Up the River, eleventh composite woodblock engraving by Samuel Luke Fildes. Facing page 173 for the serial edition of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, September 1870. 16.3 cm wide by 10 cm high (6 ¼ by 4 inches), framed and vertically mounted; in Chapter XXII, "The Gritty State of Things Comes On" in serial, but as the frontispiece in the Household Edition (1879). [Click on the illustration to enlarge it.]

Commentary: Introducing New Characters at the Mid-point of the Serial

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. [Chapter XXII, "The Gritty State of Things Comes On," 173 in serial]

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 — a genuine "old salt":

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. [pp. 172-173 in serial]

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 (1872), 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 Fildes' taking up the Drood commission.

Scanned image, colour correction, sizing, caption, and commentary 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.]


Cohen, Jane R. "Chapter 18: Luke Fildes." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980. Pp. 221-234.

Dickens, Charles. The Mystery of Edwin Drood. With Illustrations by Samuel Luke Fildes, R. A. London: Chapman and Hall, 1870.

_______. The Mystery of Edwin Drood; Reprinted Pieces and Other Stories. With Thirty Illustrations by L. Fildes, E. G. Dalziel, and F. Barnard. The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1879. Vol. XX.

Kitton, Frederic G. Dickens and His Illustrators: Cruikshank, Seymour, Buss, "Phiz," Cattermole, Leech, Doyle, Stanfield, Maclise, Tenniel, Frank Stone, Landseer, Palmer, Topham, Marcus Stone, and Luke Fildes. Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1972. Re-print of the London 1899 edition.

Created 9 May 2005

Last modified 17 July 2023