Harry Furniss's Illustrations for "Our Mutual Friend" (Volume 15, 1910)

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Harry Furniss's eighteen-volume edition of The Charles Dickens Library (London: Educational Book Company, 1910) contains some 500 special plates (part of the total of 1200 illustrations) and two volumes of commentary. Volume 17, by J. A. Hammerton, is entitled The Dickens Picture Book: A Record of the Dickens Illustrators. Since the order of the volumes is roughly chronological, the fifteenth volume, entitled Our Mutual Friend, Dickens's last complete novel, follows Great Expectations, the fourteenth volume, and precedes the anthology of Dickens's journalistic seasonal pieces. The sixteenth volume, entitled Christmas Stories, is a reasonably complete collection of Dickens's seasonal short stories, sketches, novellas, and narrative essays from Household Words in the 1850s and All the Year Round in the 1860s. Even more peculiar than the inclusion of these most incidental contributions to the Dickens canon in Christmas Stories is the exclusion of a major novel. Although this edsition, wholly illustrated by a single, appreciative artist thoroughly familiar with the Dickens canon, follows Dickens's publications in a fairly scrupulous chronological fashion, one novel, the incomplete Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), is not represented. Thus, the volume containing Our Mutual Friend constitutes the last major piece of Dickens's fiction in the eighteen-volume edition


For all twenty-eight of the illustrations for the Our Mutual Friend illustrations in volume 15, the series editor, J. A. Hammerton, has included both succinct captions (given in full below) and extended quotations to demonstrate the textual moment realised in each; moreover, each quotation refers to a specific page number, thereby enabling the reader to find the passage illustrated. The six are devoted to individual character studies which include Bella Wilfer, Silas Wegg, Lizzie Hexam, Jenny Wren, Noddie Boffin, and Abbey Potterson. Furniss's forte in this last illustrated novel in the 1910 edition, however, is  dramatic action such as The Death-Struggle in the Lock (Book Three, Chapter XV). For the Charles Dickens Library Edition of the novel Furniss also provides an ornately bordered title-page, listed as Characters in the Story in the"List of Special Plates" ( xi). Although each page is 12.2 by 18.4 cm (4.75 by 7.25 inches) and the caption below each in upper-case, and below that occurs a multi-line quotation in upper and lower case, each plate is effectively 14.3 cm by 9.2 cm (5.5 inches by 3.25 inches), the vertically-mounted illustrations usually being framed, and the horizontally-mounted illustrations being vignetted.

Our Mutual Friend (Volume 15)

Related Materials


Cordery, Gareth, and Joseph S. Meisel, eds. The Humours of Parliament: Harry Furniss's View of Late-Victorian Culture. Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2014. [Review by Françoise Baillet]

Dickens, Charles. Our Mutual Friend . Illustrated by Harry Furniss. Volume 15 of the Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Co., 1910.

Created 9 February 2020

Last modified 10 February 2020