"Now, you may give me a kiss, Pa." — p. 139. In the early part of this chapter, Rokesmith chides Bella for neglecting her family. To prove the Secretary wrong, Bella takes the Boffins' coach to visit her mother and sisters, who do not respond well to Bella's display of affluence. She then visits her father at work, encouraging him to play hookey that afternoon to join her in a shopping spree — not for herself, but for him. Dressed in the latest fashion, R. W. is then whisked off to Greenwich for a luxurious dinner, at which Bella confesses that she has become mercenary as a result of living with the Boffins. Here, the meal nearly over, the daughter makes this confession to her father, admitting that, now that she has enjoyed a richer lifestyle, she must have a wealthy husband. James Mahoney's twenty-fourth illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 10.4 cm high x 13.2 cm wide.

Passage Realised

"And now, Pa," pursued Bella, "I'll make a confession to you. I am the most mercenary little wretch that ever lived in the world."

"I should hardly have thought it of you, my dear,' returned her father, first glancing at himself; and then at the dessert.

"I understand what you mean, Pa, but it's not that. It's not that I care for money to keep as money, but I do care so much for what it will buy!"

"Really I think most of us do," returned R. W.

"But not to the dreadful extent that I do, Pa. O-o!" cried Bella, screwing the exclamation out of herself with a twist of her dimpled chin. "I am so mercenary!"

"With a wistful glance R. W. said, in default of having anything better to say: "About when did you begin to feel it coming on, my dear?"

"That's it, Pa. That's the terrible part of it. When I was at home, and only knew what it was to be poor, I grumbled but didn't so much mind. When I was at home expecting to be rich, I thought vaguely of all the great things I would do. But when I had been disappointed of my splendid fortune, and came to see it from day to day in other hands, and to have before my eyes what it could really do, then I became the mercenary little wretch I am."

"It's your fancy, my dear."

"I can assure you it's nothing of the sort, Pa!" said Bella, nodding at him, with her very pretty eyebrows raised as high as they would go, and looking comically frightened. "It's a fact. I am always avariciously scheming."

"Lor! But how?"

"I'll tell you, Pa. I don't mind telling you, because we have always been favourites of each other's, and because you are not like a Pa, but more like a sort of a younger brother with a dear venerable chubbiness on him. And besides," added Bella, laughing as she pointed a rallying finger at his face, "because I have got you in my power. This is a secret expedition. If ever you tell of me, I'll tell of you. I'll tell Ma that you dined at Greenwich."

"Well; seriously, my dear," observed R. W., with some trepidation of manner, "it might be as well not to mention it."

"Aha!" laughed Bella. "I knew you wouldn't like it, sir! So you keep my confidence, and I'll keep yours. But betray the lovely woman, and you shall find her a serpent. Now, you may give me a kiss, Pa, and I should like to give your hair a turn, because it has been dreadfully neglected in my absence." — Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 8, "In Which an Innocent Elopement Occurs," p. 138-139 in the New York edition.

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 Eight, "In Which an Innocent Elopement Occurs" (p. 139) marks Bella's self-awareness of her avarice in her confession to her father in the 1875 Household Edition volume of Our Mutual Friend, suggesting that Mahoney regarded this scene as marking the beginning of an epiphany of sorts, of Bella's moral rehabilitation, the result of the Boffins' Secretary, John Rokesmith (i. e., John Harmon operating under a pseudonym), confronting Bella about her neglect of her family earlier that day. Mahoney has utilized Marcus Stone's serial illustration of Bella and her father at a first-rate hotel overlooking Greenwich harbour, The Wedding Dinner at Greenwich (Part 16: August 1865). Sol Eytinge, Jr., depicted a more animated, affectionate Bella and her father together on the same earlier occasion at Greenwich to illustrate the closeness of their relationship, temporarily disrupted by Bella's desire for wealth. With the simultaneous presentation of Dickens's words​and his complementary wood-engraving, Mahoney achieves a perfect synthesis of word and image here.

Mahoney's illustration is particularly effective in realising the maritime backdrop, with the two windows of the hotel dining-room offering a panoramic view of ships, spars, and sails, complementing Bella's reference in the text to a ship being towed by a steam-tug. In the interior, a bottle of wine, glasses, flowers, and cruets establish that Bella is treating her father to a splendid dinner. Mahoney establishes continuity by putting her in the same dress that she wore in the previous scene, set in the greater drawing-room of the Boffin mansion, and thereby reminding the viewer of how Rokesmith's subtly delivered criticism has resulted in this act of benevolence. The Cherbub, "R. W.," looks much as he does in Mahoney's earlier illustration, When it came Bella's turn to sign her name, Mr. Rokesmith, who was standing, as he had sat, with a hesitating hand upon the table, looked at her stealthily but narrowly, providing a built-in reference to her difficult upbringing in Holloway, north London.

There is no immediate Marcus Stone illustration that parallels this Mahoney illustration. In Stone's wedding dinner illustration, the background detailing is far inferior to Mahoney's here, and the later illustrator charges the scene with emotion, in contrast to Stone's static interpretation, with a withdrawn Bella and a cartoon-like R. W.

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

Left: Marcus Stone's August 1865 illustration of John Rokesmith, R. W., and Bella Wilfer, The Wedding Dinner at Greenwich. Right: American Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of the Bella and her kindly father, R. W., The Cherub and the Lovely Woman (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]


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Last modified 16 December 2015