J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 35
Character from Dickens's A Christmas Carol
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, only one is a "singleton" — a sole character from the Dickens work included among the ten books illustrated: card no. 35, designated neither "Mr. Scrooge" or "Ebenezer Scrooge," but simply "Scrooge," perhaps the most famous of Dickens's fictional children. In Kyd's sequence of fifty cards, 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 (two characters) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (no characters depicted) offered little for the caricaturist, the only late characters in the series being the singularly unpleasant and physically odd Silas Wegg and the rough waterman 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 four character cards from the cast of Dombey and Son (October 1846 through April 1848), no other characters from The Christmas Books (1843-48).
Although Kyd's representations are largely based on the original illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), John Leech, and George Cruikshank, 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. No other cards in Kyd's series deal with characters from The Christmas Books (1843-48), despite the enormous popularity of all five novellas long after the Hungry Forties. Thus, the Player's Cigarette Card of Ebenezer Scrooge is distinctive in a number of ways, since all the other characters whom Kyd depicts come from novels, and each appears alongside several other characters from the same story.
In the 1880s, Kyd had several models from which to choose — although he may not have seen the work of American illustrators Sol Eytinge, Junior and E. A. Abbey, J. Clayton Clarke would have been able to study multiple images of Ebenezer Scrooge produced Dickens's initial illustrator in 1843, John Leech, and the lead illustrator Fred Barnard for the 1878 Christmas Books volume in the Household Edition. The pictures that most closely coincide with Kyd's interpretation of Scrooge in his nightcap and nightgown — Scrooge the dreamer, liberated from his daily "business" self, the "night side" of Scrooge, so to speak — are Barnard's Marley's Ghost (1878) and Leech's The Second of The Three Spirits, or Scrooge's third Visitor and Ignorance and Want(1843). Similar interpretations to which Kyd may not have access are those by Abbey, "What do you want with me?" (1876), and Eytinge, Marley's Ghost (1868). Since Kyd gives neither background nor other characters to establish a context, Scrooge in nightgown and nightcap may be responding to the strange noises that portend the arrival of his first Christmas "visitor," the ghost of Jacob Marley, or he may simply be preparing to go to bed after a solitary dinner and a cold walk home.
Created 12 January 2015