Oliver amazed at the Dodger's mode of going to work
George Cruikshank, 1792-1878
1846 (originally July 1837)
Etching on steel
Fifth illustration, The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress
Despite ill-treatment by Bumble, the master of the workhouse, and the Sowerberry establishment, Oliver is still somewhat naive about people — until he accurately assesses Fagin's motives as he witnesses Jack Dawkins and Charley Bates pick the pocket of a gentleman browsing through books at a stall in the Green or square at Clerkenwell.
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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.].
Passage Illustrated in the 1846 edition
The old gentleman was a very respectable-looking personage, with a powdered head and gold spectacles. He was dressed in a bottle-green coat with a black velvet collar; wore white trousers; and carried a smart bamboo cane under his arm. He had taken up a book from the stall, and there he stood, reading away, as hard as if he were in his elbow-chair, in his own study. It is very possible that he fancied himself there, indeed; for it was plain, from his abstraction, that he saw not the book-stall, nor the street, nor the boys, nor, in short, anything but the book itself — which he was reading straight through: turning over the leaf when he got to the bottom of a page, beginning at the top line of the next one, and going regularly on, with the greatest interest and eagerness.
What was Oliver's horror and alarm as he stood a few paces off, looking on with his eyelids as wide open as they would possibly go, to see the Dodger plunge his hand into the old gentleman's pocket, and draw from thence a handkerchief! To see him hand the same to Charley Bates; and finally to behold them, both, running away round the corner at full speed.
In an instant the whole mystery of the handkerchiefs, and the watches, and the Jewels, and the Jew, rushed upon the boy's mind. He stood, for a moment, with the blood so tingling through all his veins from terror, that he felt as if he were in a burning fire; then, confused and frightened, he took to his heels; and, not knowing what he did, made off as fast as he could lay his feet to the ground. [Chapter 10, "Oliver becomes better acquainted with the characters of his new associates; and purchases experience at a high price. Being a short, but very important chapter, in this history," p. 42-43]
The theft of Mr. Brownlow continues his "progress" through criminal underworld in the tradition of Fielding's Jonathon Wilde and William Hogarth's The Harlot's Progress. For the London readers of the 1830s the scene would have seemed frighteningly real as it draws the viewer's attention to those executing the crime, since the light-fingered street boys would often abscond with the fruits of their crime without even being detected. In this case, the boys are pilfering the gentleman's tailcoat pocket, so that the victim, so thoroughly absorbed in reading, does not apprehend what is transpiring. Significantly in Cruikshank's illustration the bookseller (left) is observing with growing alarm what is happening to his customer, so that later he will be able to exonerate Oliver, despite magistrate Fang's determination to punish the petty theft to the full extent of the law. By sheer coincidence (or Fate) the victim of the petty theft is associated with the buried life of Oliver's mother in that he is the boy's great uncle, and was the best friend of Edwin Leeford, Oliver's natural father.
Significant as this moment is in Oliver's descent into the criminal underworld of London, the other illustrators seem to have been reluctant to have their work compared to Cruikshank's, and so reflected upon the incident in different ways: for example, while Eytinge offers a dual character study of the malefactors, Charley Bates and the Dodger, Mahoney depicts the hue and cry after Oliver, in which ironically, both Charley and Jack Dawkins join. Furniss explores the same scene selected for illustration by Dickens and Cruikshank jointly, but places Oliver, startled, in the background, and develops the dramatic scene in the round, so to speak, foreground the Dodger and Charley, and placing Brownlow with his back to the reader.
Relevant Diamond Edition (1867), Household Edition (1871), Darley "Character" (1888), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) Illustrations
Left: F. O. C. Darley's "Oliver and Fagan [sic]" (1888). Right: Sol Eytinge, Jr.'s "The Artful Dodger and Charley Bates" (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Mahoney's Household Edition illustration (1871) "Stop thief!". Right: Harry Furniss's "Oliver's eyes are opened" (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Cohen, Jane Rabb. "George Cruikshank." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980. Pp. 15-38.
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.
Davis, Paul. . Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Il. George Cruikshank. London: Bradbury and Evans; Chapman and Hall, 1846.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Il. F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Il. James Mahoney. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens Library Edition. Il. Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 3.
Lynch, Tony. "Clerkenwell, London." Dickens's England: An A-Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. London: Batsford, 2012. Pp. 64-65.
Last modified 27 August 2014