J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 33
Character from Dickens's Our Mutual Friend
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.]
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: Silas Wegg and Rogue Riderhood) 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.
Although Kyd's representations of the two characters from Our Mutual Friend are largely based on the original serial illustrations by Marcus Stone, the modelling of the figures is suggestive of those of the Dickens illustrator James Mahoney for the Household Edition volume 9 (1875). 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 should 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 Dickens reader at the fin de siecle must have been surprised to find missing from Kyd's character sketches such significant figures in Our Mutual Friend as the depraved, obsessive school-master, Bradley Headstone; Lizzie Hexam and her father, the Thames waterman Gaffer; the story's chief love interest, Bella Wilfer; the doll's dressmaker, the sharp-tongued Jenny Wren; the deceptive socialite (secretly a money-lender) Fascination Fledgby; his put-upon employee, Riah; and the Golden Dustman, Noddy Boffin. Since these late Dickens characters had plenty to offer the illustrator, one must assume that Kyd fashioned his short list according to the popular taste. However, he does include the Thames waterman, Formerly Gaffer Hexam's partner, Roger ("Rogue") Riderhood, distinguished by squinting leer and sodden, old fur hat from his first appearance in the novel, in Miss Abbey Potterson's waterside tavern, The Three Jolly Fellowship Porters.
The models for Kyd's interpretation are several of Marcus Stone's original serial images, specifically, the June 1864 instalment's At the Bar (Book One, "The Cup and the Lip," Chapter 6, "Cut Adrift"), as well as the March 1865 instalment's Rogue Riderhood's Recovery (Book Three, "A Long Lane," Chapter 3, "The Same Respected Friend in More Aspects than One"). These, however, would not have given Kyd many details on which to base an illustration: we see him as the attorneys Lightwood and Rayburn see him, a hoarse "ghost" with a squinting leer," fumbling with "an old sodden fur cap, formless and mangy" (Book One, Ch. 12). A disreputable, "ill-looking" fellow with a stocky figure, Riderhood is shiftless, devious, and utterly untrustworthy. Moreover, even referring to Mahoney's Household Edition illustrations of the gruff, opportunistic blackmailer, Kyd would have had to invent many visual aspects of a character for whom Dickens does not provide a comprehensive verbal portrait — including suitable clothing. In And now, as the man held out the bottle to fill all around, Riderhood stood up, leaned over the table to look closer at the knife, and started from it to him (Book the Second, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 12, "More Birds of Prey") and Rogue Riderhood recognized his 't'other governor, Mr. Eugene Rayburn (Book the Fourth, "A Turning," Chapter 1, "Setting Traps"), set at the Plashwater Mill-lock, found a figure similar to Marcus Stone's. In contrast, then, Kyd's waterman-turned-lock-keeper is more slender and less boxy in form and more curious in his facial expression.
Created 18 January 2015