The Spy's Funeral

The Spy's Funeral by Harry Furniss. 1910. Vignetted, 9.5 x 14.4 cm. Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities, second half of volume 13, The Charles Dickens Library Edition, facing page 153. [Click on image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated

These [conventional signs of mourning, including the handkerchief and hatband], the people tore to pieces and scattered far and wide with great enjoyment, while the tradesmen hurriedly shut up their shops; for a crowd in those times stopped at nothing, and was a monster much dreaded. They had already got the length of opening the hearse to take the coffin out, when some brighter genius proposed instead, its being escorted to its destination amidst general rejoicing. Practical suggestions being much needed, this suggestion, too, was received with acclamation, and the coach was immediately filled with eight inside and a dozen out, while as many people got on the roof of the hearse as could by any exercise of ingenuity stick upon it. Among the first of these volunteers was Jerry Cruncher himself, who modestly concealed his spiky head from the observation of Tellson's, in the further corner of the mourning coach.

The officiating undertakers made some protest against these changes in the ceremonies; but, the river being alarmingly near, and several voices remarking on the efficacy of cold immersion in bringing refractory members of the profession to reason, the protest was faint and brief. The remodelled procession started, with a chimney-sweep driving the hearse — advised by the regular driver, who was perched beside him, under close inspection, for the purpose — and with a pieman, also attended by his cabinet minister, driving the mourning coach. A bear-leader, a popular street character of the time, was impressed as an additional ornament, before the cavalcade had gone far down the Strand; and his bear, who was black and very mangy, gave quite an Undertaking air to that part of the procession in which he walked. [Book Two, "The Golden Thread," Chapter Fourteen, "The Honest Tradesman," pages 146-147]

Relevant Illustrations from earlier editions: 1859, 1874, and 1905.

Left: John McLenan's untitled headnote vignette for Book 2, Chapter 14, The Honest Tradesman. Right: Phiz's "The Spy's Funeral" (September 1859).

Left: Fred Barnard's "Messrs. Cruncher and Son" (1874); right: A. A. Dixon's contrasting French mob scene, "Patriots and friends, we are ready" for Book Two, Chapter 21, "Echoing Footsteps" (1905). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Commentary

Barnard, McLenan, Eytinge, and Dixon, Furniss's predecessors, offer him little of a model for his depiction of violence erupting in an indeterminate urban setting. Whereas the novel's first American illustrator, John McLenan, adopted a whimsical and surrealistic approach to Jerry Cruncher's "trade" by showing young Jerry imagining himself pursued by a coffin through a cemetery, Phiz in one of his two monthly illustrations for September 1859 focuses on the bear and his trainer in the ramshackle bacchanal that has boisterously supervened after the sombre start of the police spy Roger Cly's funeral. At this point, according to Dickens, the procession has just reached Temple Bar, and is therefore passing Tellson's Bank on Fleet Street, in front of which establishment which are stationed the previously-introduced bank messenger and "odd-job man," Jerry Cruncher, and his son (the pair being the focus of the Fred Barnard Household Edition illustration for Chapter One, Five Years Later," in Book Two). The basis for Furniss's illustration of assault by raggamuffin street boys on the informer's funeral is Phiz's, so that studying how the later artist has sharpened and refined the earlier artist's work is informative.

After the lachrymose events in markedly urban Saint Antoine in Phiz's July illustration The Stoppage at the Fountain, this emotionally charged mixed scene of animals and people gathered in an urban setting comes as something of a comic relief, for here (in contrast to the tragic Paris scene) nobody is upset or injured, and in fact nobody has died! The comic figures of the bear and his "leader" (still a common enough sight in the London of the 1850s, but long since passed into history by the time of Furniss's composing his illustration) have replaced the suffering Gaspard and his comforter, the bear-like Ernest Degarge (right of centre), and a pair of calm steeds in full funeral gear have replaced the rearing stallions of the July illustration — and a mob at play, dominated by children, has replaced the genuine mourners of St. Antoine.

In his version, Furniss has moved the bear and his leader to the left and away from their central position, and has shifted the horses pulling the hearse to right of centre, heading in the opposite direction to those in Phiz's engraving — and Furniss has moved the hitching post (no longer a vehicle for leapfrog) from the right to the left. Although the drummer, up centre, is still prominent, Furniss draws the eye well forward to the adult who seems to be urging the ragged street boys to violence as he informs them of the vocation of the dead man. The boys appear to be arming themselves, not merely joining the parade as in Phiz's plate, and several respectable bystanders (left) are clearly terrified by their encounter with the bear and the mob following him. Furniss does not emphasize the urban setting; there are no roof-tops, no sharply delineated shop signs (what is probably such a sign Furniss has barely sketched in, upper left), and no doorways, all contextual elements in Phiz's illustration. The overall effect, then, is somewhat different in that Furniss's mob is not merely playful but potentially destructive, and street youth do not act out of a spirit of fun but are exhorted to violence by rowdy adults, the figure in the foreground likely being Jerry Cruncher himself (his son behind him, to the immediate left), recognizable by his spiky hair. Thus, Furniss connects the scene immediately to the plot of the novel, as Jerry, always on the lookout for a corpse in good physical condition, is about to discover that no body is in the coffin. Significantly, in order to place Jerry in a prominent position, Furniss has been willing to contradict the text, for Jerry should already be hiding in the carriage and on his way to the site of the internment, the churchyard of St. Pancras-in-the-Fields.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

References

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1988.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. All the Year Round. 30 April through 26 November 1859.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. John McLenan. Harper's Weekly: A Journal of Civilization. 7 May through 3 December 1859.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. Hablot Knight Browne. London: Chapman and Hall, 1859.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. 16 vols. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. Fred Barnard. The Household Edition. London: Chapman and Hall, 1874.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Il. A. A. Dixon. London: Collins, 1905.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities, American Notes, and Pictures from Italy. Il. Harry Furniss. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. 13.

Sanders, Andrew. A Companion to A Tale of Two Cities. London: Unwin Hyman, 1988.


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Last modified 19 November 2013