Show us a picture,

"Show us a picture," said the boy. "Tell us where to look." (p. 16)." James Mahoney's fourth Illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.4 cm high x 13.4 cm wide.

The passage illustrated, with Lizzie Hexam showing her younger brother, Charley, the pictures in the fire recalls similar scenes elsewhere in Dickens, notably in The Haunted Man (1848). The passage occurs in Chapter 3, "Another Man," page 14, but is positioned in the Chapman and Hall edition in the following chapter ("The R. Wilfer Family," p. 16), whereas the Harper's edition positions the illustration of the surrogate mother and the motherless boy close to the passage realized. The brazier in this scene is identical to the one in the title-page vignette, and therefore provides visual continuity between the two scenes. Symbolically, it is the working-class equivalent of the middle-class hearth, the centre of the family's communal activity. Mahoney uses the working class family's mutual tenderness and concern to foil the next scene, in which the money-focussed Bella signs her father's rental agreement as a witness, a legal document that opens the middle-class home to a total stranger, albeit one of respectable social status.

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.]


Dickens, Charles. Our Mutual Friend. Il. James Mahoney. Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall; New York, Harper Brothers, 1875.

Last modified 9 December 2010