Riderhood went over into the smooth pit backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him —​James Mahoney's fifty-seventh illustration for Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition (London and New York), 1875. Full-page composite wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 13.1 cm high x 17.3 cm wide. The Harper and Brothers' caption for the same woodcut that serves as the realisation of the culmination of the fourth​ book's fifteenth ​chapter, "What was Caught in the Traps That were Set," is identical. Whereas Stone's illustration upon which it is partly based, Not to be Shaken Off (November 1865, instalment 19) does not betray the outcome of the battle of wits as the well-dressed, middle-class Bradley Headstone and the roughly attired lock-keeper, Rogue Riderhood, stroll down the pathway of the lock, Mahoney moves in for the closeup of this highly suspenseful moment (subsequent to that in Stone), rendered as one of the few full-page illustrations in the book and positioned immediately opposite the sensational scene in which the two antagonists destroy one another as the work's ultimate expression of poetic justice.

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

"Come, come, Master," urged Riderhood, at his side. "This is a dry game. And where's the good of it? You can't get rid of me, except by coming to a settlement. I am a going along with you wherever you go."

Without a word of reply, Bradley passed quickly from him over the wooden bridge on the lock gates. "Why, there's even less sense in this move than t'other," said Riderhood, following. "The Weir's there, and you'll have to come back, you know."

Without taking the least notice, Bradley leaned his body against a post, in a resting attitude, and there rested with his eyes cast down. "Being brought here," said Riderhood, gruffly, "I'll turn it to some use by changing my gates." With a rattle and a rush of water, he then swung-to the lock gates that were standing open, before opening the others. So, both sets of gates were, for the moment, closed.

"You'd better by far be reasonable, Bradley Headstone, Master," said Riderhood, passing him, "or I'll drain you all the dryer for it, when we do settle. — Ah! Would you!"

Bradley had caught him round the body. He seemed to be girdled with an iron ring. They were on the brink of the Lock, about midway between the two sets of gates.

"Let go!" said Riderhood, "or I'll get my knife out and slash you wherever I can cut you. Let go!"

Bradley was drawing to the Lock-edge. Riderhood was drawing away from it. It was a strong grapple, and a fierce struggle, arm and leg. Bradley got him round, with his back to the Lock, and still worked him backward.

"Let go!' said Riderhood. "Stop! What are you trying at? You can't drown Me. Ain't I told you that the man as has come through drowning can never be drowned? I can't be drowned."

"I can be!" returned Bradley, in a desperate, clenched voice. "I am resolved to be. I'll hold you living, and I'll hold you dead. Come down!"

Riderhood went over into the smooth pit, backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him. When the two were found, lying under the ooze and scum behind one of the rotting gates, Riderhood's hold had relaxed, probably in falling, and his eyes were staring upward. But, he was girdled still with Bradley's iron ring, and the rivets of the iron ring held tight. — Book Four, "A Turning"; Chapter 15, "What was Caught in the Traps that were Set," p. 339.


Mahoney does not attempt to describe the entire panorama of the Thames lock, but focuses on the essentials of the scene: the desperate, black-clad schoolmaster (left), the lock-keeper in fustian, gripped by his lapples (centre), the beams and lock gates, and the keeper's hut (right). Although the whitespace is intended to suggest a recent snowfall, there is little of the painterly or picturesque about Mahoney's treatment, which sacrifices Stone's artistic overview of the river scene to the high drama of Headstone's desperate move to rid himself of the blackmailer. Behind the two figures on the brink of the lock Mahoney has employed considerable cross-hatching to suggest the darkness of the grave into which both combatants are about to fall, in sharp contrast to the snow-covered banks.

In The Death-Struggle in the Lock (1910) Harry Furniss draws upon the work of both Marcus Stone in the ultimate number of the 1864-65 nineteen-month serialisation and this plate by James Mahoney, the penultimate illustration in the 1875 Household Edition volume. While Furniss like Stone utilizes the panoramic view of the upper Thames lock and weir in the November 1865 wood-engraving Not to be Shaken Off, he shifts the moment captured from the tranquil verbal negotiation of the antagonists to the moment that James Mahoney elected to illustrate, when Headstone suddenly grapples with Riderhood as he prepares to tumble both of them into the water in Riderhood went over into the smooth pit backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him, reinforcing to Victorian readers the power of poetic justice. Compared to Furniss's realisation, however, Mahoney's is more visceral, and elicits sympathy for the would-be blackmail victim by his dominant position and more readable facial expression. As compared to Stone's, the Mahoney wood-engraving demonstrates the advantages of illustrating for a volume work over a serial in that, whereas Stone could not reveal too much of the plot at the start of the monthly number (the illustrations were not bound into the wrappered monthly parts, but positioned at the beginning of the instalment), Mahoney was free to present the illustration as a complement to the text opposite.

