"Meaning," returned the little creature, "Everyone of you but you. Hah! Now, look this lady in the face. This is Mrs. Truth. The Honourable. Full-dressed." — p. 149. In Chapter 11 of Book Two, when Bradley Headstone encounters Jenny Wren before he counsels Lizzie Hexam to break off her relationship with Eugene Wrayburn, she scrutinizes him, querying his motives, but he refuses to commit himself at this point as Lizzie's suitor, although Jenny sees right through his vagueness, and his posing as "a perfectly disinterested person" (148), as Jenny describes their visitor to Lizzie as she enters. James Mahoney's twenty-sixth illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 10.6 cm high x 13.4 cm wide.

Passage Realised

The schoolmaster went his way, brooding and brooding, and a sense of being vanquished in a struggle might have been pieced out of his worried face. Truly, in his breast there lingered a resentful shame to find himself defeated by this passion for Charley Hexam's sister, though in the very self-same moments he was concentrating himself upon the object of bringing the passion to a successful issue.

He appeared before the dolls' dressmaker, sitting alone at her work. "Oho!" thought that sharp young personage, "it's you, is it? I know your tricks and your manners, my friend!"

"Hexam's sister," said Bradley Headstone, "is not come home yet?"

"You are quite a conjuror," returned Miss Wren.

"I will wait, if you please, for I want to speak to her."

"Do you?" returned Miss Wren. "Sit down. I hope it's mutual." Bradley glanced distrustfully at the shrewd face again bending over the work, and said, trying to conquer doubt and hesitation:

"I hope you don't imply that my visit will be unacceptable to Hexam's sister?"

"There! Don't call her that. I can't bear you to call her that," returned Miss Wren, snapping her fingers in a volley of impatient snaps, "for I don't like Hexam."


"No." Miss Wren wrinkled her nose, to express dislike. "Selfish. Thinks only of himself. The way with all of you."

"The way with all of us? Then you don't like me?"

"So-so," replied Miss Wren, with a shrug and a laugh. "Don't know much about you."

"But I was not aware it was the way with all of us," said Bradley, returning to the accusation, a little injured. "Won't you say, some of us?"

"Meaning," returned the little creature, "every one of you, but you. Hah! Now look this lady in the face. This is Mrs. Truth. The Honourable. Full-dressed."

Bradley glanced at the doll she held up for his observation — which had been lying on its face on her bench, while with a needle and thread she fastened the dress on at the back — and looked from it to her.

"I stand the Honourable Mrs. T. on my bench in this corner against the wall, where her blue eyes can shine upon you," pursued Miss Wren, doing so, and making two little dabs at him in the air with her needle, as if she pricked him with it in his own eyes; "and I defy you to tell me, with Mrs. T. for a witness, what you have come here for."

"To see Hexam's sister." — Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 11, "Some Affairs of the Heart," p. 148-149.

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 Eleven, "Some Affairs of the Heart" (p. 149) in what was originally the Ninth Part (January 1865) pursues an aspect of the multi-strand plot which Marcus Stone did not address in his serial illustrations — Bradley Headstone's growing obsession with Lizzie Hexam at this point in the story. The interview between the dolls' dressmaker and the schoolmaster occurs in Jenny's parlour, which doubles as her workroom, although all that Mahoney shows of that aspect of the room is the can of glue and the scraps of material under the table.

Jenny Wren, physically deformed and wise beyond her years, possesses a judgment of persons and events that corresponds closely with that of the narrator. Consequently, when she intimates that Bradley Headstone's attitude towards Lizzie is not that of the disinterested schoolmaster and mentor of Charley Hexam, we are inclined to accept her interpretation rather than trust Mahoney's suave image. Professionally dressed and self-confident, Mahoney's Headstone does not betray a trace of mental and emotional stability, but his later descent into homicidal madness confirms the validity of the alarms about him that Jenny sounds here. Her doll, Mrs. Truth, becomes a puppet in her hands, as Jenny becomes the puppet-master. Although Mahoney rarely employs symbolic objects for editorial comment, the proximity of Headstone and the bellows (centre) might be underscoring his blown-up pretensions and self-centredness.

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

Left: Marcus Stone's 30 September 1864 illustration of Jenny Wren and "Mr. Dolls," her drunken father, The Person of the House and the Bad Child. Right: American Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of the stern, disciplined Jenny and her alcoholic parent, The Person of the House and the Bad Child (1867), probably based on the Stone illustration. [Click on images to enlarge them.]


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Last modified 18 December 2015