Oliver refuses to be Bound over to the Sweep
14.5 x 9.5 cm vignetted
Fourth 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. 24.
Dickens's description of Oliver's entreating the guardians to reject Gummidge's application to have the boy bound over as his apprentice (Chapter 2, "Treats of Oliver Twist's Growth, Education, and Board") is effectively rendered in a melodramatic scene of heightened gestures and charged poses in George Cruikshank's Oliver Escapes Being Bound to a Sweep in the March 1837 issue of 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.]
It was the critical moment of Oliver's fate. If the inkstand had been where the old gentleman thought it was, he would have dipped his pen into it, and signed the indentures, and Oliver would have been straightway hurried off. But, as it chanced to be immediately under his nose, it followed, as a matter of course, that he looked all over his desk for it, without finding it; and happening in the course of his search to look straight before him, his gaze encountered the pale and terrified face of Oliver Twist: who, despite all the admonitory looks and pinches of Bumble, was regarding the repulsive countenance of his future master, with a mingled expression of horror and fear, too palpable to be mistaken, even by a half-blind magistrate.
"The old gentleman stopped, laid down his pen, and looked from Oliver to Mr. Limbkins; who attempted to take snuff with a cheerful and unconcerned aspect.
"My boy!" said the old gentleman, "you look pale and alarmed. What is the matter?"
"Stand a little away from him, Beadle," said the other magistrate: laying aside the paper, and leaning forward with an expression of interest. "Now, boy, tell us what's the matter: don't be afraid."
Oliver fell on his knees, and clasping his hands together, prayed that they would order him back to the dark room — that they would starve him — beat him — kill him if they pleased — rather than send him away with that dreadful man.
"Well!" said Mr. Bumble, raising his hands and eyes with most impressive solemnity. "Well! of all the artful and designing orphans that ever I see, Oliver, you are one of the most bare-facedest."
[Chapter 3, "Relates How Oliver Twist was Very Near Getting a Place, Which Would Not Have Been a Sinecure," p. 20-21]
Again, Oliver astonishes an authority figure — this time, the parish Beadle, Mr. Bumble — by daring to assert himself. In both the Cruikshank original and the Furniss revision, Oliver is dwarfed by the adults who will determine his future: looking piously heavenward in Cruikshank but merely indignant in Furniss, Mr. Bumble in uniform; the master of the workhouse, Mr. Limbkins (centre, in front of the magistrate's desk), taking snuff and disregarding the boy entirely; the sooty chimney-sweep Mr. Gamfield, whose villainous countenance is in complete contradiction to the magistrate's describing him as "an honest, open-hearted man" (20); and the benevolent, elderly magistrate with poor vision. Furniss has reorganised the scene so that the trustees (rear) play a diminished role in the hearing. For Chapter 3, "Relates How Oliver Twist was Very Near Getting a Place, Which Would Not Have Been a Sinecure"), Harry Furniss has provided a reinterpretation of the same Cruikshank illustration, magnifying the already considerable proportions of the self-important beadle, Mr. Bumble, with a diminutive Oliver squeezed between the beadle's massive stomach and the bow-legged, sour-faced chimney-sweep (exactly as depicted in his ornamental title-page).
Furniss has revised the original composition so that Oliver's persecutors, Gamfield the chimney-sweep and Bumble the parish beadle, are prominent (shown in close-up, so to speak), and the chief of the board of trustees, the kindly "magistrate" who actually attends to Oliver's wishes, is considerably reduced and placed in he background; moreover, he is hardly in his stern look in this Furniss re-working an anticipation of the humanitarian Mr. Bownlow. The Master of the Workhouse, Mr. Limkins, is now just an unsympathetic head enjoying snuff and disregarding the proceedings entirely. What matters to Furniss is communicating Oliver's genuine terror at the prospect of succumbing to black-lung disease as Gamfield's apprentice. The analeptic reading makes the plate less suspenseful as the reader has already encountered the text realised three pages earlier.
Illustrations from the Serial (1837), Diamond Edition (1867), Household Edition (1871), and Waverley Edition (1912)
Left: George Cruikshank's original version of Oliver Escapes Being Bound to a Sweep (1837, 1846). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney (1867). Right: Charles Pears' early 20th c. interpretation of the odious beadle or parochial official, Mr. Bumble taking tea with Mrs. Corney. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: James Mahoney's 1871 engraving of the Bumble's approaching the local undertaker (with whom he is in league) regarding an apprenticeship for Oliver, "Liberal terms, Mr. Sowerberry, liberal terms!" [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
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.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Bradbury and Evans; Chapman and Hall, 1846.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
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.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. The Waverley Edition. Illustrated by Charles Pears. London: Waverley, 1912.
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 4 January 2015