Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition (London), 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.9 cm high x 13.4 cm wide. The Harper and Brothers' volume caption for the same woodcut for the fourth book's first chapter, "Setting Traps," is more succinct and less helpful in identifying what is happening in the picture: "Plashwater Weir-Mill Lock" (page 268). The composite wood-engraving describes Eugene Wrayburn's clearing the Thames lock in his rowing-scull as Rogue Riderhood, now keeper of the lock, looks on. Although this appears to be a recreational outing, Eugene is in fact following up the lead to Lizzie Hexam's whereabouts provided him by "Mr. Dolls" (the attorneys' derogatory nickname for Jenny Wren's father, Mr. Cleaver). For further differences, including the London and New York volumes' having entirely different frontispieces, see The differences between the British and American printings of Mahoney's illustrations for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend.— James Mahoney's forty-sixth 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.]
Plashwater Weir-Mill Lock looked tranquil and pretty on an evening in the summer time. A soft air stirred the leaves of the fresh green trees, and passed like a smooth shadow over the river, and like a smoother shadow over the yielding grass. The voice of the falling water, like the voices of the sea and the wind, were as an outer memory to a contemplative listener; but not particularly so to Mr. Riderhood, who sat on one of the blunt wooden levers of his lock-gates, dozing. Wine must be got into a butt by some agency before it can be drawn out; and the wine of sentiment never having been got into Mr. Riderhood by any agency, nothing in nature tapped him.
As the Rogue sat, ever and again nodding himself off his balance, his recovery was always attended by an angry stare and growl, as if, in the absence of any one else, he had aggressive inclinations towards himself. In one of these starts the cry of "Lock, ho! Lock!" prevented his relapse into a doze. Shaking himself as he got up like the surly brute he was, he gave his growl a responsive twist at the end, and turned his face down-stream to see who hailed.
It was an amateur-sculler, well up to his work though taking it easily, in so light a boat that the Rogue remarked: "A little less on you, and you'd a'most ha' been a Wagerbut;" then went to work at his windlass handles and sluices, to let the sculler in. As the latter stood in his boat, holding on by the boat-hook to the woodwork at the lock side, waiting for the gates to open, Rogue Riderhood recognized his "T'other governor," Mr. Eugene Wrayburn; who was, however, too indifferent or too much engaged to recognize him.
The creaking lock-gates opened slowly, and the light boat passed in as soon as there was room enough, and the creaking lock-gates closed upon it, and it floated low down in the dock between the two sets of gates, until the water should rise and the second gates should open and let it out. When Riderhood had run to his second windlass and turned it, and while he leaned against the lever of that gate to help it to swing open presently, he noticed, lying to rest under the green hedge by the towing-path astern of the Lock, a Bargeman. — Book Four, "A Turning," Chapter 1, "Setting Traps," p. 267.
Since it was his visual antecedent, Mahoney's 1875 treatment of the textual material is often his response to the original series of illustrations by young Marcus Stone, Dickens's 1860s serial and volume illustrator after Dickens's dropping Hablot Knight Browne, his principal illustrator for twenty-five years. Although Mahoney sometimes accepts Stone's notions, as in Bella 'Righted' by the Golden Dustman and The Lovely Woman has her Fortune told, the pair of illustrations for the July 1865 or fifteenth monthly part in the British serialisation, the Household Edition illustrator had no suitable model with which to open what had originally been one of the novel's most significant serial curtain, the August 1865 number which opens Book Four. Here, however, James Mahoney did not have to invent a wholly new scene; rather, he had several models of the area of the Plashwater Weir Lock from Stone's narrative-pictorial series — although Stone does realise Eugene Wrayburn's passing through the lock now administered by Rogue Riderhood. In particular, Mahoney utilizes certain details in Not to be Shaken Off (November 1865) and, for a useful portrait of Rogue Riderhood at this point, In the Lock-Keeper's House (August 1865).
The Household Edition illustrator does not attempt, as Stone did, to provide a panoramic treatment of the lock on the upper reaches of the Thames; rather, he moves in for the closeup of Eugene in his rowing clothes, holding a boat-hook and watched by the unhappy lock-keeper — "unhappy" because he knows that Wrayburn and his partner, Mortimer Lightwood, specifically did not recommend him for the post at Plashwater Weir. The moment realised, based on the boat-hook and the rower's being turned away from the lock-keeper, is highly specific: "As the latter stood in his boat, holding on by the boat-hook to the woodwork at the lock side, waiting for the gates to open, Rogue Riderhood recognized his 'T'other governor,' Mr. Eugene Wrayburn; who was, however, too indifferent or too much engaged to recognize him" (267), so that one's reading of the illustration in this volume is narrowly analeptic.
Since the lock-keeper's house seems relatively small in one of Stone's illustrations and much more like a substantial cottage in another, Mahoney has elected to provide a small house with a chimney just left of centre, rear. Riderhood, in his signature fur cap, sits on one of the two upper beams of the lock seen in the final Stone illustration. Evidently Riderhood is at the top of the steps, and the water in the lock is much higher here than it is in the Stone illustration. The text clarifies by Riderhood's working the winches that Eugene is going upriver and not down, but Dickens does not make clear by his description of the site and operation of the lock which of the forty-five Thames locks he had in mind. Complicating matters here is the fact that Mahoney seems to have based his lock on Stone's, which is in fact that at Maida Vale on the Regent's Canal (constructed from 1814-1820) in Greater London. Of the river's forty-five locks, twenty-one are associated with weirs, and only four post-date the composition of the novel — and all the locks at the upper end of the river are manually operated, so that no definitive identification of the lock in Our Mutual Friend seems possible, although the lower part of the Penton Hook Lock at Staines is plausible.
Up-river and Riderhood in the original and later editions
Left: F. O. C. Darley's portrait of Riderhood as the lock-keeper, shadowing Bradley Headstone, On the Track (1866). Centre:Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of Rogue Riderhood and his daughter, Pleasant, Rogue Riderhood and Miss Pleasant at Home (1867). Right: Marcus Stone's depiction of Rogue Riderhood's contemplation of the sleeping Bradley Headstone,In the Lock-Keeper's House (August 1865). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Marcus Stone's interpretation of the scene in which Riderhood and Headstone will shortly destroy one another, Not to be Shaken Off (Part 19-20, November 1865). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 7 January 2016