Toby Crackit Exasperates the Jew" by Harry Furniss. Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens Library Edition, volume 3, facing p. 185. The only member of the gang true to his Hogarthian roots is "Flash" Toby Crackit, a gambling, drinking, rollicking thief right out of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera (1728). The jovial lock-picker scouts out the house at Chertsey on Sikes's behalf, and even offers his back so his notorious colleague can lift Oliver into the so-called "Chertsey Window." However, the present scene occurs after the botched burlgary, when Fagin pumps the affable criminal for news of the boy. In contradiction to his rakish clothing, including "a smartly-cut snuff-coloured coat, with large brass buttons; and orange neckerchief" (160) in Chapter 22 ("The Burglary"), Toby is now swathed in "a coarse smock-frock" of the type worn by peasants. However, Furniss's rendition, modelled closely on his description in that earlier chapter, is fundamentally correct, despite Toby's being somewhat dishevelled after three days on the run: he has "no very quantity of hair, either upon his head or upon his face; but what he had, was of a reddish dye, and tortured into long corkscrew curls" (160). He wears fashionable top-boots still; however, Furniss has not given him "large common rings." His casual, outstretched posture before the criminal mastermind contrasts Fagin hunched, apprehensive posture as Toby concludes his meal with a glass of spirits (probably gin) mixed with water. The illustration of the study in contrasts, anxious age versus self-confident youth, is positioned immediately after the passage realised, at the very end of Chapter 25. 1910. lithograph. 8.0 by 13.6 ​cm vignetted, with extensive caption beneath.

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.].

Above: the window of Pyrcroft House, Chertsey, which is thought to have been the model for the window featured in the burglary episode (photograph taken of the window in situ in August 2005 by Jackie Banerjee). The original of the home in Surrey, Lynch speculates, is either a building in Gogmore Lane or, as tradition has it, Pycroft House, in Pycroft Street, now a school. The window, known as "Oliver's Window," has been relocated to the Morning Room of the Charles Dickens Museum at 48 Doughty Street, Holborn, London.

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.].

Passage Illustrated

"See there, Faguey," he said, pointing disconsolately to his top boots; "not a drop of Day and Martin since you know when; not a bubble of blacking, by Jove! But don't look at me in that way, man. All in good time. I can't talk about business till I've eat and drank; so produce the sustainance, and let's have a quiet fill-out for the first time these three days!"

The Jew motioned to the Dodger to place what eatables there were, upon the table; and, seating himself opposite the housebreaker, waited his leisure.

To judge from appearances, Toby was by no means in a hurry to open the conversation. At first, the Jew contented himself with patiently watching his countenance, as if to gain from its expression some clue to the intelligence he brought; but in vain. He looked tired and worn, but there was the same complacent repose upon his features that they always wore: and through dirt, and beard, and whisker, there still shone, unimpaired, the self-satisfied smirk of flash Toby Crackit. Then, the Jew, in an agony of impatience, watched every morsel he put into his mouth; pacing up and down the room, meanwhile, in irrepressible excitement. It was all of no use. Toby continued to eat with the utmost outward indifference, until he could eat no more; then, ordering the Dodger out, he closed the door, mixed a glass of spirits and water, and composed himself for talking.

"First and foremost, Faguey," said Toby.

"Yes, yes," interposed the Jew, drawing up his chair.

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and to declare that the gin was excellent; then placing his feet against the low mantelpiece, so as to bring his boots to about the level of his eye, he quietly resumed,

"First and foremost, Faguey," said the housebreaker, "how's Bill?"

"What!" screamed the Jew, starting from his seat.

"Why, you don't mean to say — " began Toby, turning pale.

"Mean!" cried the Jew, stamping furiously on the ground. "Where are they? Sikes and the boy! Where are they? Where have they been? Where are they hiding? Why have they not been here?"

"The crack failed," said Toby, faintly.

       [Chapter Twenty-Five, "Wherein This History Reverts to Mr. Fagin and Company," p. 184]


This subject, unlike Oliver's asking for more and Oliver's narrowly escaping being apprenticed to a chimney-sweep, was not one which Dickens directly proposed to his original illustrator George Cruikshank for​ Bentley's Miscellany. In Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman (Part Four, May 1837), Cruikshank and Dickens introduce a rather jolly Fagin, who has served as a model for later illustrators, including James Mahoney in the 1871 Household Edition and Kyd (J. Clayton Clarke) for the end of the century Character Sketches from Dickens, which depicts Fagin the boys' provider, toasting fork in hand, in Fagin, an image he reproduced for Player's Cigarette Card No. 2 in a series of fifty. Dark, menacing, and unkempt, Fagin in Sol Eytinge's single Diamond Edition illustration is neither parent, nor tutor, nor yet a monster, but he is not the compact, careworn, anxious, elderly interlocutor of this scene by Furniss.

Toby Crackit, the "flash" or fashionably if somewhat ostentatiously dressed member of the gang and resident lock expert, appears in very few narrative-pictorial sequences for Oliver Twist. However, Toby does appear at least twice in the Cruikshank 1846 Chapman and Hall wrapper vignettes: at the top, left, standing immediately behind Bill Sikes as the burglar prepares to lower Oliver through the window, and again among the gang members being apprehended by the Bow Street Runners (upper right). One can see a little of him in Mahoney's 1871 wood-engraving "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!" in the robbery scene for the third volume in the Household Edition. Unfortunately, the most extensive treatment of him, in Frederic W. Pailthorpe's 1886 series — Mr. Crackit's 'good natur'(the scene of the fashionably dressed lock-picker playing cribbage with callow gang member Tom Chitling at the beginning of Chapter 39 — is a caricature rather than the realistic portraiture provided by the Harry Furniss illustration. Although the fundamentals of the card-playing scene, including the cribbage board, are correct and faithful to the text, in which an overawed Tom Chitling is fearfully considering his play as he admires the suave criminal in elegant topboots as Fagin (left, readily identifiable by his caricatural nose) enters the room, Pailthorpe seems to have modelled his Toby Crackit on Bill Sikes rather than sought to distinguish him from his choleric colleague. Such details as a large pewter tankard, silk neckerchief, and slightly dingy white top-hat lend the coloured Pailthorpe engraving verisimilitude, but the "flash" waistcoat that the fin-de-siecle illustrator has given the character his epithet is not consistent with Chapter Twenty-two's description: "a coarse, staring, shawl-pattern waistcoat" (160). However, Pailthorpe's Toby has scanty red hair and admirable legs that Dickens reiterates. Furniss, on the other hand, has delivered an individualized and credible portrait of the swaggering thief, still ebullient after three days on the run. This characterisation is consistent with Sol Eytinge, Junior's description of the flash cracksman in the Diamond Edition volume (1867).

Illustrations from the Serial (1837), the Diamond Edition (1867), the Household Edition (1871), and "Character Sketches" by Darley (1888) and Kyd (1910)

Left: Frederic W. Pailthorpe's study of Toby Cricket and Tom Chitling in Mr. Crackit's 'good natur'. Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Diamond Edition wood-engraving of the rakish thief in Toby Crackit (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: James Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Toby Crackit assisting Sikes in breaking into the brewing room of the mansion at Chertsey in "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!". [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Cohen, Jane Rabb. "George Cruikshank." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980. Pp. 15-38.

Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.

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Lynch, Tony. "Chertsey, Surrey." Dickens's England: An A-Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. London: Batsford, 2012. Pp. 60-61.

Pailthorpe, Frederic W. (illustrator). Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist. London: Robson and Kerslake, 1886.

Last modified 16 February 2015