13.9 x 9 cm vignetted
Thirteenth 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. 136.
Dickens's original illustrator,
George Cruikshank in the September 1837 number of
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Two Passages Illustrated
"Why, what the blazes is in the wind now!" growled a deep voice. "Who pitched that 'ere at me? It's well it's the beer, and not the pot, as hit me, or I'd have settled somebody. I might have know'd, as nobody but an infernal, rich, plundering, thundering old Jew could afford to throw away any drink but water — and not that, unless he done the River Company every quarter. Wot's it all about, Fagin? D—me, if my neck-handkercher an't lined with beer! Come in, you sneaking warmint; wot are you stopping outside for, as if you was ashamed of your master! Come in!"
The man who growled out these words, was a stoutly-built fellow of about five-and-thirty, in a black velveteen coat, very soiled drab breeches, lace-up half boots, and grey cotton stockings which inclosed a bulky pair of legs, with large swelling calves; — the kind of legs, which in such costume, always look in an unfinished and incomplete state without a set of fetters to garnish them. He had a brown hat on his head, and a dirty belcher handkerchief round his neck: with the long frayed ends of which he smeared the beer from his face as he spoke. He disclosed, when he had done so, a broad heavy countenance with a beard of three days' growth, and two scowling eyes; one of which displayed various parti-coloured symptoms of having been recently damaged by a blow.
"Come in, d'ye hear?" growled this engaging ruffian.
A white shaggy dog, with his face scratched and torn in twenty different places, skulked into the room.
"Why didn't you come in afore?" said the man. "You're getting too proud to own me afore company, are you? Lie down!"
This command was accompanied with a kick, which sent the animal to the other end of the room. He appeared well used to it, however; for he coiled himself up in a corner very quietly, without uttering a sound, and winking his very ill-looking eyes twenty times in a minute, appeared to occupy himself in taking a survey of the apartment.
[Chapter 13, "Some New Acquaintances are introduced to the Intelligent Reader; Connected with whom, Various Pleasant Matters are Related, Appertaining to this History," p. 87-88]
In the obscure parlour of a low public-house, in the filthiest part of Little Saffron Hill; a dark and gloomy den, where a flaring gas-light burnt all day in the winter-time; and where no ray of sun ever shone in the summer: there sat, brooding over a little pewter measure and a small glass, strongly impregnated with the smell of liquor, a man in a velveteen coat, drab shorts, half-boots and stockings, whom even by that dim light no experienced agent of the police would have hesitated to recognise as Mr. William Sikes. At his feet, sat a white-coated, red-eyed dog; who occupied himself, alternately, in winking at his master with both eyes at the same time; and in licking a large, fresh cut on one side of his mouth, which appeared to be the result of some recent conflict.
[Chapter 15, "Showing how very fond of Oliver Twist, the Merry Old Jew and Miss Nancy were," p. 104-105]
Curiously, editor J. A. Hammerton has not included a descriptive passage that suggests where in the letterpress this character study should be situated; this omission suggests that Hammerton believed there was no one moment that the illustrator of' the Charles Dickens Library Edition had in mind. Until he becomes unnerved after murdering Nancy, Sikes is much the same throughout the novel: brutal, determined, and without compassion or imagination. Although he does not include the burglar's constant companion, the "white-coated, red-eyed dog" the ill-treated cur Bull's-eye, Harry Furniss has modelled his full-length portrait of the scowling Sikes on both realisations by Cruikshank and Mahoney, notably the thug in the dingy white beaver and long greatcoat in "You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?". Both Sikes attempting to destroy his dog (January 1839) and The Last Chance (February 1839) also offered Furniss workable models, both of which, of course, are directly based on Dickens's original descriptions of the brutal housebreaker and, ultimately, murderer. Part of Dickens's intention for Sikes seems to have been to use him to debunk the romance of the dashing professional thief established by such figures as Henry Fielding's Jonathan Wilde, William Harrison Ainsworth's Jack Shepherd, Edward Bulwer Lytton's Paul Clifford, and — ultimately — John Gay's rakish highwayman Macheath in The Beggar's Opera (1728).
