The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Household Edition, facing the title-page. 1871. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 12.3 cm high by 17 cm wide. In an abandoned mill on the river, Monks, Oliver's half-brother, destroys the evidence that he has just acquired from the Bumbles concerning the legitimacy of Oliver's birth. 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 in a web document or cite it in a print one.]," James Mahoney's frontispiece for Dickens's
With these words, he suddenly wheeled the table aside, and pulling an iron ring in the boarding, threw back a large trap-door which opened close at Mr. Bumble's feet, and caused that gentleman to retire several paces backward, with great precipitation.
"Look down," said Monks, lowering the lantern into the gulf. "Don't fear me. I could have let you down, quietly enough, when you were seated over it, if that had been my game."
Thus encouraged, the matron drew near to the brink; and even Mr. Bumble himself, impelled by curiousity, ventured to do the same. The turbid water, swollen by the heavy rain, was rushing rapidly on below; and all other sounds were lost in the noise of its plashing and eddying against the green and slimy piles. There had once been a water-mill beneath; the tide foaming and chafing round the few rotten stakes, and fragments of machinery that yet remained, seemed to dart onward, with a new impulse, when freed from the obstacles which had unavailingly attempted to stem its headlong course.
"If you flung a man's body down there, where would it be to-morrow morning?" said Monks, swinging the lantern to and fro in the dark well.
"Twelve miles down the river, and cut to pieces besides," replied Bumble, recoiling at the thought.
Monks drew the little packet from his breast, where he had hurriedly thrust it; and tying it to a leaden weight, which had formed a part of some pulley, and was lying on the floor, dropped it into the stream. It fell straight, and true as a die; clove the water with a scarcely audible splash; and was gone. [Chapter 38, "Containing an Account of what Passed between Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, and Mr. Monks, at their Nocturnal Interview," p. 141]
The August 1838 steel-engraving which veteran illustrator George Cruikshankprovided for the monthly serial in Bentley's Miscellany is probably the basis for the later interpretations of Mahoney (1871) and Furniss (1910). In the 1867 Diamond Edition, Sol Eytinge, Junior, isolates the villainous Monks, who in the relevant wood-engraving lurks melodramatically outside a shattered window illuminated by lightning, on a darkened stair — an interpretation that accords well with his clandestine and surreptitious nature (although, in fact, Dickens mentions a ladder, not a stair). In contrast, adding the Bumbles, James Mahoney in the Household Edition volume's frontispiece has lowered and enlarged the lantern somewhat, thereby darkening the scene. Quite logically, Mahoney has depicted the depraved aristocratic villain without his customary head-covering, which could quite easily be blown off his head and into the gulf (indeed, the 1870s illustrator has placed the hat on a table, right); a more realistic portrayal, perhaps, Mahoney's lacks the emotional intensity presented on the faces of Monks's co-conspirators in the Cruikshank original. Foregrounding this dramatic moment by placing it in the dominant position in the text does, however, establish the importance of Monks and the evidence of Oliver's being an heir to sizeable estate right at the beginning of the novel, even though Dickens likely added this plot twist later in the development of the story.
For the third volume of the 1910 Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss's rendering of the scene (still derived from Cruikshank, but incorporating the Mahoney characterisation of Monks) heightens its drama by the sharpened contrast of the black-and-white shading, the terror on the faces of the Bumbles, and the emphatic gesture of Monks, whose facial expression the viewer cannot apprehend. That Furniss gave the figure of Monks holding the lantern a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) in Characters in the Story suggests that the later artist felt this was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text.
Illustrations from the Serial (1838), Diamond Edition (1867), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's Monks. Right: George Cruikshank's The Evidence Destroyed [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Left: Harry Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Edition illustration (1910) The Evidence Destroyed. Right: Harry Furniss's thumbnail vignette of Monks with the lantern in Characters in the Story. [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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 in a web document or cite it in a print one.]
Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.
Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Il. George Cruikshank. London: Bradbury and Evans; Chapman and Hall, 1846.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Il. F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 18 vols. Il. Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.
Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Il. James Mahoney. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871.
Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens Library Edition. Il. Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Company, 1910.
Last modified 11 November 2014