A foul deed
Frederic W. Pailthorpe
10.6 x 9.1 cm vignetted
Seventeenth illustration for Oliver Twist in F. W. Pailthorpe's twelve hand-tinted engravings for the 1838 three-volume Richard Bentley (first) edition. This illustration is keyed to vol. 3, p. 196.
[Click on image to enlarge it.]
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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The housebreaker freed one arm, and grasped his pistol. The certainty of immediate detection if he fired, flashed across his mind even in the midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all the force he could summon, upon the upturned face that almost touched his own.
She staggered and fell: nearly blinded with the blood that rained down from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising herself, with difficulty, on her knees, drew from her bosom a white handkerchief — Rose Maylie's own — and holding it up, in her folded hands, as high towards Heaven as her feeble strength would allow, breathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.
It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down.
[Chapter 47, "Fatal Consequences," p. 271 in the 1846 edition]
Although not especially lurid, the Pailthorpe addresses the murder directly, rather than after the fact, as in the original serial and the Household Edition illustration of James Mahoney in which Sikes is dragging the dog out of the room, leaving Nancy's corpse sprawled on the floor in He moved, backwards, towards the door: dragging the dog with him in Chapter 48, "The Flight of Sikes."
The readers of the 1871 Household Edition find an illustration that anticipates both the murder and its aftermath, in Chapter 47, "Fatal Consequences," before the quarrel between the common-law spouses even begins in The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. The Mahoney illustration of a passage in Chapter 48 describing Nancy's body bleeding profusely from the face occurs on page 177, just the page before the textual passage in Chapter 47, setting up within the reader a sense of anticipation and dread not present in the original Cruikshank engravings. In the Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss in a lithograph resembling the so-called "dark plates" of Hablot Knight Browne again realizes the murder only indirectly, with only the hands of Sikes and Nancy clearly visible in the terrible darkness as the murder is occurring.
In contrast, Pailthorpe (perhaps responding to popular conceptions about the nature of the criminal mind) depicts Sikes as a Neanderthal throwback raising his club to strike Nancy again; all the details from the text are evident, including Sikes' pistol. In melodramatic fashion, a lurid, theatrical light plays over Nancy's dress as she screams in agony — making this the most sensational British nineteenth-century illustration of the horrific scene made famous on both sides of the Atlantic by Dickens's own dramatic reading of the violent scene in his tours of the United Kingdom and eastern seaboard of the United States (1842, 1867).
Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank in the January 1839 number of Bentley's Miscellany provided the scene in which Sikes, having murdered Nancy as a police collaborator, attempts to drown the only witness to the deed — his dog, Bull's-Eye (Part 21, Chapter 48, "The Flight of Sikes"), in Sikes attempting to destroy his dog.
Illustrations from the original serial (1838), Diamond Edition (1867), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)
Left: George Cruikshank's "Sikes attempting to destroy his dog" (1839). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's "Bill Sikes and Nancy" (1867). Right: Harry Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Editionillustration "The Death of Nancy" (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
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Created 13 February 2015