Whereas F. O. C. Darley in the fourth American "Household" Edition volume of 1866 had focussed in the frontispiece on Rogue Riderhood's surveillance of Headstone as he attempts to destroy the evidence of his involvement in what he believes to be the murder of the young lawyer in On the Track, the crime-and-detection aspect of the novel, Mahoney and Furniss have seized upon the most suspenseful moment in the final movement of the story, in which both would have recognised the climactic scene in No Thoroughfare, the collaborative Wilkie Collins-Charles Dickens novella for Christmas 1867 in All the Year Round as originating with this scene in the last complete novel Dickens wrote. At the climax of the Christmas story, the young English protagonist George Vendale wrestles with his Swiss antagonist, Jules Obenreizer, on the edge of a glacier — the scene appears in the 1877 Household Edition volume Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. G. Dalziel, He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow, although Furniss's interpretation, like Mahoney's in 1875, may well have been conditioned by Charles Green's 1868 Illustrated Library Edition wood-engraving No Thoroughfare. Although the mountain scene is set in the Simplon Pass, near the village of Brieg, above Lausanne, the composition — two figures grappling with one another and about to experience a fatal fall — is decidedly similar; however, in the 1864-65 novel the adversaries are the working-class villain Rogue Riderhood and his middle-class counterpart, the obsessed and psychologically damaged schoolmaster Bradley Headstone. The dynamic then is one of class (Riderhood being as poor an exemplar of the working class as Headstone is of the middle class), rather than nationality. Whereas the reader is engaged on behalf of neither figure in the combat in the novel, in the 1867 novella the reader is on the edge of his seat to discover whether the protagonist lives or dies. Since James Mahoney would have seen Charles Green's plate in the 1868 Illustrated Library Edition, he would have recognized the parallels and significant differences between the two suspenseful scenes. However, since Dalziel's interpretation of the scene in the novella post-dates Mahoney's illustration for the novel, the only influence on Mahoney's composition from No Thoroughfare would have been the 1868 Illustrated Library Edition plate by Charles Green, in which Vendale is going over the precipice as the perfidious Swiss businessman, attired as a mountaineer, watches.

In his version of the Stone and Mahoney illustrations for the 1864-65 novel, Furniss shows the pair hurtling through the air towards the frigid Thames water in the lock rather than still on the right bank near the lock stairs, partially covered in snow. The pair are distinguished principally by their hats: whereas Riderhood is still wearing his proletarian fur cap (centre), Headstone has already lost his tophat (right). The Mahoney illustration uses clothing and juxtaposition rather than hats to distinguish the adversaries.

Comparable Chapter 15 Illustrations in the original & Charles Dickens Library Editions, 1865-1910

Left: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's 1866 frontispiece, showing Riderhood, following Headstone to the river bank in Book 4, Chapter 7, "Better to be Cain than Abel, On the Track (New York "Household Edition," vol. 4). Right:​ Harry Furniss's more violent reinterpretation of Marcus Stone's handling of the confrontation at the lock, The Death-Struggle in the Lock. (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's sentimental interpretation of the scene in which, rather than be blackmailed, Bradley Headstone ponders attacking Rogue Riderhood by the river lock, Not to be Shaken Off (Book 4, "A Turning," Ch. 15, "What was Caught in the Traps that were Set," November 1865, the final, "double" number). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Comparable Scenes in "No Thoroughfare" (1867): 1868-1910

Left: Harry Furniss's The Struggle on the Mountain (1910). Centre: E. G. Dalziel's "He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow." (1877). Right: Charles Green's dramatic illustration of the struggle in "No Thoroughfare" (1868). [Click on images to enlarge them.]


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Last modified 10 January 2016