J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
15.3 x 9.8 cm framed
Character from Dickens's Oliver Twist
Sixth illustration for Oliver Twist in Kyd's sequence of twelve water-colour "extra illustrations."
See below for passage illustrated and commentary.
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.]
At this moment, there walked into the room: supporting himself by a thick stick: a stout old gentleman, rather lame in one leg, who was dressed in a blue coat, striped waistcoat, nankeen breeches and gaiters, and a broad-brimmed white hat, with the sides turned up with green. A very small-plaited shirt frill stuck out from his waistcoat; and a very long steel watch-chain, with nothing but a key at the end, dangled loosely below it. The ends of his white neckerchief were twisted into a ball about the size of an orange; the variety of shapes into which his countenance was twisted, defy description. He had a manner of screwing his head on one side when he spoke; and of looking out of the corners of his eyes at the same time: which irresistibly reminded the beholder of a parrot. In this attitude, he fixed himself, the moment he made his appearance; and, holding out a small piece of orange-peel at arm's length, exclaimed, in a growling, discontented voice.
Look here! do you see this! Isn't it a most wonderful and extraordinary thing that I can't call at a man's house but I find a piece of this poor surgeon's friend on the staircase? I've been lamed with orange-peel once, and I know orange-peel will be my death, or I'll be content to eat my own head, sir!"
This was the handsome offer with which Mr. Grimwig backed and confirmed nearly every assertion he made; and it was the more singular in his case, because, even admitting for the sake of argument, the possibility of scientific improvements being brought to that pass which will enable a gentleman to eat his own head in the event of his being so disposed, Mr. Grimwig's head was such a particularly large one, that the most sanguine man alive could hardly entertain a hope of being able to get through it at a sitting — to put entirely out of the question, a very thick coating of powder.
"I'll eat my head, sir," repeated Mr. Grimwig, striking his stick upon the ground. "Hallo! what's that!" looking at Oliver, and retreating a pace or two.
. . . ."Let me see: He'll be back in twenty minutes, at the longest," said Mr. Brownlow, pulling out his watch, and placing it on the table. "It will be dark by that time."
"Oh! you really expect him to come back, do you?" inquired Mr. Grimwig.
"Don't you?" asked Mr. Brownlow, smiling.
The spirit of contradiction was strong in Mr. Grimwig's breast, at the moment; and it was rendered stronger by his friend's confident smile.
"No," he said, smiting the table with his fist, "I do not. The boy has a new suit of clothes on his back, a set of valuable books under his arm, and a five-pound note in his pocket. He'll join his old friends the thieves, and laugh at you. If ever that boy returns to this house, sir, I'll eat my head."
With these words he drew his chair closer to the table; and there the two friends sat, in silent expectation, with the watch between them. [Chapter 14, "Comprising further particulars of Oliver's stay at Mr. Brownlow's, with the remarkable prediction which one Mr. Grimwig uttered concerning him, when he went out on an errand."]
What could be an odder friendship than that of the misanthropic, pessimistic Mr. Grimwig (so aptly named) and the generous, impulsive humanitarian and optimist Mr. Brownlow? And yet here they are, both pronouncing judgment on Oliver, Grimwig certain that the boy will return to his criminal associates (with the books and the five-pound note), and Brownlow certain that the boy will come home shortly. Mr. Brownlow's contrarian companion, Grimwig, has not been a favourite with Dickens's illustrators, however. He is well represented as a physical contrast to the kindly Mr. Brownlow in Sol Eytinge, Junior's 1867 Diamond Edition study Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig. In James Mahoney's Household Edition volume woods-engravings of 1871, the illustrator seems to have deliberately confounded the two figures, so that his Brownlow is a mirror image of Grimwig in "A Beadle! A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head.". Perhaps the most successful portrait of the old friends, both deeply concerned about Oliver's failure to return home (although Grimwig is reluctant to admit his concern) is Harry Furniss's Waiting for Oliver. In a manner reminiscent of serial illustrator George Cruikshank's Bentley's Miscellany steel engravings, Frederic W. Pailthorpe's "Look here! do you see this?", Mr. Grimwig seems to be a superannuated Regency buck of a pessimistic cast of mind, in contrast to the warmhearted, generous nature of that modern Samaritan, Mr. Brownlow.
Illustrations from the Robson & Kerslake (1886), the Diamond Edition (1867), the Household Edition (1871)
Left: Frederic W. Pailthorpe's caricatural version of Brownlow and Grimwig, Oliver recovering from the fever. Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Diamond Edition wood-engraving of the old friends awaiting Oliver's return in Mr. Brownlow and Mr. Grimwig (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: James Mahoney's Household Edition illustration of Bumble's visit to Mr. Brownlow's Pentonville residence to claim the reward for information about Oliver in "A Beadle! A parish beadle, or I'll eat my head" (1871). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. "George Cruikshank." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980. Pp. 15-38.
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Bradbury and Evans; Chapman and Hall, 1846.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Illustrated by James Mahoney. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens Library Edition. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 3.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. The Waverley Edition. Illustrated by Charles Pears. London: Waverley, 1912.
Dickens, Charles. The Letters of Charles Dickens. Ed. Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson, and Angus Eassone. The Pilgrim Edition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965. Vol. 1 (1820-1839).
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Illustrated by Frederick W. Pailthorpe. London: Robson and Kerslake, 1886.
Forster, John. "Oliver Twist 1838." The Life of Charles Dickens. Ed. B. W. Matz. The Memorial Edition. 2 vols. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1911. Vol. 1, book 2, chapter 3.
Kyd. Characters from Dickens. Nottingham: John Player & Sons, 1910.
Created 18 February 2015