"Now, you are something like a genteel boy!" —​ James Mahoney's forty-ninth illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875, has the same caption in both the New York and London printings. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 10.6 cm high x 13.4 cm wide. The composite wood-engraving concerns the weeks following the marriage of John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer (right), when the couple, having visited the disapproving Ms. Wilfer (in whom they do not confide that Reginald Wilfer was present at the ceremony in Greenwich), settle down to married life in a cottage on Black Heath. John is supposedly working in a "China house" in the City. In this illustration, the couple entertain R. W. (left) at dinner.

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.]

Passage Realised

Pa had his special chair and his special corner reserved for him on all occasions, and — without disparagement of his domestic joys — was far happier there, than anywhere. It was always pleasantly droll to see Pa and Bella together; but on this present evening her husband thought her more than usually fantastic with him.

"You are a very good little boy," said Bella, "to come unexpectedly, as soon as you could get out of school. And how have they used you at school to-day, you dear?"

"Well, my pet," replied the cherub, smiling and rubbing his hands as she sat him down in his chair, 'I attend two schools. There's the Mincing Lane establishment, and there's your mother's Academy. Which might you mean, my dear?"

"Both," said Bella.

"Both, eh? Why, to say the truth, both have taken a little out of me to-day, my dear, but that was to be expected. There's no royal road to learning; and what is life but learning!"

"And what do you do with yourself when you have got your learning by heart, you silly child?"

"Why then, my dear," said the cherub, after a little consideration, "I suppose I die."

"You are a very bad boy," retorted Bella, "to talk about dismal things and be out of spirits."

"My Bella," rejoined her father, "I am not out of spirits. I am as gay as a lark." Which his face confirmed.

"Then if you are sure and certain it's not you, I suppose it must be I," said Bella; 'so I won't do so any more. John dear, we must give this little fellow his supper, you know."

"Of course we must, my darling."

"He has been grubbing and grubbing at school," said Bella, looking at her father's hand and lightly slapping it, 'till he's not fit to be seen. O what a grubby child!"

"Indeed, my dear," said her father, "I was going to ask to be allowed to wash my hands, only you find me out so soon."

"Come here, sir!' cried Bella, taking him by the front of his coat, "come here and be washed directly. You are not to be trusted to do it for yourself. Come here, sir!"

The cherub, to his genial amusement, was accordingly conducted to a little washing-room, where Bella soaped his face and rubbed his face, and soaped his hands and rubbed his hands, and splashed him and rinsed him and towelled him, until he was as red as beet-root, even to his very ears: "Now you must be brushed and combed, sir," said Bella, busily. "Hold the light, John. Shut your eyes, sir, and let me take hold of your chin. Be good directly, and do as you are told!"

Her father being more than willing to obey, she dressed his hair in her most elaborate manner, brushing it out straight, parting it, winding it over her fingers, sticking it up on end, and constantly falling back on John to get a good look at the effect of it. Who always received her on his disengaged arm, and detained her, while the patient cherub stood waiting to be finished.

"There!' said Bella, when she had at last completed the final touches. "Now, you are something like a genteel boy! Put your jacket on, and come and have your supper." — Book Four, Chapter 5, "Concerning the Mendicant's Bride," p. 289.


Mahoney does not attempt to describe the wedding dinner since the subject of the marriage of John (who has yet to reveal his true identity as John Harmon) and Bella had been dealt with (albeit in a lacklustre fashion) by Marcus Stone ten years earlier in The Wedding Dinner at Greenwich (August 1865). The illustration presents the Rokesmiths' early married life in their cottage on Blackheath as idyllic. In their little house Bella's father is an honoured guest, with whom Bella continues her playful banter as if she were R. W.'s mother rather than his daughter. Lurking behind the domestic bliss is the question of how Bella will respond when she learns that her husband is the wealthy John Harmon rather than the "mendicant" John Rokesmith. There is no comparable scene to the domestic bliss of the Rokesmiths in the original serial sequence, which jumps from the clandestine wedding to the romantic plot involving Eugene Wrayburn and Lizzie Hexam, The Parting by the River (Chapter Six, "A Cry for Help," in the September 1865 instalment).

The "Rokesmiths" (Harmons) in the original and 1867 editions

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of the secretive "Rokesmith" and Bella Wilfer, John Harmon (1867). Centre: Marcus Stone's realisation of the scene between Bella and her father after she has quitted her privileged position at the Boffin mansion, The Lovely Woman has her Fortune Told (July 1865). Right: The Cherub and the Lovely Woman. (Book Three, Chapter 16; 1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's interpretation of the scene at the waterfront's Ship Inn as Bella and her new husband dine with her father against a backdrop of Thames shipping, The Wedding Dinner at Greenwich (August 1865). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 10 January 2016