Up the River

Up the River" by Sir Luke Fildes. Facing page 217 for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. 16.4 cm wide by 10 cm high, vertically mounted.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 the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Within half an hour they were setting this matter right by going up the river. The tide was running with them . . . . Mr. Tartar [centre, at the oars] and Lobley (Mr. Tartar's man) pulled a pair of oars. [217]

With an eye to an interesting character who will contribute more visually than the soberly clad Grewgious, Fildes has followed Dickens's description of the colourful mariner, Lobley:

He was a jolly favoured man, with tawny hair and whiskers, and a big red face . . . . . Resplendent in the bow of the boat, he was a shining sight, with a man-of-war's shirt on . . . and his arms and breast tattoo'd all sorts of patterns. [217]

In fact, the only pattern visible is an anchor on Lobley's left forearm--perhaps late Victorian prudery inhibited the artist from showing the patterns on the sailor's chest. In contrast is Mr. Grewgious, the respectable, black suited figure at the opposite end of the boat, sitting beside Rosa Bud, whose hat, like that of Grewgious, is a class-marker in this illustration. The general composition and theme, a day's outing on the river, was to receive a Watteauesque treatment two years later in Fildes' full-scale oil painting "Fair, Quiet and Sweet Rest", originally a black-and-white illustration that appeared in the magazine noted for the publication of new novels in serial, Once A Week, as "Hours of Idleness " in June 1869, the year prior to his taking up the Drood commission.


The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Other Stories. Charles Dickens. With Illustrations [by Sir Luke Fildes, R. A.] London: Chapman and Hall Limited, 193, Piccadilly. 1880.

Last modified 9 May 2005