Oliver falls in with the Artful Dodger
14.0 x 9.5 cm vignetted
Seventh 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. 56.
Dickens's description of Oliver's meeting the curious figure of the London pickpocket at the marketplace in Barnet is the not subject of an illustration in the original series of Cruikshank illustrations in the instalments of the novel as originally published in 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.]
He had been crouching on the step for some time: wondering at the great number of public-houses (every other house in Barnet was a tavern, large or small), gazing listlessly at the coaches as they passed through, and thinking how strange it seemed that they could do, with ease, in a few hours, what it had taken him a whole week of courage and determination beyond his years to accomplish: when he was roused by observing that a boy, who had passed him carelessly some minutes before, had returned, and was now surveying him most earnestly from the opposite side of the way. He took little heed of this at first; but the boy remained in the same attitude of close observation so long, that Oliver raised his head, and returned his steady look. Upon this, the boy crossed over; and, walking close up to Oliver, said,
"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?"
The boy who addressed this inquiry to the young wayfarer, was about his own age: but one of the queerest looking boys that Oliver had ever seen. He was a snub-nosed, flat-browed, common-faced boy enough; and as dirty a juvenile as one would wish to see; but he had about him all the airs and manners of a man. He was short of his age: with rather bowlegs, and little, sharp, ugly eyes. His hat was stuck on the top of his head so lightly, that it threatened to fall off every moment- and would have done so, very often, if the wearer had not had a knack of every now and then giving his head a sudden twitch, which brought it back to its old place again. He wore a man's coat, which reached nearly to his heels. He had turned the cuffs back, half-way up his arm, to get his hands out of the sleeves: apparently with the ultimate view of thrusting them into the pockets of his corduroy trousers; for there he kept them. He was, altogether, as roystering and swaggering a young gentleman as ever stood four feet six, or something less, in his bluchers.
"Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" said this strange young gentleman to Oliver.
"I am very hungry and tired," replied Oliver: the tears standing in his eyes as he spoke. "I have walked a long way. I have been walking these seven days."
[Chapter 8, "Oliver Walks to London. He Encounters on the Road a Strange Sort of Young Gentleman," p. 51-52]
Having run away from his apprenticeship with Sowerberry, Oliver determines to walk the Great North Road to London after he has visited Mrs. Mann's baby-farm to say goodbye to Little Dick, the only friend he made there. Befriended on the road by a charitable turnpike keeper and an elderly lady, on the seventh morning Oliver limps slowly into the marketplace of Barnet at sunrise. At this point, he encounters a boy only a little older than himself, but wearing the clothing and affecting the self-confident manner of an adult. In fact, today the Borough of Barnet is Greater London's second-largest, but in the period in which Dickens has set the story, it was still a small market-town north of central London, in the county of Hertfordshire.
Alluding to Oliver's arrival on the outskirts of London in Chapter 8, the previous significant illustrator of the novel, James Mahoney had provided Furniss with a likely model in the highly popular 1871 volume in the Household Edition, showing Oliver's initial encounter with the self-confident Artful Dodger (and by extension London's criminal underworld) in "Hullo, my covey! What's the row?" The Mahoney and Furniss images of Oliver, alone, unfriended, and in doubt as to his course in life contrast the runaway apprentice from the north of England workhouse with the streetsmart figure of Jack Dawkins (otherwise, The Artful Dodger), who introduces the waif to that "kindly, old gentleman," Fagin, in Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman (May 1837), a characterisation of the juvenile pickpocket which Mahoney used as the basis for "Hello, my covey! What's the row?". Chipper, self-confident, and self-assured, The Dodger at this point is everything that Oliver is not.
Furniss has assimilated the earlier Mahoney composition. However, as opposed to Mahoney's generalized conception of the backdrop, he particularizes the morning scene in the suburban marketplace with public houses on either side of the borough high street, as well as the substantial publican conversing with the uniformed postman (surely an anachronism), rear centre. Far from being a realistic representation of the morning scene, despite the architectural backdrop and the birds, Furniss's interpretation is markedly impressionistic, with jagged lines representing the energy of the Cockney youth.
Illustrations from the Serial (1837), the Diamond Edition (1867), and the Household Edition (1910)
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates. Right: George Cruikshank's original version of Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: James Mahoney's 1871 engraving of the Oliver's fateful meeting with The Artful Dodger at Barnet, "Hello, my covey! What's the row?" [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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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 21 January 2015