"Come up and be dead! Come up and be dead!" (p. 121) — the caption in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition text is the same as that in the New York Harper and Brothers volume. The actual wording of the caption, as spoken by Jenny Wren, should be, "Come back and be dead, Come back and be dead!" The scene is the roof of Fledgeby's shop, Pubsey & Co., in Saint Mary Axe. Fledgeby, having upbraided his employee, Riah, for keeping the door locked on holiday, accompanies him up to the roof, as in Marcus Stone's The Garden on the Roof, originally in Part 7 (November 1864). Both the Stone original and the Mahoney re-interpretation allude obliquely to Dickens's desire to see the "greening" of London, often expressed in such editorials as "Lungs for London" in Household Words (3 August 1850) and which eventually led to the creation of such public parks as Finsbury. The Stone wood-engraving is the basis for James Mahoney's twenty-first illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 10.5 cm high x 12.3 cm wide.

Passage Realised

"But come! Let's have a look at your garden on the tiles, before I go!"

The old man took a step back, and hesitated.

"Truly, sir, I have company there."

"Have you, by George!" said Fledgeby; "I suppose you happen to know whose premises these are?"

"Sir, they are yours, and I am your servant in them."

"Oh! I thought you might have overlooked that," retorted Fledgeby, with his eyes on Riah's beard as he felt for his own; "having company on my premises, you know!"

"Come up and see the guests, sir. I hope for your admission that they can do no harm."

Passing him with a courteous reverence, specially unlike any action that Mr. Fledgeby could for his life have imparted to his own head and hands, the old man began to ascend the stairs. As he toiled on before, with his palm upon the stair-rail, and his long black skirt, a very gaberdine, overhanging each successive step, he might have been the leader in some pilgrimage of devotional ascent to a prophet's tomb. Not troubled by any such weak imagining, Fascination Fledgeby merely speculated on the time of life at which his beard had begun, and thought once more what a good 'un he was for the part.

Some final wooden steps conducted them, stooping under a low penthouse roof, to the house-top. Riah stood still, and, turning to his master, pointed out his guests.

Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren. For whom, perhaps with some old instinct of his race, the gentle Jew had spread a carpet. Seated on it, against no more romantic object than a blackened chimney-stack over which some bumble creeper had been trained, they both pored over one book; both with attentive faces; Jenny with the sharper; Lizzie with the more perplexed. Another little book or two were lying near, and a common basket of common fruit, and another basket full of strings of beads and tinsel scraps. A few boxes of humble flowers and evergreens completed the garden; and the encompassing wilderness of dowager old chimneys twirled their cowls and fluttered their smoke, rather as if they were bridling, and fanning themselves, and looking on in a state of airy surprise.

Taking her eyes off the book, to test her memory of something in it, Lizzie was the first to see herself observed. As she rose, Miss Wren likewise became conscious, and said, irreverently addressing the great chief of the premises: "Whoever you are, I can't get up, because my back's bad and my legs are queer."

"This is my master," said Riah, stepping forward.

("Don't look like anybody's master," observed Miss Wren to herself, with a hitch of her chin and eyes.)

"This, sir," pursued the old man, "is a little dressmaker for little people. Explain to the master, Jenny."

"Dolls; that's all," said Jenny, shortly. "Very difficult to fit too, because their figures are so uncertain. You never know where to expect their waists."

"Her friend," resumed the old man, motioning towards Lizzie; "and as industrious as virtuous. But that they both are. They are busy early and late, sir, early and late; and in bye-times, as on this holiday, they go to book-learning."

"Not much good to be got out of that," remarked Fledgeby.

"Depends upon the person!" quoth Miss Wren, snapping him up.

"I made acquaintance with my guests, sir," pursued the Jew, with an evident purpose of drawing out the dressmaker, "through their coming here to buy of our damage and waste for Miss Jenny's millinery. Our waste goes into the best of company, sir, on her rosy-cheeked little customers. They wear it in their hair, and on their ball-dresses, and even (so she tells me) are presented at Court with it."

"Ah!" said Fledgeby, on whose intelligence this doll-fancy made rather strong demands; "she's been buying that basketful to-day, I suppose?"

"I suppose she has," Miss Jenny interposed; "and paying for it too, most likely!"

"Let's have a look at it," said the suspicious chief. Riah handed it to him. "How much for this now?"

"Two precious silver shillings," said Miss Wren.

Riah confirmed her with two nods, as Fledgeby looked to him. A nod for each shilling.

"Well," said Fledgeby, poking into the contents of the basket with his forefinger, 'the price is not so bad. You have got good measure, Miss What-is-it."

"Try Jenny," suggested that young lady with great calmness.

"You have got good measure, Miss Jenny; but the price is not so bad. — And you," said Fledgeby, turning to the other visitor, "do you buy anything here, miss?"

"No, sir."

Nor sell anything neither, miss?"

"No, sir."

Looking askew at the questioner, Jenny stole her hand up to her friend's, and drew her friend down, so that she bent beside her on her knee.

"We are thankful to come here for rest, sir," said Jenny. "You see, you don't know what the rest of this place is to us; does he, Lizzie? It's the quiet, and the air."

