"The dark look of hatred and revenge with which the words broke from his livid lips, and with which he stood holding out his smeared hand as if it held some weapon, and had just struck a mortal blow, made her so afraid of him that she turned to run away. But he caught her by the arm." (p. 171) — James Mahoney's twenty-ninth illustration for Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition (New York), 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.4 cm wide. The Harper and Brothers woodcut for fifteenth chapter, "The Whole Case So Far," in the second book, "Birds of a Feather," realizes the scene​in which Bradley Headstone proposes to Lizzie Hexam — and then threatens the life of Eugene Wrayburn when she refuses.

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 Illustrated

"Stop! I implore you, before you answer me, to walk round this place once more. It will give you a minute's time to think, and me a minute's time to get some fortitude together."

Again she yielded to the entreaty, and again they came back to the same place, and again he worked at the stone.

"Is it," he said, with his attention apparently engrossed by it, "yes, or no?"

"Mr. Headstone, I thank you sincerely, I thank you gratefully, and hope you may find a worthy wife before long and be very happy. But it is no."

"Is no short time necessary for reflection; no weeks or days?" he asked, in the same half-suffocated way.

"None whatever."

"Are you quite decided, and is there no chance of any change in my favour?"

"I am quite decided, Mr. Headstone, and I am bound to answer I am certain there is none."

"Then," said he, suddenly changing his tone and turning to her, and bringing his clenched hand down upon the stone with a force that laid the knuckles raw and bleeding; "then I hope that I may never kill him!"

The dark look of hatred and revenge with which the words broke from his livid lips, and with which he stood holding out his smeared hand as if it held some weapon and had just struck a mortal blow, made her so afraid of him that she turned to run away. But he caught her by the arm.

"Mr. Headstone, let me go. Mr. Headstone, I must call for help!" — "Chapter 15: The Whole Case So Far," p. 171.


Despite the fact that it was his visual antecedent, Mahoney sometimes chose to diverge from the illustrations provided by Marcus Stone ten years earlier in collaboration with Charles Dickens himself. For example, whereas the second February 1865 illustration depicts Lizzie Hexam assisted by Riah after her dismissal of Bradley Headstone, Mahoney for the same chapter has elected to show that emotional confrontation. As is typical of the Mahoney series, the scene in the street is more realistic and less impressionistic than that by Dickens's original serial and volume illustrator, A Friend in Need, in the tenth monthly part in the British serialisation.

The context of the scene, that is, Headstone's proposal in a quiet byway in the vicinity of Leadenhall Street, is rendered far more specific through the text that precedes the dialogue:

The court brought them to a churchyard; a paved square court, with a raised bank of earth about breast high, in the middle, enclosed by iron rails. Here, conveniently and heathfully elevated above the level of the living, were the dead, and the tombstones; some of the latter droopingly inclined from the perpendicular, as if they were ashamed of the lies they told. [169]

Whereas Stone had provided a panoramic view of the cemetery and its area railing, Stone has moved in for a closeup of Lizzie and Bradley, so that the area behind the rails might be a park — until one notices a grave-marker. The foregrounded figures are obvious: Headstone, the schoolmaster, to the left, and to the right, dressed in highly respectable, middle-class mourning, Lizzie Hexam. Bradley Headstone's demeanour is anything but respectful, and Lizzie struggles to get away from him.

The original Chapter 15 illustration, February 1865

Above: Marcus Stone's second February 1865 illustration, an atmospheric treatment of ​Riah's coming to Lizzie Hexam's ​aid in the quiet bystreet, A Friend in Need (Monthly Number Ten). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 20​December 2015