Bella's husband stepped softly to the half-door of the bar, and stood there (p. 392) — James Mahoney's fifty-fourth illustration for Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition (London), 1875. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.4 cm wide. The Harper and Brothers caption for woodcut for the fourth book's twelfth chapter, "The Passing Shadow," Potterson! Look! Look there!", underscores the ghost-like re-appearance of Handford-Harmon by isolating the words from the text to remind the reader that the title is a version of several passages from The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in which the Ghost appears, once to demand vengeance and once to excuse a possible suspect:

Marcellus: Peace! break thee off! Look where it comes again! [I, i, 52]

Hamlet: Why, look you there! look, how it steals away!
My father, in his habit as he lived!
Look, where he goes, even now, out at the portal! [III, iv, 132-134]

Thus, John Rokesmith's sudden appearance in The Three Jolly Fellowship Porters is received as if he were an apparition by several of the drinkers in Miss Potterson's riverside public-house catering to watermen such as Gaffer Hexam and Rogue Riderhood. John Harmon, having returned to life, must give up being Rokesmith and claim his birthright.

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

"And talk of Time slipping by you, as if it was an animal at rustic sports with its tail soaped," said Mr. Inspector (again, a subject which nobody had approached); "why, well you may. Well you may. How has it slipped by us, since the time when Mr. Job Potterson here present, Mr. Jacob Kibble here present, and an Officer of the Force here present, first came together on a matter of Identification!"

Bella's husband stepped softly to the half-door of the bar, and stood there.

"How has Time slipped by us," Mr. Inspector went on slowly, with his eyes narrowly observant of the two guests, "since we three very men, at an Inquest in this very house — Mr. Kibble? Taken ill, sir?"

Mr. Kibble had staggered up, with his lower jaw dropped, catching Potterson by the shoulder, and pointing to the half-door. He now cried out: "Potterson! Look! Look there!" Potterson started up, started back, and exclaimed: "Heaven defend us, what's that!" Bella's husband stepped back to Bella, took her in his arms (for she was terrified by the unintelligible terror of the two men), and shut the door of the little room. A hurry of voices succeeded, in which Mr. Inspector's voice was busiest; it gradually slackened and sank; and Mr. Inspector reappeared. "Sharp's the word, sir!" he said, looking in with a knowing wink. "We'll get your lady out at once." Immediately, Bella and her husband were under the stars, making their way back, alone, to the vehicle they had kept in wait. — Book Four, Chapter 12, "The Passing Shadow," p. 322 in the Harper & Bros. edition; p. 391 in the Chapman and Hall text.


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, reacting to Lightwood at Last, one of four illustrations for the November 1865 or the nineteenth monthly part in the British serialisation, the Household Edition illustrator decided to focus insread on an even more dramatic scene for chapters originally in that instalment. Whereas Stone depicts the chance encounter in the City between John "Rokesmith" and attorney Mortimer Lightwood which results in the unmasking of Bella's husband as sailor Julius Handford (and ultimately as John Harmon), Mahoney felt that a more sensational scene would be that in which the Detective Inspector's suddenly introduces John Rokesmith into The Three Jolly Fellowship Porters to provoke a reaction in Mr. Kibble and Job Potterson ("a semi-seafaring man of obliging demeanour"), both possibly involved in the murder of John Harmon. The three were last seen together in the public house, in fact, at the inquest into Harmon's mysterious death. The figures in the illustration are the uniformed Inspector (sitting placidly, centre), Miss Abbey Potterson and her brother (centre, seated), and standing, staring at each other, Mr. Kibble (right) and John Harmon (left, just stepped in from the side-room known as The Cosy). Again, the nineteenth and final part (November 1865), of which this was the first chapter in the original serial instalment, removes plot difficulties and resolves mysteries as Lightwood turns "Rokesmith" into the police as "Handford" and the marine characters at Miss Abbey's can vouch for him as John Harmon.

Pertinent illustrations in the original and later editions, 1865-1867

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study of Bella and the Boffins' Secretary, the enigmatic John Harmon (1867). Right: Marcus Stone's depiction of Bella and John accidentally meeting Lightwood in a City street, Lightwood at Last (November 1865). [Click on images to enlarge them.]


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Last modified 16​ January 2016