Mr. Redlaw and the 'Waif'
16.2 x 10 cm, exclusive of frame
Dickens's The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time, The Pears' Centenary Edition, vol. 5, page 53.
[Click on image to enlarge it and mouse over text for links.]
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.].
. . . a shrill cry reached his ears. It came, not from the passages beyond the door, but from another part of the old building, and sounded like the cry of some one in the dark who had lost the way.
He looked confusedly upon his hands and limbs, as if to be assured of his identity, and then shouted in reply, loudly and wildly; for there was a strangeness and terror upon him, as if he too were lost.
The cry responding, and being nearer, he caught up the lamp, and raised a heavy curtain in the wall, by which he was accustomed to pass into and out of the theatre where he lectured, — which adjoined his room. Associated with youth and animation, and a high amphitheatre of faces which his entrance charmed to interest in a moment, it was a ghostly place when all this life was faded out of it, and stared upon him like an emblem of Death.
"Halloa!" he cried. "Halloa! This way! Come to the light!" When, as he held the curtain with one hand, and with the other raised the lamp and tried to pierce the gloom that filled the place, something rushed past him into the room like a wild-cat, and crouched down in a corner.
"What is it?" he said, hastily.
He might have asked "What is it?" even had he seen it well, as presently he did when he stood looking at it gathered up in its corner.
A bundle of tatters, held together by a hand, in size and form almost an infant's, but in its greedy, desperate little clutch, a bad old man's. A face rounded and smoothed by some half-dozen years, but pinched and twisted by the experiences of a life. Bright eyes, but not youthful. Naked feet, beautiful in their childish delicacy, — ugly in the blood and dirt that cracked upon them. A baby savage, a young monster, a child who had never been a child, a creature who might live to take the outward form of man, but who, within, would live and perish a mere beast.
Used, already, to be worried and hunted like a beast, the boy crouched down as he was looked at, and looked back again, and interposed his arm to ward off the expected blow.
"I'll bite," he said, "if you hit me!" ["Chapter One: The Gift Bestowed," p. 52, 1912 Pears edition]
The caption immediately below the illustrations points directly towards the moment realised: "Used, already, to be worried and hunted like a beast, the boy crouched down as he was looked at" (53). The child of the streets, having been granted refuge by Milly Swidger in the Old College, cowers in the corner of Redlaw's anteroom adjacent to the lecture theatre, and raises his arm to protect himself from the blow he anticipates — as in John Leech's Redlaw and the Boy, a confrontation attempted by a number of subsequent illustrators, including Ticknor-Fields' house illustrator Sol Eytinge, Jr. in the Diamond Edition's Redlaw and The Boy, set, like the scene in the British Household Edition, when Redlaw interrupts the boy in his intense enjoyment of a roaring coal-fire. The great seventies interpreter of Dickens, Fred Barnard tackled the issue of urban poverty in a highly realistic manner in "I'm not a-going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!" (1878). Although the desolate child first seen in Green's sleeping in a street doorway is lacking shoes, he seems too well-dressed and not nearly savage enough when one compares him to earlier illustrators' interpretations. Perhaps by 1912 such poverty as Barnard had incarnated was no longer to be found in London.
As in the Leech original, Professor Redlaw has entered, raising the lamp (not a candle, as in the Leech engraving) as the street urchin invited in by Milly cowers in the corner: "A bundle of tatters, held together by a hand, in size and form almost an infant's, but in its greedy, desperate little clutch, a bad old man" (52). The precise moment that Green has realised is at very bottom of the facing page: "Used, already, to be worried and hunted like a best, the boy crouched down as he was looked at, and looked back again, and interposed his arm to ward off the expected blow" (52). Neither character has yet spoken; the boy is about to counter Redlaw's apparent, physical threat with a verbal threat — although Green's child does not possess feet "ugly in the blood and dirt that cracked upon them" (52). However, as in the Leech plate, Green's Redlaw dominates the entire left side of the full-page lithograph: a realistically drawn figure whose professional dress, age, and stature contrast the cowering child on the right side of the page.
There is nothing particularly mysterious about Green's Redlaw, nor is there anything particularly atavistic or primal about the cornered boy. Whereas the original illustration (to which Green is undoubtedly reacting) includes the curtain, the wainscoting, the chair separating the two figures (significantly supporting a pile of books), and Redlaw's guttering candle held aloft, Green focuses on the contrasting figures: to the left, Redlaw in his professional suit, stares down at the cringing boy as he holds a kerosene lamp aloft, casting an ominous shadow of his profile and pointing hand; to the right, the child of the streets in tattered clothing seems merely afraid rather than "desperate" and "savage." Moreover, in the Green illustration, various glass bottles (upper left) imply that this is the room where Redlaw conducts his chemical experiments, although the text does designate "his room" as "the laboratory." Whereas Leech shows the connecting doorway, its curtain drawn aside, Green intensifies the child's feeling of entrapment by having one of his feet engulfed by Redlaw's shadow and by eliminating any possible escape.
This figure of urban blight depicted or realized by earlier illustrators:
Leech's somewhat wooden but atmospheric cartoons versus Barnard's modelled study of the Boy and Redlaw: left: Leech's "Redlaw and The Boy"; centre, Barnard's realistic "I'm not a-going to take you there. Let me be, or I'll heave some fire at you!"; right, Harry Furniss's dynamic and dark "I'll bite if you hit me".
Dickens, Charles. The Haunted Man; or, The Ghost's Bargain. Illustrated by John Leech, Frank Stone, John Tenniel, and Clarkson Stanfield. London: Bradbury and Evans, 1848.
___. The Haunted Man. Illustrated by John Leech, Frank Stone, John Tenniel, and Clarkson Stanfield. (1848). Rpt. in Charles Dickens's Christmas Books, ed. Michael Slater. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971, rpt. 1978. Vol. 2, p. 235-362, 365-366.
___. The Haunted Man and The Ghost's Bargain. A Fancy for Christmas Time. Illustrated by Charles Green, R. I. London: A & F Pears, 1912.
___. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
___. Christmas Books, illustrated by Fred Barnard. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1878.
___. Christmas Books, illustrated by A. A. Dixon. London & Glasgow: Collins' Clear-Type Press, 1906.
___. Christmas Books. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. London: Educational Book, 1910.
___. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by E. A. Abbey. The Household Edition. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1876.
___. The Haunted Man. Christmas Stories. Illustrated by Felix Octavius Carr Darley. The Household Edition. New York: James G. Gregory, 1861. Vol. 2, 155-300.
Last modified 2 July 2015