In the original serial illustration introducing Sikes, Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends, Cruikshank depicts the tall, unshaven thug as he grabs Oliver in the back streets of Clerkenwell on his way to return Mr. Brownlow's books. There is no comparable scene in the 1871 Household Edition volume; rather, avoiding a scene already competently rendered by Cruikshank, James Mahoney shows Oliver being pursued as a pickpocket by a mob that includes the real thieves, Charley Bates and The Dodger, "Stop thief!", in Chapter 10.
Although Dickens's official illustrator for Oliver Twist in the 1837-9 serial, George Cruikshank, depicts the housebreaker Bill Sikes as the sordid, lower-class villain out of contemporary melodrama, the figure whom Felix Octavius Carr Darley describes in his series of Character Sketches from Dickens (1888) is once again much more of an individual (despite his characteristic long face and white top hat) than a type. In the chapter 22 illustration which depicts Oliver's being surprised and shot at as soon as he has entered to house that Sikes is attempting to rob, The Burglary, Cruikshankdepicts the burglar in a framed portrait, as an apparently helpless Sikes watches the unfolding scene with interest. Effectively rendered, Cruikshank's ruffian is unshaven, unkempt, and full-faced. Selecting an equally dramatic moment in the story, American illustrator Felix Octavius Carr Darley depicts Bill Sikes in action, rather than as a static figure, whereas in the Diamond Edition of 1867, Sol Eytinge, Jr.,in Bill Sikes and Nancy captures the disreputable couple's desperation and despondency. Taking a little more pity on the down-and-out couple, in the Household Edition, realist James Mahoney focuses on Nancy's tenderness for the exhausted Skies, whom she tends as if he were her child in Then, stooping over the bed, she kissed the robber's lips (Chapter 39) — a highly ironic scene, given Sikes's subsequent treatment of the woman whom he believes has betrayed him and Fagin's gang. In the 1890 collection of Dickens's characters, The Characters of Charles Dickens pourtrayed in a series of original watercolours by "Kyd", J. Clayton Clarke romantizes the ill-shaven thug with the swaggering gait and penetrating gaze. Perhaps the quintessential realisation of Fagin's burly associateis that by Fred Barnard in his Character Sketches from Dickens (1888).
Actors who have portrayed Sikes on film include Robert Newton in the 1948 David Lean film, Oliver Reed in the 1968 musical Oliver! (replacing Danny Sewell from the original stage production), and Tim Curry (1982), Robert Loggia (voice, 1988), Michael McAnallen (1995), David O'Hara (1997), Andy Serkis (1999), Jamie Foreman (2005), Tom Hardy (2007), Burn Gorman (2009), Steven Hartley (2009), Shannon Wise (2010), Jake Thomas (2011), and Anthony Brown (2012).
Illustrations from the Serial (1837), Diamond Edition (1867), Household Edition (1871) Darley's "Character Sketches from Dickens" (1888), and Kyd's "Characters from Dickens" (1890)
Left: George Cruikshank's Oliver claimed by his affectionate friends. Right: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's 1888 portrait of the notorious housebreaker, abducting Oliver, Sikes, Nancy, and Oliver Twist. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: J. Clayton Clarke's 1890 portrait "Bill Sikes. Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Bill Sikes and Nancy (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: James Mahoney's 1871 initial portrait of Bill Sikes, James Mahoney's "You are still on the scent, are you, Nancy?" [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Barnard, Fred (illustrator). "Frontispiece." [Bill Sikes and his bull terrier, Bull's-eye, from Chapter 15]. Charles Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Illustrated by Charles Pears. London: Waverley, 1912. Rpt. from Character Sketches from Dickens. Series 3. Philadelphia : A.E. Newton, [1888?] London; New York: Cassell and Co., .
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Clarke, J. Clayton. The Characters of Charles Dickens pourtrayed in a series of original watercolours by "Kyd.". London: Raphael Tuck, 1890.
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Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Illustrated by James Mahoney. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens Library Edition. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 3.
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Forster, John. "Oliver Twist 1838." The Life of Charles Dickens. Edited by B. W. Matz. The Memorial Edition. 2 vols. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1911. Vol. 1, book 2, chapter 3.
Last modified 31 January 2015