"The quiet!' repeated Fledgeby, with a contemptuous turn of his head towards the City's roar. "And the air!" with a 'Poof!' at the smoke.

"Ah!" said Jenny. "But it's so high. And you see the clouds rushing on above the narrow streets, not minding them, and you see the golden arrows pointing at the mountains in the sky from which the wind comes, and you feel as if you were dead."

The little creature looked above her, holding up her slight transparent hand.

"How do you feel when you are dead?" asked Fledgeby, much perplexed.

"Oh, so tranquil!' cried the little creature, smiling. "Oh, so peaceful and so thankful! And you hear the people who are alive, crying, and working, and calling to one another down in the close dark streets, and you seem to pity them so! And such a chain has fallen from you, and such a strange good sorrowful happiness comes upon you!"

Her eyes fell on the old man, who, with his hands folded, quietly looked on.

"Why it was only just now," said the little creature, pointing at him, "that I fancied I saw him come out of his grave! He toiled out at that low door so bent and worn, and then he took his breath and stood upright, and looked all round him at the sky, and the wind blew upon him, and his life down in the dark was over! — Till he was called back to life," she added, looking round at Fledgeby with that lower look of sharpness. "Why did you call him back?"

"He was long enough coming, anyhow," grumbled Fledgeby.

"But you are not dead, you know," said Jenny Wren. "Get down to life!"

Mr. Fledgeby seemed to think it rather a good suggestion, and with a nod turned round. As Riah followed to attend him down the stairs, the little creature called out to the Jew in a silvery tone, "Don't be long gone. Come back, and be dead!" And still as they went down they heard the little sweet voice, more and more faintly, half calling and half singing, "Come back and be dead, Come back and be dead!"

When they got down into the entry, Fledgeby, pausing under the shadow of the broad old hat, and mechanically poising the staff, said to the old man:

"That's a handsome girl, that one in her senses." — Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 5, "Mercury Prompting," p. 120-121.

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 Five, "Mercury Prompting," introduces Fascination Fledgeby to Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren, who use the roof of Pubsey & Co. as if it were a park in the midst of the city. In Mahoney's illustration, we do not see Riah's companion, Fascination Fledgeby, but only Riah, scrambling up to the roof, and Lizzie and Jenny. Presumably, Fledgeby is immediately below Riah on the stairs. Bearded and wearing gaberdine like the stereotype established by Shakespeare's Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, Riah here looks much as he does in Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s Fledgeby and Riah, notably long, grey locks and garbardine; however, Mahoney is relying exclusively on the the original Marcus Stone illustration The Garden on the Roof (November 1864). The scene, underscoring the romance in everyday things, brings together members of the working-class, Riah, Jenny, and Lizzie, and the upper-middle-class businessman Fledgeby. Marcus Stone underscores the mutual affection of Lizzie and Jenny, and connects these characters to Riah and thence to Fledgeby, whose connection to Georgiana Podsnap and the Lammles bridges the gulf between the working and the upper classes. Stone has foiled the dozen chimneys and the sooty building behind Riah with the overgrown chimney-pots and greenery behind the picnicking young women. In the foreground is Jenny Wren's oversized bonnet, implying that, for the moment at least, she has been able to shed her role as pseudo-adult wage-earner and head of family to enjoy the liberation of an engrossing book. The situation and composition are very different in the Mahoney illustration, which focuses on the standing figure of Lizzie Hexam, reduces the garden aspect of the setting somewhat, and eliminates Riah's employer entirely. The chimneys are now but shadowy presences as both Lizzie and Jenny react to Riah's arrival on the rooftop. To the right, just discernible, are "a common basket of common fruit, and another basket full of strings of beads and tinsel scraps" — although the viewer must read the accompanying text, presented simultaneously with the illustration, to determine what precisely the woven baskets contain. In other words, a fully independent reading of the wood-engraving is impossible as the context and meaning of objects within the frame, including Jenny's crutch and books (down centre), can only be ascertained through a reading of Dickens's words. Moreover, in this instance, Mahoney is alluding to the Stone antecedent of the Household Edition, which more clearly defines the smokey London cityscape behind the figures, and shows both Fledgeby (upper right), the chimey-pots, as well as Jenny's basket and the blanket that Riah has spread for the young women. The relationship between the two illustrations is one of time sequence, for Stone's depiction of the rooftop should proceed that of Mahoney as in the latter both girls have noticed the visitor, and Lizzie is now standing. Fledgeby, therefore, ought to be present as he is one of the principal interlocutors in the dialogue.

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

Left: Marcus Stone's second November 1864 illustration of Riah and Fledgeby entering the roof-garden of Pubsey and Co., where they find Lizzie Hexam and Jenny Wren, The Garden on the Roof. Right: American Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of the duplicitous Fledgeby and his front man, Riah, Fledgeby and Riah (1867). [Click on ​images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's October 1865 illustration of the appealing child-adult Jenny Wren the dolls' dressmaker and Riah, the benevolent Jew, confirming that Riah is a decent person fronting for the owner of Pubsey & Co., Saint Mary Axe, Miss Wren fixes her Idea. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 11 December 2015