Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 10.4 cm high x 12.3 cm wide.(p. 102) — the text on the previous page complementing the illustration. Attorney Eugene Wrayburn's fascination with the enigmatic figure of the beautiful, dark-haired twenty-year-old who has fished bodies out of the Thames for a living has brought him to Jenny Wren's house in Smith Square. Once the reader matches the text with the illustration, he or she will appreciate that Dickens is developing a romantic triangle, as Charley Hexam and schoolmaster Bradley Headstone have just left, and Eugene comments upon having passed them. While Charley through sheer determination has become fully literate, having risen from mere pupil in a ragged school to the rank of pupil-teacher under Headstone in a better school, Lizzie has yet to learn to read and write, and remains unsure about accepting Eugene's offer to provide her with literacy coaching because she is uncomfortable about his romantic interest in her. James Mahoney's seventeenth illustration for Dickens's
A man's figure paused on the pavement at the outer door. "Mr. Eugene Wrayburn, ain't it?" said Miss Wren. "So I am told," was the answer.
"You may come in, if you're good."
"I am not good," said Eugene, "but I'll come in."
He gave his hand to Jenny Wren, and he gave his hand to Lizzie, and he stood leaning by the door at Lizzie's side. He had been strolling with his cigar, he said, (it was smoked out and gone by this time,) and he had strolled round to return in that direction that he might look in as he passed. Had she not seen her brother to-night?
"Yes," said Lizzie, whose manner was a little troubled.
Gracious condescension on our brother's part! Mr. Eugene Wrayburn thought he had passed my young gentleman on the bridge yonder. Who was his friend with him?
"To be sure. Looked like it."— Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 2, "Still Educational," p. 101.
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 Two, "Still Educational," introduces the unusual character of Fanny Cleaver ("Jenny Wren," as the crippled thirteen-year-old dolls' dressmaker calls herself) to the narrative-pictorial sequence, and signals the development of a romantic triangle involving Eugene Wrayburn, Bradley Headstone (who has just left the dolls' dressmaker's house with Charley Hexam), and Lizzie. Mahoney had several useful models in Marcus Stone's serial illustrations of 1864-65, notably the 30 September 1864 illustration of Jenny Wren's berating her father for his drunkeness, The Person of the House and the Bad Child. However, Mahoney must have found the parent-child role reversal less interesting than Eugene Wrayburn's attempting to persuade Lizzie to accept his offer of literacy training. In his 1867 illustration for this same chapter, "Still Educational," Sol Eytinge, Junior in the American Diamond Edition had contrasted the decrepit, pathetic figure of the dipsomaniac and reproving, perceptive face of his daughter. In Stone's plate, we see her naturalistic face in profile as she wags a scolding finger at the inebriate; she does not seem to be misshapen or twisted in any way. In Eytinge's, we see her full-face, and note the doll and work-basket (resembling a Noah's ark) on her work-table, and in her gesturing hand a small pair of scissors, indicative of her sharp mind and tart tongue. Mahoney's treatment of Jenny Wren's workroom includes her tools, workbench, and dolls, but lacks the character comedy and analysis of Stone's and Eytinge's. However, flagging an important plot development rather than a pictorial moment, Mahoney's half-page composite-wood-block engraving establishes Eugene's interest in Lizzie as well as the sisterly relationship between the sharp-witted Jenny (who seems charmed by Eugene) and the sensitive, attractive Lizzie whose neutral expression suggests that she is yet to be convinced about accepting Eugene's offer. Curiously, Mahoney has elected not to depict Eugene's cigar.
Pertinent Illustrations in the original and Diamond Editions, 1864-1867
Left: Marcus Stone's 30 September 1864 illustration of Fanny Cleaver's berating her father for his drunkeness, The Person of the House and the Bad Child. Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's characterisations of the mature, responsible daughter and her irresponsible, alcoholic parent, The Person of the House and the Bad Child (1867). [Click onimages to enlarge them.]
Above: Marcus Stone's November 1864 illustration of Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren reading on the rooftop at Smith Square, near the Thames, The Garden on the Roof. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 6 December 2015