J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd")
Watercolour reproduced on John Player cigarette card no. 36
Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham
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In Kyd's sequence of fifty cards, fully 13 or over 25% concern a single novel, The Pickwick Papers, attesting to the enduring popularity of the picaresque comic novel and also suggesting that the later, darker novels such as Our Mutual Friend (two characters) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood (no characters depicted) offered little for the caricaturist, the only late characters in the series being the singularly unpleasant and physically odd Silas Wegg and the rough waterman Rogue Riderhood from Our Mutual Friend, and Turveydrop, Jo, Bucket, and Chadband from Bleak House. The popular taste was clearly still towards the earlier farce and character comedy of Dickens. The series, however, includes a total of six character cards from the cast of David Copperfield (May 1849 through November 1850), or 12% of the total: the affable master of English rhetoric Wilkens Micawber, no. 41; the oppressed child who becomes a novelist, David Copperfield, no. 39; the rigid and mean-spirited Mr. Murdstone, no. 37; the crotchety but warm-hearted Betsey Trotwood, no. 36; the devious, unctuous Uriah Heep, no. 38; and the stalwart pater familias Dan' Peggotty, no. 40 — characterisations based on the original serial illustrations of Dickens's regular visual interpreter in the 1840s, Phiz, who produced forty steel-engravings and the wrapper design for the Bradbury and Evans nineteen-month serial, as well as a wood-engraved frontispiece of Little Em'ly and David as children on the Yarmouth sands for the first cheap edition (1858) and two vignettes for the two-volume Library Edition: Little Em'ly and David by the Sea and Mr. Peggotty's Dream Comes True.
Although Kyd's representations are largely based on the original illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), the modelling of the figures is suggestive of those of celebrated Dickensian illustrator Fred Barnard for the Household Edition, volume 3 (1871). The anomaly, of course, is that Kyd should elect to depict minor figures from the first Dickens novel such as the Dingley Dell cricketers Dumkins and Luffey and the minor antagonist Major Bagstock in Dombey and Son, but omit significant characters from such later, still-much-read novels as A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations. Five of the fifty cards or 10% of the series come from the cast of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress (1837-39): Oliver himself, asking for more; Fagin with his toasting fork, from the scene in which he prepares dinner for his crew; Sikes holding a beer-mug, and the Artful Dodger in an oversized adult topcoat and crushed top-hat, as he appeared at his trial. Surprisingly, some of the other significant characters, including Nancy and Rose Maylie, are not among the first set of fifty characters, in which Kyd exhibits a strong male bias, as he realizes only seven female characters: only the beloved Nell, the abrasive Sally Brass, and the quirky Marchioness from The Old Curiosity Shop, Sairey Gamp from Martin Chuzzlewit, Aunt Betsey Trotwood from David Copperfield, the burly Mrs. McStinger from Dombey and Son, and the awkward Fanny Squeers from Nicholas Nickleby appear in the essentially comic cavalcade.
Kyd's model for the good fairy in David's modern fairy tale was likely Phiz's study of the elderly spinster in her garden at Dover in I make myself known to my Aunt (September 1849: Chapter 12). However, Kyd had several other models from which to choose as David's crotchety relative appears in five illustrations, notably in My Aunt astonishes me (March 1850: Chapter 34). The illustrator had likely also studied the Betsey Trotwood illustrations of Fred Barnard for the Household Edition volume 3 (1872), particularly the half-page wood engraving depicting David's aunt chasing away the donkeys and their juvenile riders from her garden, Battle on the Green (Chapter XIII, "The Sequel of My Resolution"). In all likelihood, as a British artist Kyd never saw an 1867 Diamond Edition volume of the novel, and therefore was not influenced by Sol Eytinge, Junior's Miss Trotwood and Mr. Dick, whose image of Betsey Trotwood is in any event consistent with Phiz's original conception and Barnard's derivation. Making such a comment probably makes one guilty of what historians term "Presentism," that is, judging the past by the moral and societal standards of the present, but Kyd and his fellow nineteenth-century illustrators do not accurately convey Miss Trotwood's independent cast of mind, for she is far more than a conventional old maid wearing an age-appropriate "mob-cap" fastened under the chin and a long, white apron over a lavender dress, as in Chapter XIII, "The Sequel of My Resolution."
Created 13 January 2015