"The cherub, whose hair would have done for itself, under the influence of this amazing spectacle, what Bella had just done for it, staggered back into the window-seat from which he had risen, and surveyed the pair with his eyes dilated to their utmost." — James Mahoney's forty-fourth illustration for Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition (London), 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.3 cm wide. The Harper and Brothers caption for woodcut for the third book's sixteenth chapter, "The Feast of the Three Hobgoblins," is much more succinct: "Yes, I am yours" (p. 257​). The composite wood-engraving concerns John Rokesmith's proposing to — and being accepted at last — Bella Wilfer at her father's office in the gloomy counting-house of Chicksey, Veneering, and Stobbles, much to the astonishment of her father. For further differences, including the London and New York volumes having entirely different frontispieces, see The differences between the British and American printings of Mahoney's illustrations for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend.

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

"My gracious me!"​he exclaimed, invoking the Mincing Lane echoes as before. "This is very extraordinary!"

"What is, Pa?"

"Why here's Mr. Rokesmith now!"

"​No, no, Pa, no,"​cried Bella, greatly flurried. "Surely not."

"Yes there is! Look here!"

"Sooth to say, Mr.​Rokesmith not only passed the window, but came into the counting-house. And not only came into the counting-house, but, finding himself alone there with Bella and her father, rushed at Bella and caught her in his arms, with the rapturous words "My dear, dear girl; my gallant, generous, disinterested, courageous, noble girl!"​And not only that even, (which one might have thought astonishment enough for one dose), but Bella, after hanging her head for a moment, lifted it up and laid it on his breast, as if that were her head's chosen and lasting resting-place!

"I knew you would come to him, and I followed you," said Rokesmith. "My love, my life! You are​mine?"

To which Bella responded, "Yes, I am​ yours if you think me worth taking!"​And after that, seemed to shrink to next to nothing in the clasp of his arms, partly because it was such a strong one on his part, and partly because there was such a yielding to it on hers.

"​The cherub, whose hair would have done for itself under the influence of this amazing spectacle, what Bella had just now done for it, staggered back into the window-seat from which he had risen, and surveyed the pair with his eyes dilated to their utmost.

"​But we must think of dear Pa,"​said Bella; "I haven't told dear Pa; let us speak to Pa."​Upon which they turned to do so.

"I wish first, my dear,"​remarked the cherub faintly, "that you'd have the kindness to sprinkle me with a little milk, for I feel as if I was — ​Going."

In fact, the good little fellow had become alarmingly limp, and his senses seemed to be rapidly escaping, from the knees upward. Bella sprinkled him with kisses instead of milk, but gave him a little of that article to drink; and he gradually revived under her caressing care.

"We'll break it to you gently, dearest Pa,"​said Bella.

"My dear,"​returned the cherub, looking at them both, "you broke so much in the first — Gush, if I may so express myself — that I think I am equal to a good large breakage now."

"Mr.​Wilfer,"​said John Rokesmith, excitedly and joyfully, "Bella takes me, though I have no fortune, even no present occupation; nothing but what I can get in the life before us. Bella takes me!"

"Yes, I should rather have inferred, my dear sir,"​returned the cherub feebly,"​that Bella took you, from what I have within these few minutes remarked."​ — Book Three, Chapter 16, "The Feast of the Three Hobgoblins," p. 256-257.


Since it was his visual antecedent, Mahoney's 1875 treatment of the textual material is often his ​response to the original series of illustrations by young Marcus Stone, Dickens's 1860s serial and volume illustrator after Dickens's dropping Hablot Knight Browne, his principal illustrator for twenty-five​years. Although Mahoney sometimes accepts Stone's notions, as in The Dutch Bottle, one of three illustrations for the April 1865 or twelfth monthly part in the British serialisation, the Household Edition illustrator reorganised the equivalent Stone illustration. However, here once again James Mahoney felt that he had to revise Stone's illustration entirely since the somewhat insipid​ The Lovely Woman has her Fortune told (July 1865) does not in the least communicate Bella's joy and her father's total astonishment at John Rokesmith's reiteration of his marriage proposal. The setting, the counting-house, contrasts this outburst of emotion, and Rokesmith's presence clarifies for the viewer exactly what textual situation that the picture is describing, in contrast to the vagueness of the Stone original. Mahoney then eliminates the painfully static situation of Stone's The Wedding Dinner at Greenwich to provide a further visual complement to the text's sense of the wonderful as the romantic difficulties of the young couple have been suddenly resolved by Bella's quitting not merely the Boffin mansion, but also her own acquisitiveness, so that text and image playfully and romantically celebrate Bella's epiphany.

Whereas Mahoney shows Bella and John only distinctly, in the shadowy section of the office furthest away from the window, he has placed R. W. in the window-seat (exactly as in the text) so that the reader can assess the scene from his perspective. Although the accompanying dialogue is divided evenly between the three characters, the illustration makes Bella's father the focal character. Mahoney exploits the commercial background of the lovers' tryst, even though the text does not offer any detail about the firm's counting-house. Romance can break out in the most mundane of situations, even among accounting stools and financial ledgers.

​ ​

Bella Wilfer at this stage in the narrative in the original and later editions

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of Bella and her father, R. W., The Cherub and the Lovely Woman (1867). Right: Marcus Stone's depiction of Bella's telling her father what has transpired, The Lovely Woman has her Fortune told (July 1865). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Marcus Stone's interpretation of the scene in which the newly married couple entertain the bride's father, R. W., at the dining-room in the hotel overlooking the harbour at Greenwioh, The Wedding Dinner at Greenwich (Part 16, August 1865). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 6​ January 2016