley and the Dodger on their every expedition, and was not then able to peruse the Dickens-Cruikshank correspondence regarding the choice of this subject, he was certainly able to weigh and assess the strengths and demerits of Cruikshank's original steel engraving. In consequence, the present illustration represents both Furniss's homage to the earlier illustrator and a critical re-thinking. In the original, behind Charley, simulating the noose, is a very stout wooden door which represents enforced isolation. Welcoming any company whatsoever, Oliver gladly becomes the Dodger's bootblack, in thieves' cant, "japanning his trotter-cases" (132). In Furniss's impressionistic revision, the stout door of Oliver's cell all but disappears as the illustrator presents the young thieves not as Fagin's agents but as boozy puppets, and Oliver, now to the side (rather than sandwiched in between them, as in Cruikshank's plate), as the only undistorted human form in the scene. The juxtaposition makes Oliver the normative observer and Charley the entertainer. Under the influence of the large tankards of London ale, the pickpockets jeer at capital punishment, even though Charley's parodying of hanging is not likely to induce Oliver to become an active member of the gang — even though, in fact, that is exactly what he is about to become. So effective is Charley as a comedian that in Furniss's illustration Oliver appears to be highly entertained, whereas in the Cruikshank original he looks somewhat alarmed at the grim fate that awaits these youthful criminals.
Ironically, during the period in which Dickens's Newgate Novel is set, criminals were hanged for offences other than murder: in 1820, moreover, nobody was hanged for homicide, but 29 were hanged at Newgate for such lesser crimes as uttering forged notes (twelve instances) and for theft (twelve for robbery or burglary, and five for highway robbery). Charley Bates was quite right, then, about the fate that would probably attend his following the "trade." Ironically, were he to be tried and found guilty of anything other than theft, rape, murder, arson, or forgery, he would most certainly be transported and not hanged until well into the century. Typically in the eighteenth century, crimes against property merited hanging: there were roughly two hundred such crimes, that number only being reduced to just over one hundred in 1823 by the Tory administration of Sir Robert Peel. If the period of the main action of the novel is "Post-Reform Bill," so to speak, Charley's chances of escaping the noose would increase, as, seven years after Peel's initiative, the Liberal administration of Lord John Russell abolished the death sentence for horse stealing and housebreaking. One must assume that, if the story occurs in the early 1830s, Bill Sikes would have hanged as a murderer rather than a mere burglar, but Fagin's hanging for his crimes against property, although on a massive scale, would be less likely — we must assume that he is condemned to death for his part in Nancy's murder.
Illustrations from the Serial (1837), Diamond Edition (1867), Household Edition (1871) and Kyd's "Characters from Dickens" (1890)
Left: George Cruikshank's original version of Master Bates Explains a Professional Technicality (Dec. 1837). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates(1867). Right: Kyd's's 1890 realisation of the self-confident Jack Dawkins in The Artful Dodger. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: James Mahoney's 1871 realisation of Oliver's incarceration in the gang's hideout, The boy was lying, fast asleep, on a rude bed upon the floor. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 30January 2015