Mr. Bradley Headstone, highly certificated stipendiary schoolmaster, drew his right fore-finger through one of the button-holes of the boy's coat, and looked at it attentively (p. 94) — the text complementing the illustration on the same page of the scene between the school's star pupil, Charley Hexam, and the human calculator and repository of "teacher's knowledge" (94), Bradley Headstone. Charley has advanced from the worst of the working-class schools, a "ragged" school, and the Sunday school, which Dickens ironically describes as a "temple of good intentions" (93); through sheer determination Charley has risen and actually become a student-teacher in a better school. James Mahoney's sixteenth illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.4 cm high x 13.4 cm wide.

Passage Realised

Even in this temple of good intentions, an exceptionally sharp boy exceptionally determined to learn, could learn something, and, having learned it, could impart it much better than the teachers; as being more knowing than they, and not at the disadvantage in which they stood towards the shrewder pupils. In this way it had come about that Charley Hexam had risen in the jumble, taught in the jumble, and been received from the jumble into a better school.

"So you want to go and see your sister, Hexam?"

"If you please, Mr. Headstone."

"I have half a mind to go with you. Where does your sister live?"

"Why, she is not settled yet, Mr. Headstone. I'd rather you didn't see her till she is settled, if it was all the same to you."

"Look here, Hexam." Mr. Bradley Headstone, highly certificated stipendiary schoolmaster, drew his right forefinger through one of the buttonholes of the boy's coat, and looked at it attentively. "I hope your sister may be good company for you?"

"Why do you doubt it, Mr. Headstone?"

"I did not say I doubted it."

"No, sir; you didn't say so."

Bradley Headstone looked at his finger again, took it out of the buttonhole and looked at it closer, bit the side of it and looked at it again.

"You see, Hexam, you will be one of us. In good time you are sure to pass a creditable examination and become one of us. Then the question is —"

The boy waited so long for the question, while the schoolmaster looked at a new side of his finger, and bit it, and looked at it again, that at length the boy repeated:

"The question is, sir —?"

"Whether you had not better leave well alone."

"Is it well to leave my sister alone, Mr. Headstone?" — Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 1, "Of an Educational Character," p. 93-94.

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.]


The woodcut for Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter One, "Of an Educational Character," illustrates Charley's asking leave of his master, Bradley Headstone, to see his sister Lizzie after their father's death in the Thames. In his 1867 illustration for this same chapter, "Of an Educational Character," Sol Eytinge, Junior in the American Diamond Edition had contrasted a haunted, obsessive Poe-esque school-teacher and his self-possessed pupil-teacher. Although it is unlikely that James Mahoney had seen this illustration from the previous decade, he, too, elects to realise the same schoolroom scene. Unfortunately, in the 1864-65 Chapman and Hall serialisation, Dickens's original illustrator, Marcus Stone, had provided neither artist with a usable model for the obsessed school-master, Bradley Headstone. To suggest the mania which will subsequently overwhelm Headstone, Eytinge had effectively depicted Headstone as anxiously studying the viewer as he gnaws his fingernails on one hand and grips his chair with the other. Whereas in the 1867 illustration Charley Hexam dangles his feet above the schoolroom floor, in the 1875 British illustration Charley stands in front of Headstone, who is button-holing him to make a point after class. In Eytinge, Charley seems to be studying the master as much as the textbook before him. In Mahoney, the illustration prepares the reader for Headstone's putting on his respectable hat as he prepares to accompany Charley to Lizzie's new lodgings at Smith Square, and readers will be introduced to "The Person of the House," the dolls' dressmaker Jenny Wren.

Although Mahoney, like Eytinge, captures well Headstone's stiffness of manner, in both the Diamond and Household Edition, teacher Bradley Headstone, risen to the middle class from humble origins, looks older than twenty-six. In neither illustration does he appear to be a great repository of knowledge or a human calculator, but the Eytinge and Mahoney portraits coincide with Dickens' physical description:

Bradley Headstone, in his decent black coat and waistcoat, and decent white shirt, and decent formal black tie, and decent pantaloons of pepper and salt, with his decent silver watch in his pocket and its decent hair-guard round his neck, looked a thoroughly decent young man of six-and-twenty. He was never seen in any other dress, and yet there was a certain stiffness in his manner of wearing this, as if there were a want of adaptation between him and it, recalling some mechanics in their holiday clothes. [94]

Whereas the American illustrator has conveyed certain key traits of Headstone's character, notably his suspicious nature, his constrained manner, his smouldering but also "naturally slow" nature, Mahoney has merely given us the "outward" man: respectably dressed, introverted, wooden. The sign "school" on the door is entirely superfluous since Mahoney has convincingly rendered the long desks with the bench seats, the portable blackboard, and the map at the front of the unadorned room that the teacher and his teacher-pupil are about to leave. Charley studies the master, whose inward gaze suggests that he is pondering what young Hexam's adolescent sister will look like. The respectably clad Headstone appears at the conclusion of Stone's program, Not to be Shaken Off (November 1865), but a more useful model for Headstone Mahoney would have found in Forming the Domestic Virtues (November 1864).

Pertinent Illustrations in the original and Diamond Editions, 1864-1867

Left: Marcus Stone's August 1865 illustration Bradley Headstone asleep in Rogue Riderhood's quarters, In the Lock-Keeper's House. Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's characterisations of the diligent, self-centred pupil and his neurotic teacher, Bradley Headstone and Charley Hexam (1867). [Click on​images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's November 1864 illustration of Charley Hexam and school-master Bradley Hexam in the Middle Temple rooms of Eugene Wrayburn and Mortimer Lightwood, Forming The Domestic Virtues. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 5 December 2015