J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 34
Character from Dickens's Martin Chuzzlewit
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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Of the set of 50 cigarette cards, initially produced in 1910 and reissued in 1923, fully 13 or over 25% concern a single novel, The Pickwick Papers, attesting to the enduring popularity of the picaresque comic novel and also suggesting that the later, darker novels such as Our Mutual Friend and The Mystery of Edwin Drood offered little for the caricaturist, the only late characters in the series being the singularly unpleasant Silas Wegg and Rogue Riderhood from Our Mutual Friend, and Turveydrop, Jo, Bucket, and Chadband from Bleak House. The popular taste was clearly still towards the earlier farce and character comedy of Dickens. The series includes a total of just three character cards from the cast of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44), or 6% of the total: Seth Pecksniff, no. 23; Sairey Gamp, no. 24; and the indefatigibly ebullient and "jolly" Mark Tapley, no. 34 — characterisations based on the original serial illustrations of Dickens's regular visual interpreter in the 1840s, Phiz, who produced forty steel-engravings and the wrapper design for the Chapman and Hall serial, as well as two vignettes for the two-volume Library Edition: Meekness of Mr. Pecksniff and his Charming Daughters and Mrs. Gamp 'Propoges' a Toast.
Although Kyd's representations are largely based on the original illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), the modelling of the figures is suggestive of those of celebrated Dickensian illustrator Fred Barnard for the Household Edition volume of the 1870s. The anomaly, of course, is that Kyd should elect to depict minor figures from the first Dickens novel such as the Dingley Dell cricketers Dumkins and Luffey and the minor antagonist Major Bagstock in Dombey and Son, but omit significant characters from such later, still-much-read novels as A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Five of the fifty cards or 10% of the series come from the cast of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress (1837-39): Oliver himself, asking for more; Fagin with his toasting fork, from the scene in which he prepares dinner for his crew; Sikes holding a beer-mug, and the Artful Dodger in an oversized adult topcoat and crushed top-hat, as he appeared at his trial. Surprisingly, some of the other significant characters, including Nancy and Rose Maylie, are not among the first set of fifty characters, in which Kyd exhibits a strong male bias, as he realizes only seven female characters: only the beloved Nell, the abrasive Sally Brass, and the quirky Marchioness from The Old Curiosity Shop, Sairey Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit, Aunt Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield, the burly Mrs. McStinger from Dombey and Son, and the awkward Fanny Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby appear in the essentially comic cavalcade.
The 1843-44 picaresque novel contains several brilliant comic creations, including the peripheral slatternly sick-room nurse Sarah ("Sairey") Gamp and Mark Tapley, the steadfast companion and foil to the story's pallid protagonist, young Martin Chuzzlewit. In the Kyd series, Mark Tapley is designated by his Christian name, implying that he is not a member of the middle class. Unlike the other significant working-class comic character, Sairey Gamp, Mark makes his appearance relatively early in the nineteen-month serial, in Chapter 5. In the original set of forty illustrations, the indefatigibly jolly Sancho Panza figure appears prominently in a number of the steel engravings, beginning with the March 1843 instalment's Mark Begins to be Jolly Under Creditable Circumstances (Chapter 8), and thereafter six times, two of these being in the "American" episodes when his determination to prove equal to any trying circumstance is important in the moral education of the protagonist, most significantly at the offices of the scurrilous New York Rowdy Journal when he becomes Dickens's vehicle for communicating anti-slavery sentiments in the July 1843 instalment's Mr. Tapley succeeds in finding a jolly subject for contemplation (Chapter 17), and when the devoted companion nurses young Martin back to health in the malarial-infested Mississippi swamp of "Eden" in the September 1843 illustration The Thriving City of Eden as it Appeared in Fact (Chapter 23). Although he is a secondary character in the novel's rambling plot, the stout-hearted Cockney ostler who bears up with good humour under life's vicissitudes and eventually marries the proprietress of the Green Dragon has a less prominent role in the new series of illustrations in the Chapman and Hall reissue of the novel in the Household Edition. The project's lead illustrator, Fred Barnard, recognizing Mark's importance as a foil to hypocritical characters, makes him a significant presence in the new illustrations in a manner which is both consistent with Phiz's original conception and which makes Mark more than a mere comic servant of Plautan comedy. In Barnard's illustrations, a more dashing Mark appears early in the sequence in He turned a whimsical face and a very merry pair of blue eyes on Mr. Pinch (Chapter 5), and thereafter three times. Kyd's interpretation has much in common with both Phiz's and Barnard's. The 1867 Diamond Edition volume, which Kyd is not likely to have seen, contains a paired character study entitled Martin Chuzzlewit and Mark Tapley, in which Ticknor Fields' house illustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior, provides the lineaments of the healthy, cheerful Mark, but adds the full sideburns and a bow-tie, in contrast to the malaria-ravaged visage of young Martin outside their ramshackle cabin on the banks of the Mississippi. Assimilating all of these, Kyd's interpretation is closer to the original than the dapper figure in Felix Octavius Carr Darley's frontispiece, "Jolly sort of lodgings," said Mark (1863), in which his smart waistcoat and riding-crop suggest a "horsey" and sporting background, in contrast to Martin's professional dress and pen which make him look like young Charles Dickens.
Created 10 January 2015