J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 50
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 the noncomformist minister is a single Phiz image in the original serial, specifically, the eighth (Octiober 1852) instalment's Mr. Chadband 'Improving' a Tough Subject (ch. 25, "Mrs. Snagsby Sees It All"). However, Dickens describes the dissenting minister Mr. Chadband, much given to rhetorical questions, in Chapter 19:
Mr. Chadband is a large yellow man, with a fat smile, and a general appearance of having a good deal of train oil in his system. Mrs. Chadband is a stern, severe-looking, silent woman. Mr. Chadband moves softly and cumbrously, not unlike a bear who has been taught to walk upright. He is very much embarrassed about the arms, as if they were inconvenient to him, and he wanted to grovel; is very much in a perspiration about the head; and never speaks without first putting up his great hand, as delivering a token to his hearers that he is going to edify them.
"My friends," says Mr Chadband, "peace be on this house! On the master thereof, on the mistress thereof, on the young maidens, and on the young men! My friends, why do I wish for peace? What is peace? Is it war? No. Is it strife? No. Is it lovely, and gentle, and beautiful, and pleasant, and serene, and joyful? Oh, yes! Therefore, my friends, I wish for peace, upon you and upon yours." [Chapter 19, "Moving On"]
The original Phiz illustration upon which Kyd has closely based his study realizes this textual moment:
"Peace, my friends," says Chadband, rising and wiping the oily exudations from his reverend visage. "Peace be with us! My friends, why with us? Because," with his fat smile, "it cannot be against us, because it must be for us; because it is not hardening, because it is softening; because it does not make war like the hawk, but comes home unto us like the dove. Therefore, my friends, peace be with us! My human boy, come forward!"
Stretching forth his flabby paw, Mr. Chadband lays the same on Jo's arm and considers where to station him. Jo, very doubtful of his reverend friend's intentions, and not at all clear but that something practical and painful is going to be done to him, mutters, "You let me alone. I never said nothink to you. You let me alone." [Chapter 25, "Mrs. Snagsby Sees It All"]
Dickens gives us a highly distinctive voice with all manner of peculiar ticks and rhetorical absurdities that enabled Phiz to create a convincing image. Kyd then exaggerated some of the salient features such as his girth and frog-like visage, the complacent touching of the heart to signify heartfelt sincerity, and the other hand sententiously pointing Heavenward. Yes, Kyd's derivative image is "flabby" and "unctuous," but also very funny as a caricature. Where Kyd's version suffers is in its lack of context, and in particular the embedded picture of Christ carrying the cross which Phiz has inserted directly behind Chadband as an editorial comment.
Created 26 January 2015