Monks and Fagin watching Oliver sleep
14 x 9.1 cm vignetted
Twenty-first 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. 256.
Like Cruikshank's version of this scene published seventy years earlier (see below), this illustration depicts a mysterious gentleman and his hideous confederate, Fagin, watching while Oliver dozes over his books [continued below].
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.]
Oliver knew, perfectly well, that he was in his own little room; that his books were lying on the table before him; that the sweet air was stirring among the creeping plants outside. And yet he was asleep. Suddenly, the scene changed; the air became close and confined; and he thought, with a glow of terror, that he was in the Jew's house again. There sat the hideous old man, in his accustomed corner, pointing at him, and whispering to another man, with his face averted, who sat beside him.
"Hush, my dear!" he thought he heard the Jew say; "it is he, sure enough. Come away."
"He!" the other man seemed to answer; "could I mistake him, think you? If a crowd of ghosts were to put themselves into his exact shape, and he stood amongst them, there is something that would tell me how to point him out. If you buried him fifty feet deep, and took me across his grave, I fancy I should know, if there wasn't a mark above it, that he lay buried there?
The man seemed to say this, with such dreadful hatred, that Oliver awoke with the fear, and started up.
Good Heaven! what was that, which sent the blood tingling to his heart, and deprived him of his voice, and of power to move! There — there — at the window; close before him; so close, that he could have almost touched him before he started back: with his eyes peering into the room, and meeting his: there stood the Jew! And beside him, white with rage or fear, or both, were the scowling features of the man who had accosted him in the inn-yard.
It was but an instant, a glance, a flash, before his eyes; and they were gone. But they had recognised him, and he them; and their look was as firmly impressed upon his memory, as if it had been deeply carved in stone, and set before him from his birth. He stood transfixed for a moment; then, leaping from the window into the garden, called loudly for help.
[Chapter 34, "Contains Some Introductory Particulars Relative to a Young Gentleman Who now Arrives Upon the Scene; and a New Adventure which Happened to Oliver," p. 259]
Furniss's notion of having Fagin and his unlikely ally, Monks, watch the sleeping Oliver, who thinks himself worlds away from the East End gang, is directly derived from that of Dickens himself and George Cruikshank in the June 1838 illustration which announces the role of Monks, Oliver's evil half-brother, in the plot. The arrival of the shadowy figure of "Monks," the alias of Edward Leeford, Oliver's half-brother, transforms the narrative from a Newgate Novel and a putative bildungsroman (although Oliver never achieves manhood in the pages of the novel) to a "lost heir" mystery. Now the narrative begins to reveal Fagin's true motives in training the boy to become a thief, for Oliver will either vanish from middle-class eyes into the murky criminal underworld of London, or be incarcerated, or transported — or executed as a felon, and therefore never realise that he is the legitimate heir of Edwin Leeford. Clearly Furniss felt that he should replicate this plot development in the narrative-pictorial sequence by foregrounding Oliver and having Fagin seem to reach in through the open window, as if to wake the boy. The slender writing desk surmounted by books and an ink pot, the books on the shelves, and the leaded-pane garden windows, like Oliver's ornate chair and respectable clothing, all imply the affluent lifestyle of the upper-middle-class Maylies. Oliver's face is light, his hair blond, in contrast to the dark-faced, dark-haired Monks and Sikes, evil characters who threaten Oliver's future. John O. Jordan notes that, in contrast to what-skinned, blemishless, blond-haired Oliver, both Fagin and Monks are "marked" characters. Whereas Fagin is marked by his red hair, traditional Jewish features, and toasting fork as a Satanic avatar, the gloomy, epileptic Monks bears a the mark of Cain on his throat. Fagin
seeks to inscribe a narrative of crime on Oliver's blankness by telling him exciting stories about robbery and giving him the Newgate Calendar to read. In this way he hopes to "blacken" Oliver's soul — an echo of Dickens' blacking factory experience, perhaps. Oliver appears to be a tabula rasa unmarked by experience, and he is often described as having a face of perfect innocence. 
The Maylies may dress, feed, and even educate the workhouse boy as if he were a middle-class child — inscribing, as it were, a middle-class identity upon the parish boy, but the gang may yet recapture the boy, destroying his new-found sense of security and dragging him back into their malignant designs.
In the Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney focusses much earlier part in the narrative-pictorial sequence. In Chapter 34, in which Dickens re-introduces the "gentleman" with the vicious streak, the illustrator does not realize the highly dramatic moment in which the stranger in the marketplace curses Olive when the boy goes to the market-town to mail a letter to the Maylies' physician, Mr. Losberne, about Rose's deteriorating health. At The George Inn, where Oliver has just posted the letter, he encounters the peculiar stranger, who swears at him, then inexplicably falls to the ground in the throes of an epileptic seizure, "writhing and foaming" (Household Edition, ch. 34, p. 121). Rather, Mahoney introduces the shadowy half-brother at the outset, in the novel's frontispiece, The Evidence Destroyed, and then re-introduces him as Fagin's confederate in Chapter 26, in the wood-engraving "Fagin!" whispered a voice close to his ear, at the very mid-point in his 1871 narrative-pictorial sequence. The Mahoney scene is mysterious, even inexplicable, but lacks the dramatic force of the Cruikshank illustration. Furniss settled upon Cruikshank's strategy rather than Mahoney's in introducing the Monks subplot.
