Fagin and Noah understand each other by Harry Furniss. Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens Library Edition, volume 3, facing p. 320. The illustration, which is a reworking of The Jew & Morris Both begin to understand each other (See below; Part 19, November 1838), realizes another fateful meeting, that of Oliver's old nemesis, the spindly-legged Noah Claypole (who has robbed Sowerberry's till and fled to London with the Sowerberrys' maid, Charlotte) and Fagin, who has made his temporary headquarters at the disreputable public house known as The Three Cripples. Cruikshank realised the moment when Noah believes he has met a kindred spirit, a knowing denizen of the metropolis — just prior to Noah's becoming highly apprehensive when by chance F agin asserts that making drinking such a beverage will require augmenting one's income by such illegal expedients as robbing the master's till. Furniss's Fagin, in contrast, by his quizzical look implies that he recognizes Noah, already disguised in a carter's smock-frock, as a cowardly braggart and a pompous fool, whose proclivities have only been exaggerated by the contents of the enormous tankard beside him in Chapter 42.

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Passage Illustrated

Mr. Claypole looked into the porter-pot with an aspect of deep wisdom; and having well shaken its contents, nodded condescendingly to Charlotte, and took a draught, wherewith he appeared greatly refreshed. He was meditating another, when the sudden opening of the door, and the appearance of a stranger, interrupted him.

The stranger was Mr. Fagin. And very amiable he looked, and a very low bow he made, as he advanced, and setting himself down at the nearest table, ordered something to drink of the grinning Barney.

"A pleasant night, sir, but cool for the time of year," said Fagin, rubbing his hands. "From the country, I see, sir?"

How do yer see that?" asked Noah Claypole.

"We have not so much dust as that in London," replied Fagin, pointing from Noah's shoes to those of his companion, and from them to the two bundles.

"Yer a sharp feller," said Noah. "Ha! ha! only hear that, Charlotte!"

"Why, one need be sharp in this town, my dear," replied the Jew, sinking his voice to a confidential whisper; "and that's the truth."

Fagin followed up this remark by striking the side of his nose with his right forefinger, — a gesture which Noah attempted to imitate, though not with complete success, in consequence of his own nose not being large enough for the purpose. However, Mr. Fagin seemed to interpret the endeavour as expressing a perfect coincidence with his opinion, and put about the liquor which Barney reappeared with, in a very friendly manner.

"Good stuff that," observed Mr. Claypole, smacking his lips.

"Dear!" said Fagin. "A man need be always emptying a till, or a pocket, or a woman's reticule, or a house, or a mail-coach, or a bank, if he drinks it regularly."

Mr. Claypole no sooner heard this extract from his own remarks than he fell back in his chair, and looked from the Jew to Charlotte with a countenance of ashy paleness and excessive terror.

"Don't mind me, my dear," said Fagin, drawing his chair closer. "Ha! ha! it was lucky it was only me that heard you by chance. It was very lucky it was only me."

"I didn't take it," stammered Noah, no longer stretching out his legs like an independent gentleman, but coiling them up as well as he could under his chair; "it was all her doing; yer've got it now, Charlotte, yer know yer have."

"No matter who's got it, or who did it, my dear," replied Fagin, glancing, nevertheless, with a hawk's eye at the girl and the two bundles. "I'm in that way myself, and I like you for it."

"In what way?" asked Mr. Claypole, a little recovering.

"In that way of business," rejoined Fagin; "and so are the people of the house. You've hit the right nail upon the head, and are as safe here as you could be. There is not a safer place in all this town than is the Cripples; that is, when I like to make it so. And I have taken a fancy to you and the young woman; so I've said the word, and you may make your minds easy."

Noah Claypole's mind might have been at ease after this assurance, but his body certainly was not; for he shuffled and writhed about, into various uncouth positions: eyeing his new friend meanwhile with mingled fear and suspicion. [Chapter 42, "An old Acquaintance of Oliver's, exhibiting decided marks of Genius, becomes a public Character in the Metropolis," p. 241]


Although a relatively minor character, in Dickens's text Noah has a distinctive drawl ('yer") that renders him instantly recognizable, just as Cruikshank has given him a unique form (long, thin legs and a head like a globe with a fringe of hair obscuring his forehead) that renders him unmistakable in his four appearances, three of which are with Charlotte, the vacuous housemaid infatuated with his irreverent and exploitative personality. However, in Furniss's version Charlotte seems much more alert and much more astutely following the conversation than her drunken companion.

In the original serial illustrations, Oliver now disappears, only to re-emerge in the so-called "cancelled illustration" — Oliver and His Family — The Fireside Plate — and the plate which Dickens requested to replace it, Rose Maylie and Oliver — The Church Plate. In the Household Edition, James Mahoney does not realise the meeting of the runaways and the master criminal, although he does show the arrival of Noah and Clarlotte on the outskirts of London in "Look there! Those are the lights of London" in Chapter 42 before shifting the reader's attention momentarily from the doomed relationship between Nancy and Sikes to the Dodger's being sentenced to transportation in "What is this?" inquired one of the magistrates. — "A pick-pocketing case, Your Worship" in Chapter 43, with Noah Claypole, a new hire in the gang and therefore unknown to the police (disguised as a countryman in a linen smock-frock and holding a carter's whip) observes the proceedings on behalf of Fagin. In contrast, Frederic W. Pailthorpe's in his 1886 series of twenty-one engravings moves directly to Sikes's grisly crime in The Foul Deed, not actually showig the scene in which Nancy rendezvous with Rose Maylie and Mr. Brownlow at London Bridge.

In terms of Furniss's characterisations, Noah is the least consistent with other illustrators' interpretations: although this Noah has the comic, spindly legs that are a consequence of his poor diet growing up, his hat hides the hairstyle given him by Cruikshank, and the thick neck seems odd — the emphasized, pointed red nose is, one presumes, a cue to his alcoholism. He is, indeed, as in the Kerslake and Robson Edition of 1886, illustrated by Frederic W. Pailthorpe, namely Noah running for Mr. Bumble. Already, he has abandoned his yellow smalls as he has abandoned his former identity to become "Morris Bolter" (as Fagin has nicknamed him, a pseudonym that implies Noah's having "run off" from Mudfog) in an oversized linen smock-frock that exaggerates his girth.

Illustrations from the original 1837-38 serial publication and later editions

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Noah and Charlotte (1867). Centre: George Cruikshank's illustration The Jew & Morris Both begin to understand each other (Part 19, November 1838). Right: Kyd's original watercolour study Noah Claypole (c. 1900). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: James Mahoney's 1871 engraving of the runaways from Mudfog, approaching the outskirts of London, Look there! Those are the lights of London.". [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 3 March 2015