Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition (New York), 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.3 cm wide. The Harper and Brothers woodcut for the third book's fifteenth chapter, "The Golden Dustman at His Worst," concerns Boffin's quarreling with and then discharging his Secretary — and Bella's nobly sacrificing her affluent lifestyle with the Boffins on a point of principle rather than remain under Boffin's roof, despite her deep affection for Mrs. Boffin. The captions in the American and British texts are quite different, even though the plate is identical, the Chapman and Hall caption being longer and probably more faithful to Mahoney's intention.— James Mahoney's forty-third illustration for Charles Dickens's
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.]
But there was Mrs. Boffin to part from, and, in the full flush of her dignity, the impressible little soul collapsed again. Down upon her knees before that good woman, she rocked herself upon her breast, and cried, and sobbed, and folded her in her arms with all her might.
"You're a dear, a dear, the best of dears!' cried Bella. "You're the best of human creatures. I can never be thankful enough to you, and I can never forget you. If I should live to be blind and deaf I know I shall see and hear you, in my fancy, to the last of my dim old days!"
Mrs. Boffin wept most heartily, and embraced her with all fondness; but said not one single word except that she was her dear girl. She said that often enough, to be sure, for she said it over and over again; but not one word else.
Bella broke from her at length, and was going weeping out of the room, when in her own little queer affectionate way, she half relented towards Mr. Boffin.
"I am very glad," sobbed Bella, "that I called you names, sir, because you richly deserved it. But I am very sorry that I called you names, because you used to be so different. Say good-bye!"
"Good-bye," said Mr. Boffin, shortly.
"If I knew which of your hands was the least spoilt, I would ask you to let me touch it," said Bella, "for the last time. But not because I repent of what I have said to you. For I don't. It's true!"
"Try the left hand," said Mr. Boffin, holding it out in a stolid manner; "it's the least used."
"You have been wonderfully good and kind to me," said Bella, "and I kiss it for that. You have been as bad as bad could be to Mr. Rokesmith, and I throw it away for that. Thank you for myself, and good-bye!"
"Good-bye," said Mr. Boffin as before.
Bella caught him round the neck and kissed him, and ran out for ever.
She ran up-stairs, and sat down on the floor in her own room, and cried abundantly. But the day was declining and she had no time to lose. She opened all the places where she kept her dresses; selected only those she had brought with her, leaving all the rest; and made a great misshapen bundle of them, to be sent for afterwards.
"I won't take one of the others," said Bella, tying the knots of the bundle very tight, in the severity of her resolution. "I'll leave all the presents behind, and begin again entirely on my own account." That the resolution might be thoroughly carried into practice, she even changed the dress she wore, for that in which she had come to the grand mansion. Even the bonnet she put on, was the bonnet that had mounted into the Boffin chariot at Holloway.
"Now, I am complete," said Bella. "It's a little trying, but I have steeped my eyes in cold water, and I won't cry any more. You have been a pleasant room to me, dear room. Adieu! We shall never see each other again."
With a parting kiss of her fingers to it, she softly closed the door and went with a light foot down the great staircase, pausing and listening as she went, that she might meet none of the household. No one chanced to be about, and she got down to the hall in quiet. The door of the late Secretary's room stood open. She peeped in as she passed, and divined from the emptiness of his table, and the general appearance of things, that he was already gone. Softly opening the great hall door, and softly closing it upon herself, she turned and kissed it on the outside — insensible old combination of wood and iron that it was! — before she ran away from the house at a swift pace. — Book Three, Chapter 15, "The Golden Dustman at His Worst," p. 254.
Since it was his visual antecedent, Mahoney's 1875 treatment of the textual material is often a response to the original series of illustrations by Marcus Stone, Dickens's original serial and volume illustrator. Although Mahoney sometimes accepts Stone's notions, in The Dutch Bottle, one of three illustrations for the April 1865 or twelfth monthly part in the British serialisation, the Household Edition illustrator reorganised the equivalent Stone illustration. However, here Mahoney felt a dramatic change was in order since Stone's attempt at describing the confrontation between the suspicious employer and the disrespected employee, Bella 'Righted' by the Golden Dustman (July 1865), was less than successful, largely because the original illustrator failed to deal with the complete embarrassment Bella suffers as Boffin denigrates Rokesmith. Indeed, the only wholly satisfactory figure in the original is the Golden Dustman. That Stone's drawing is not as powerful as the text is doubly ironic in that, according to Sean Grass, this is one of the few places in the manuscript upon which Dickens expended considerable effort. Thus, Mahoney has abandoned the dramatic confrontation scene entirely in order to focus on Bella's internal conflict in a contemplative moment following her dressing down of the Golden Dustman.
The Stone illustration had not done justice to Bella's internal conflict, or, for that matter, Mrs. Boffin's obvious distress and the Secretary's stoicism. Mahoney improves considerably on the chief feature: Bella's emotional response. The illustrator conveys a sense of Bella's inner turmoil through the objects scattered on the floor (presumably, the "presents" that she has elected to leave behind, so that she will owe Boffin nothing) and the bundle of dresses (left). Although the text specifies that she kisses her fingertips in saluting the room where she has been so happy — "With a parting kiss of her fingers to it" — Mahoney subtly suggests regret and perhaps even a moment's indecision as Bella considers the "great misshapen" bundle of dresses that will be sent after her. She wears neither coat nor bonnet, and carries just a small parasol, as if the illustrator wishes to imply that she is not entirely prepared for her departure.
Bella Wilfer at this stage in the narrative in the original and later editions
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of Bella and her father, R. W., The Cherub and the Lovely Woman (1867). Right: Marcus Stone's depiction of Bella's assuring her father that he will always be welcome in the home that she and John will share, The Lovely Woman has her Fortune told (July 1865). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Marcus Stone's interpretation of the scene in which Nicodemus Boffin discharges John Rokesmith as a fortune-hunter, Bella 'Righted" by the Golden Dustman (Part 15, July 1865). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 4 January 2016