Either the editor, J. A. Hammerton, or the artist has positioned the illustration for Chapter 34 just a few pages prior to the passage realised on p. 259, so that the reader is left in doubt as to the outcome of their surveillance. That he is a victim caught unawares in some sort of snare carefully laid by Fagin and Monks is implied by the web-like design in Oliver's oversized chair. The sleeping boy, now absorbed into the Maylie household, is surrounded by tomes suggestive of middle-class education (not merely the open books over which Oliver dozes, but the books on the shelves just visible in the darkness behind him), but his unsavoury past has come back to haunt him. The nature of the plot against Oliver will become apparent in Chapter 37, where Mahoney had introduced Monks in league with Bumble, in "Were you looking for me," he said, "when you peered in at the window?", whereas Furniss builds anticipation towards the return of Monks to the narrative-pictorial sequence, and next shows him at another highly dramatic moment, The Evidence Destroyed in Chapter 38. Mahoney's visualisation of Monks' clandestine meeting with Fagin at Saffron Hill past eleven o' clock at night accords well with the gothic figure's surreptitious nature, similarly presented in Mahoney's Household Edition frontispiece. In his signature top-hat and cloak, plotting behind the scenes against his virtuous younger brother, Cain-like Monks is a villain straight out of the melodrama. From the outset in the third volume of the Household Edition, Monks is a significant figure in the plot — but then, Mahoney, like Harry Furniss, having read the entire book before receiving the Chapman and Hall commission in 1870, would have known the entire story, whereas Cruikshank knew only as much as he had read in the monthly instalments up to that point and as much as Dickens himself was prepared to reveal.
The legitimate heir of Edwin Leeford plots against his illegitimate half-brother because he covets Oliver's portion of the patrimony — a Cain to Oliver's Abel — is the subject of Sol Eytinge, Junior's character study Monks in the 1867 Diamond Edition of the novel. Whereas Mahoney in 1871, like Eytinge in 1867, was well aware of Monks's importance to the "missing heir" plot, Cruikshank had introduced Monks later, in company with Fagin at Oliver's window in the garden at Chertsey. The artist's identifying the villains with the green world may at first strike the reader as odd, but Oliver is in side, part of the constructed, civilised world, and both the gentleman plotter and the criminal fence are outside those bounds. Eytinge shows the melodramatic villain by himself, alienated, brooding, and malevolent, the child of privilege who considers nobody's welfare but his own. The cape in which the various illustrators clothe him is the outward and visible sign of his attempt to act in secret, so that he consorts with his criminal associates under an assumed identity, and often under the cover of night. His manner and speech, however, betray his true background. His association with Fagin in Cruikshank's, Mahoney's, and Furniss's illustrations show that he is prepared to violate the barriers of class and propriety in order to advance his fortunes, evenat the cost of Oliver's life. The Victorian illustrators consistently depict the venomous older brother as "a tall man wrapped in a cloak" (Ch. 34), "his face averted," his height consistently exaggerated by his respectable top-hat. Tellingly, in the text Fagin apparently fears even uttering his name.
That Harry Furniss gave the black-cloaked figure who travels under an alias amongst the lowest elements of society a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) inCharacters in the Story, the ornamental border for the title-page of the 1910 volume, suggests that the fin de siecle artist felt that his destruction of the evidence was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text. Furniss, also guided by the author's and original illustrator's choice of scenes for the monthly engravings, introduces Monks in a scene precisely paralleling Cruikshank's in Chapter 34, Monks and the Jew (June 1838) with Monks and Fagin watching Oliver sleep. However, Furniss makes several significant changes in that he designates Fagin by name (rather than as "The Jew" in the 1838 serial illustration) in the caption, and places the emphasis on the figure of Oliver who, though asleep, dominates the scene physically as he dominates Monks's thoughts. The boy, in contrast to plotting visitors like black crows at his window, dozes over his school book's on a summer evening, mistakenly believing himself safe at last and well out of Fagin's diabolical clutches. The surreptitious adults, barely visible as black silhouettes in the background, are more threatening in that they are present but not clearly discernible. The Kyd and Pailthorpe sequences, in contrast to those of Cruikshank, Eytinge, Mahoney, and Furniss neglect the figure of Monks, whose function in the plot the 1910 cigarette card only implies in the following line: Fain is "Baffled in his attempts to lure Oliver Twist into a life of crime" (Card No. 2, verso).
Illustrations from the initial serial edition (1837-39), Diamond Edition (1871), and Household Edition (1910)
Left: George Cruikshank's Monks and the Jew. Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Monks . Right: Harry Furniss's Monks and Fagin watching Oliver sleep. (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: James Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Oliver's tranquil life at the Maylies', "Fagin!" whispered a voice close to his ear. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Created 25 February2015