According to Frederic G. Kitton's 1899 study of the novelist and his illustrators, Marcus Stone had an unusual relationship with Dickens, who granted him considerable freedom in choosing his subjects:
It is a recognised fact among illustrators of works of fiction that authors are usually devoid of what Mr. Stone aptly designates a sense of " pictorialism," — that is to say, the subjects selected by them for illustration invariably prove to be unsuitable. Charles Dickens (according to Mr. Stone's experience) was a noteworthy exception to the rule, although he usually afforded the artist free scope in this matter, sending him the revised proof-sheets of each number, that he might make his own choice of the incidents to be depicted; and it is worthy of remark that in no instance did the novelist question the propriety of his selection. A preliminary sketch for each illustration was forwarded to Dickens, who returned it to the artist with suggestions, and with the title inscribed by him in the margin. The finished drawings upon the wood were never seen by the novelist, as they were dispatched by Mr. Stone to the engravers immediately on completion. [p. 197]
Despite enjoying this freedom in choosing passages to illustrate, Stone found that the novelist's earlier work-practice with Phiz, which involved giving detailed directions about composition and often symbolic details, led to delays in completng the individual plates:
Mr. Marcus Stone affirms that he was much hampered by Dickens with respect to these designs, for the novelist, hitherto accustomed to the diminutive scale of the figures in Hablot Browne's etchings, was somewhat imperative in his demand for a similar treatment of the illustrations for "Our Mutual Friend." The author, it seems, was usually in an appreciative mood whenever a sketch was submitted for approval, now and then favouring his illustrator with information that often proved indispensable. [p. 197]
In his previous collaborative relationship, that with Hablot Knight Browne, Dickenms was accustomed to give highly specific directions for each composition, and to require that artist submit to him the sketches in draft for criticism and approval, necessitating some considerable delay in the illustrator's submitting his finished work to the publisher in time for the next monthly instalment.
Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators. 1899. Rpt. Honolulu: U. Press of the Pacific, 2004.
Last modified 17 November 2010