"Good-evening, Mr. Wegg. The yard-gate lock should be looked to, if you please; it don't catch." (p. 131) — the caption in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition text is the same as that in the New York Harper and Brothers volume. The scene is the exterior of Boffin's Bower after sunset, when Rokesmith, leaving a message for Wegg, unconsciously interrupts the plotting of Wegg and the taxidermist, Mr. Venus, to rifle the mounds for valuables. There is no Marcus Stone antecedent for this illustration from the original serial. The significant part of this dark plate is the caption which, taken with the middle-class, professional appearance of Rokesmith, reveals a power relationship in which Wegg is clearly the inferior as the command to repair the latch does not come from Rokesmith's superior, but from Rokesmith himself. James Mahoney's twenty-second illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.4 cm wide.

Passage Realised

"Pray is Mr. Silas Wegg here? Oh! I see him!"

"The friendly movers might not have been quite at their ease, even though the visitor had entered in the usual manner. But, leaning on the breast-high window, and staring in out of the darkness, they find the visitor extremely embarrassing. Especially Mr. Venus: who removes his pipe, draws back his head, and stares at the starer, as if it were his own Hindoo baby come to fetch him home.

"Good evening, Mr. Wegg. The yard gate-lock should be looked to, if you please; it don't catch."

"Is it Mr. Rokesmith?" falters Wegg.

"It is Mr. Rokesmith. Don't let me disturb you. I am not coming in. I have only a message for you, which I undertook to deliver on my way home to my lodgings. I was in two minds about coming beyond the gate without ringing: not knowing but you might have a dog about."

"I wish I had," mutters Wegg, with his back turned as he rose from his chair. St! Hush! The talking-over stranger, Mr. Venus."

"Is that any one I know?" inquires the staring Secretary.

"No, Mr. Rokesmith. Friend of mine. Passing the evening with me."

"Oh! I beg his pardon. Mr. Boffin wishes you to know that he does not expect you to stay at home any evening, on the chance of his coming. It has occurred to him that he may, without intending it, have been a tie upon you. In future, if he should come without notice, he will take his chance of finding you, and it will be all the same to him if he does not. I undertook to tell you on my way. That's all." — Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter 7, "In Which a Friendly Move is Originated," p. 130.

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.]


The woodcut for Book Two, "Birds of a Feather," Chapter Seven, "In Which a Friendly Move is Originated," underscores Wegg's increasing jealousy of the Boffins' new secretary, John Rokesmith. The meeting of the secretary, Wegg, and Venus occurs at Boffin's Bower, of which Wegg is now the caretaker, a choice inferior to that of previous illustrators Marcus Stone and Sol Eytinge, Jr.. The message that Rokesmith brings from Boffin concerns the habit that their employer has developed of merely dropping by for his evening reading of Gibbon's The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. The illustration offers only thumbnails of Wegg and Venus, while the face of John Rokesmith (i. e., the pseudonym of John Harmon) remains obscured by the pose that Mahoney has selected. Wegg is indeed "faltering" and even stunned by the timely arrival of the Secretary, for he and his accomplice were just about to seal their pact in yet another draft ofJamaican rum.

Pertinent Illustrations from the original and later illustrators, 1864-1910

Left: Marcus Stone's first December 1864 illustration of John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer (Part 8), Pa's Lodger and Pa's Daughter. Centre: American Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of the devious Wegg and Mr. Venus, Mr. Wegg and Mr. Venus in Consultation (1867). Right: Clayton J. Clarke's (Kyd's) watercolour study of Wegg as a malcontented peddlar, Silas Wegg. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's illustration for Book One, Chapter 7, of Wegg's visiting the taxidermist, Mr. Venus, owner of Wegg's missing leg bone, Mr. Venus surrounded by the Trophies of his Art. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 14 December 2015