Bradley hesitated for a moment; but placed his usual signature, enlarged, upon the board. (p. 408 Chapman & Hall and p. 334 Harper & Bros.) —​ James Mahoney's fifty-sixth illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875, has the identical caption in both the American and British editions. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.5 cm wide. The composite wood-engraving concerns Rogue Riderhood's arriving at Bradley Headstone's classroom with the bundle of clothes he thought he had sunk in the Thames after attacking Eugene Wrayburn by the river. Despite his wheedling and mock obsequious manner, Roger ("Rogue") Riderhood, alerting Headstone to the fact that he has the clothes, demands that he meet him later at the lockmaster's hut in Book Four, Ch. 15, "What Was Caught in the Traps that were Set."

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

"Beg your pardon, governor! By your leave!" said Riderhood, knuckling his forehead, with a chuckle and a leer. "What place may this be?"

"This is a school."

"Where young folks learns wot's right?" said Riderhood, gravely nodding. "Beg your pardon, governor! By your leave! But who teaches this school?"

"I do."

"You're the master, are you, learned governor?"

"Yes. I am the master."

"And a lovely thing it must be," said Riderhood, "fur to learn young folks wot's right, and fur to know wot they know wot you do it. Beg your pardon, learned governor! By your leave! — That there black board; wot's it for?"

"It is for drawing on, or writing on."

"Is it though!" said Riderhood. "Who'd have thought it, from the looks on it! would you be so kind as write your name upon it, learned governor?" (In a wheedling tone.)

Bradley hesitated for a moment; but placed his usual signature, enlarged, upon the board.

"I ain't a learned character myself," said Riderhood, surveying the class, "but I do admire learning in others. I should dearly like to hear these here young folks read that there name off, from the writing." — Book Four, Chapter 15, "What Was Caught in the Traps that were Set," p. 333 in the Harper & Bros. edition; p. 405-406 in the Chapman & Hall edition.


As is the case with the other plots in the novel, the guilt of Bradley Headstone and scheming of Rogue Riderhood must be brought to closure in the final chapters in a poetically just manner, all the more necessary since Eugene has refused to press charges. Hence, the Mahoney plate in the schoolroom sets up the final meeting between the contrasting adversaries, establishing that the street-wise Riderhood has retrieved the bargeman's clothing and means to use it to blackmail the "learned" schoolmaster. There is no parallel illustration in the November 1865 double number by Marcus Stone, who moves directly to the scene at Plashwater Weir in which negotiations between the pair seem to be proceeding amicably.

Although it is difficult to discern Headstone's growing apprehension at Riderhood's unexpected and unwelcome appearance in his classroom, Mahoney has made the rough-and-ready waterman an effective contrast to the professionally-garbed Headstone. The teacher, proud of his literacy and sure that his adversary's being illiterate assures him of success in dealing with the uncouth lout. The schoolroom scene shows Headstone that he has grossly underestimated his antagonist's ability to use the clothing as leverage in bargaining a payoff. Mahoney has reduced the dynamics of the confrontation to its essentials: the desk and the master (left, his face turned away from the viewer), standing at the portable blackboard whereon he has affixed his signature; at the rear, a two-hemisphere map of the world, perhaps suggesting the two "class" worlds which Headstone and Riderhood represent; Riderhood with the bundle of clothes, centre; and six children of about eleven years of age, standing in their jackets, looking at Riderhood and whispering to one another — three hats hang on the pegs, right rear, but these are not mere caps, and probably therefore belong to teachers rather than pupils. As a tudy of a crucial moment in the plot, the illustration serves its purpose well since it expands the textual passage without betraying what is going on in Headstone's mind. More successful as psychological studies of the neurotic teacher, however, are Marcus Stone's September 1865 portrait of anguish, Better to be Abel than Cain (with its cleverly placed biblical illustration of [The First Murder] Cain & Abel), and Sol Eytinge, Junior's 1867 Diamond Edition description of incipient insanity, Bradley Headstone and Charley Hexam, in which both figures are conferring in a classroom setting while students do their exercises in the background.

Bradley Headstone and Rogue Riderhood in the original and later editions, 1865-1867

Left: Marcus Stone's September 1865 serial illustration of the psychologically damaged Headstone after his attack on Wrayburn, Better to be Abel than Cain.​Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's study of the​ manic school-master and his self-centred pupil, Bradley Headstone and Charley [sic] Hexam (1867). Right: F. O. C. Darley's representation of an ill-clad, scruffy Riderhood as he watches a distant Bradley Headstone attempting to dispose of his disguise as a bargeman, On the Track. (1866) [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's November 1865 interpretation of the negotiation between Headstone and Riderhood at Plashwater Weir, Not to be Shaken off. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 17 January 2016