J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 49
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 selections, 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 model for Kyd's interpretation of Inspector Bucket is a single Phiz image in the original serial, specifically, the fourteenth (April 1853) instalment's Friendly Behaviour of Mr. Bucket (ch. 43, "Esther's Narrative"). However, Dickens describes the detective in an earlier chapter:
As they walk along, Mr. Snagsby observes, as a novelty, that however quick their pace may be, his companion still seems in some undefinable manner to lurk and lounge; also, that whenever he is going to turn to the right or left, he pretends to have a fixed purpose in his mind of going straight ahead, and wheels off, sharply, at the very last moment. Now and then, when they pass a police-constable on his beat, Mr. Snagsby notices that both the constable and his guide fall into a deep abstraction as they come towards each other, and appear entirely to overlook each other, and to gaze into space. In a few instances, Mr. Bucket, coming behind some under-sized young man with a shining hat on, and his sleek hair twisted into one flat curl on each side of his head, almost without glancing at him touches him with his stick, upon which the young man, looking round, instantly evaporates. For the most part Mr. Bucket notices things in general, with a face as unchanging as the great mourning ring on his little finger or the brooch, composed of not much diamond and a good deal of setting, which he wears in his shirt. [Instalment 7, September 1852, Chapter 22, "Mr. Bucket"]
Although Phiz's image is acceptable, Kyd's captures more of Bucket's salient features, complementing the character and role of Inspector Bucket in the novel: a "stoutly built, steady-looking, sharp-eyed man in black, of about the middle-age" (ch. 22), looking much more like a professional man, a physician or lawyer, Kyd's Bucket has the gimlet eye, walking stick, and posture that Dickens describes. This attentive, observant police inspector with the fat forefinger (reminiscent of that of Jaggers, the criminal attorney in Great Expectations, 1861) is up to the task of solving Tulkinghorn's murder, a task that would have been far too challenging for the Bow Street Runners of Oliver Twist. Although more affable and less quirky, Bucket is the forerunner or prototype of Wilkie Collins's Sergeant Cuff of Scotland Yard in The Moonstone (1868).
Created 22 January 2015