Toby Crackit Exasperates the Jew" by Harry Furniss. lithograph, 8.0 by 13.6 ​cm vignetted, with extensive caption beneath. Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910), facing III, 185. The illustration of the study in contrasts, anxious age versus self-confident youth, is positioned immediately after the passage realised, at the very end of Chapter 25.

Context of the Illustration

To judge from appearances, Toby was by no means in a hurry to open the conversation. At first, the Jew contented himself with patiently watching his countenance, as if to gain from its expression some clue to the intelligence he brought; but in vain. He looked tired and worn, but there was the same complacent repose upon his features that they always wore: and through dirt, and beard, and whisker, there still shone, unimpaired, the self-satisfied smirk of flash Toby Crackit. Then, the Jew, in an agony of impatience, watched every morsel he put into his mouth; pacing up and down the room, meanwhile, in irrepressible excitement. It was all of no use. Toby continued to eat with the utmost outward indifference, until he could eat no more; then, ordering the Dodger out, he closed the door, mixed a glass of spirits and water, and composed himself for talking.

"First and foremost, Faguey," said Toby.

"Yes, yes," interposed the Jew, drawing up his chair.

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and to declare that the gin was excellent; then placing his feet against the low mantelpiece, so as to bring his boots to about the level of his eye, he quietly resumed. [Chapter Twenty-Five, "Wherein This History Reverts to Mr. Fagin and Company," 184]

The Charles Dickens Library Edition’s Long Caption

"First and foremost, Faguey," said Toby. "Yes, yes," interposed the Jew, drawing up his chair. Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and to declare that the gin was excellent. [184]

Commentary: How Illustrators Depicted Toby Crackit

Right: George Cruikshank's original version of The Burglary.

This subject, unlike Oliver's asking for more and Oliver's narrowly escaping being apprenticed to a chimney-sweep, was not one which Dickens directly proposed to his original illustrator George Cruikshank. In Oliver introduced to the respectable Old Gentleman (Part Four, May 1837), Cruikshank and Dickens introduce a rather jolly Fagin, who has served as a model for later illustrators, including James Mahoney in the 1871 Household Edition and Kyd (J. Clayton Clarke) for the end of the century Character Sketches from Dickens, which depicts Fagin the boys' provider, toasting fork in hand, in Fagin, an image he reproduced for Player's Cigarette Card No. 2 in a series of fifty. Dark, menacing, and unkempt, Fagin in Sol Eytinge's single Diamond Edition illustration is neither parent, nor tutor, nor yet a monster, but he is not the compact, careworn, anxious, elderly interlocutor of this scene by Furniss.

Toby Crackit, the "flash" or fashionably (and somewhat ostentatiously) dressed member of the gang and resident lock-picking expert, appears in very few narrative-pictorial sequences for Oliver Twist. However, Toby does appear at least twice in the Cruikshank 1846 Chapman and Hall wrapper vignettes: at the top, left, standing immediately behind Bill Sikes as the burglar prepares to lower Oliver through the window, and again among the gang members being apprehended by the Bow Street Runners (upper right). One can see a little of him in Mahoney's 1871 wood-engraving "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!" (see below) in the robbery scene for the first volume in the Household Edition. Unfortunately, the most extensive treatment of him, in Frederic W. Pailthorpe's 1886 series — Mr. Crackit's 'good natur' (see below for this scene of the fashionably dressed lock-picker playing cribbage with callow gang member Tom Chitling at the beginning of Chapter 39), is a caricature rather than the realistic portraiture provided by the Furniss illustration. Although the fundamentals of the card-playing scene, including the cribbage board, are correct and faithful to the text, in which an overawed Chitling is fearfully considering his play as he admires the suave criminal in elegant topboots as Fagin (left, readily identifiable by his caricatural nose) enters the room, Pailthorpe seems to have modelled his Toby Crackit on Bill Sikes rather than sought to distinguish him from his choleric colleague. Such details as a large pewter tankard, silk neckerchief, and slightly dingy white top-hat lend Pailthorpe's chromolithograph verisimilitude, but the "flash" waistcoat that the fin-de-siecle illustrator has given the character his epithet is not consistent with Chapter Twenty-two's description: "a coarse, staring, shawl-pattern waistcoat" (160). However, Pailthorpe's Toby has scanty red hair and admirable legs that Dickens reiterates. Furniss, on the other hand, has delivered an individualized and credible portrait of the swaggering thief, still ebullient after three days on the run. This characterisation is consistent with Sol Eytinge, Junior's description of the flash cracksman in the Diamond Edition volume (1867).

Relevant Illustrations from Editions of Oliver Twist, 1837-1910

Left: Pailthorpe's study of Toby Crackit and Tom Chitling in Mr. Crackit's 'good natur'. Right: Eytinge's Diamond Edition wood-engraving of the rakish thief in Toby Crackit (1867).

Above: Mahoney's 1871 engraving of Toby Crackit assisting Sikes in breaking into the brewing room of the mansion at Chertsey in "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!".

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.].


Darley, Felix Octavius Carr. Character Sketches from Dickens. Philadelphia: Porter and Coates, 1888.

Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Facts On File, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Bradbury and Evans; Chapman and Hall, 1838; rpt. with revisions 1846.

_____. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 55 vols. Illustrated by F. O. C. Darley and John Gilbert. New York: Sheldon and Co., 1865.

_____. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 14 vols. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

_____. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. 22 vols. Illustrated by James Mahoney. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871. Vol. I.

_____. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Company, 1910. Vol. III.

_____. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. The Waverley​ Edition. Illustrated by Charles Pears. London: Waverley, 1912.

_____.The Letters of Charles Dickens. Ed. Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson, and Angus Eassone. The Pilgrim Edition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965. Vol. I (1820-1839).

Forster, John. "Oliver Twist 1838." The Life of Charles Dickens. Ed. B. W. Matz. The Memorial Edition. 2 vols. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1911. Vol. I, Book 2, Chapter 3.

Kyd (Clayton J. Clarke). Characters from Dickens. Nottingham: John Player & Sons, 1910.

Lynch, Tony. "Chertsey, Surrey." Dickens's England: An A-Z Tour of the Real and Imagined Locations. London: Batsford, 2012, 60-61.

Pailthorpe, Frederic W. (illustrator). Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist. London: Robson and Kerslake, 1886.

Vann, J. Don. "Oliver Twist." Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985, 62-63.

Created 29 February 2015

Last modified 15 February 2020