J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 47
Character from Dickens's Bleak House
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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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 four characters from Bleak House are largely based on the original serial illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne, the modelling of the figures is suggestive of those of the Dickens illustrator Fred Barnard for the Household Edition volume 4 (1873). 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. While the Master of Deportment, Mr. Turveydrop, and the loquacious, hypocritical dissenting clergyman Mr. Chadband would fall within the scope of comic characters as they are both "false wits" in the manner of Jane Austen's more obtuse male characters, Jo the crossing-sweeper, and the observant detective, Inspector Bucket (based perhaps on Inspector Field of the Metropolitan Police) are rather more serious Dickens characters; a more logical choice, if comedy is the independent variable in Kyd's choices, would have been the philanthropic Mrs. Jelleby, obsessed with the welfare of the natives of Borrioboola-Gha (Nigeria) rather than of her own family.
The models for Kyd's interpretation of Mr. Turveydrop are a pair of Phiz's original serial images, specifically, the fifth (July 1852) instalment's The Dancing School (Chapter 14, "Deportment"), and the eighth (October 1852) instalment's A model of parental deportment (Chapter 23, "Esther's Narrative"). Kyd, however, has elected not to dress the self-centred, superannuated Regency buck in Victorian costume; r ather, Kyd has costumed him in the style of the Regency, but has otherwise realised Dickens's equivocal description of him, omitting Phiz's exaggerated Pompadour hairdo:
He was a fat old gentleman with a false complexion, false teeth, false whiskers, and a wig. He had a fur collar, and he had a padded breast to his coat, which only wanted a star or a broad blue ribbon to be complete. He was pinched in, and swelled out, and got up, and strapped down, as much as he could possibly bear. He had such a neck-cloth on (puffing his very eyes out of their natural shape), and his chin and even his ears so sunk into it, that it seemed as though be must inevitably double up, if it were cast loose. He had, under his arm, a hat of great size and weight, shelving downward from the crown to the brim; and in his hand a pair of white gloves, with which he flapped it, as he stood poised on one leg, in a high-shouldered, round-elbowed state of elegance not to be surpassed. He had a cane, he had an eye-glass, he had a snuff-box, he had rings, he had wristbands, he had everything but any touch of nature; he was not like youth, he was not like age, he was not like anything in the world but a model of eportment. [Chapter 14, "Deportment"]
Created 21 January 2015