"Were you looking for me," he said, "when you peered in at the window?" Chapter 37, "In Which the Reader May Perceive a Contrast, Not Uncommon in Matrimonial cases." James Mahoney's illustration does not pursue the growing discontent on both sides in the marriage of Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney; rather, the illustrator prepares readers for the significant scene, already depicted in the frontispiece in which Monks pays the couple twenty-five pounds in exchange for the belongings of Oliver's mother, notably her inscribed wedding-band, so that he can destroy any proof of Oliver's legitimacy and claim to the Leeford estate. Indeed, this ensuing moment in which evil would seem to be triumphant is flagged in the Household Edition through the prominence accorded the full-page composite woodblock facing the title-page. In the original narrative-pictorial serial sequence by George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany, the periodical reader encountered only a pictorial realisation of Mr. Fagin and his pupil recovering Nancy, in Part 17, August 1838, for Chapter 39 of The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. The Mahoney plate of Monks's meeting with Bumble sits between two chapters, coming at the conclusion of Chapter 37 and the opening of Chapter 38 (the curtain in the periodical of the July and August 1838 monthly numbers); it is on page 137, whereas the textual passage realised occurs on page 135. 1871. Wood engraving by the Dalziels. 10.8 cm high by 13.8 cm wide.

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 it in a print one.]

Passage Realised

[A chastened but unbeaten Mr. Bumble] walked up one street, and down another, until exercise had abated the first passion of his grief; and then the revulsion of feeling made him thirsty. He passed a great many public-houses; but, at length paused before one in a by-way, whose parlour, as he gathered from a hasty peep over the blinds, was deserted, save by one solitary customer. It began to rain, heavily, at the moment. This determined him. Mr. Bumble stepped in; and ordering something to drink, as he passed the bar, entered the apartment into which he had looked from the street.

The man who was seated there, was tall and dark, and wore a large cloak. He had the air of a stranger; and seemed, by a certain haggardness in his look, as well as by the dusty soils on his dress, to have travelled some distance. He eyed Bumble askance, as he entered, but scarcely deigned to nod his head in acknowledgment of his salutation.

Mr. Bumble had quite dignity enough for two; supposing even that the stranger had been more familiar: so he drank his gin-and-water in silence, and read the paper with great show of pomp and circumstance.

It so happened, however: as it will happen very often, when men fall into company under such circumstances: that Mr. Bumble felt, every now and then, a powerful inducement, which he could not resist, to steal a look at the stranger: and that whenever he did so, he withdrew his eyes, in some confusion, to find that the stranger was at that moment stealing a look at him. Mr. Bumble's awkwardness was enhanced by the very remarkable expression of the stranger's eye, which was keen and bright, but shadowed by a scowl of distrust and suspicion, unlike anything he had ever observed before, and repulsive to behold.

When they had encountered each other's glance several times in this way, the stranger,​in a harsh, deep voice, broke silence.

"Were you looking for me,"​he said, "when you peered in at the window?"

​ ​

"Not that I am aware of, unless you're Mr. —" Here Mr. Bumble stopped short; for he was curious to know the stranger's name, and thought in his impatience, he might supply the blank.

​ ​

"I see you were not," said the stranger; an expression of quiet sarcasm playing about his mouth; "or you have known my name. You don't know it. I would recommend you not to ask for it."

       [Chapter 37, "In Which the Reader May Perceive a Contrast, Not Uncommon in Matrimonial Cases," p. 135 ]

​ ​


James Mahoney's illustration for Chapters 37-38 reinforcing the importance of the "lost heir" plot which he established through the frontispiece in the Household Edition volume, The Evidence Destroyed. The Cruikshank original of the Mahoney frontispiece, ironically, did not appear with the twentieth monthly number of Bentley's Miscellany, but rather was held over, according to The Pilgrim Edition of the Letters of Charles Dickens, page 456, until the December number of the periodical. However, in the 1838 and 1846 volume editions of the novel, Cruikshank's The Evidence Destroyed did appear within Chapter 38.

Eight weeks having passed since he married the apparently pliable Mrs. Corney, Mr. Bumble in his new capacity as Master of the Workhouse begins to sees the abandonment of wives by their husbands in a different light. Refusing to submit to his authority, Mrs. Bumble resorts to tears — to no avail, for Bumble is proof against such histrionics. She then tries a tactic designed to humiliate her new husband in front of their charges. Her ridiculing her husband in front of the pauper-women formed a suitably humourous subject for caricaturist George Cruikshank, Dickens's original illustrator, whereas James Mahoney shows Bumble having retreated from the scene of his ridicule, the workhouse, in Mr. Bumble degraded in the eyes of the Paupers (Part 16, July 1838), to the sanctuary of a nearby public house, to read the newspaper and console himself with gin-and-water. Here, ruminating upon the humiliation he has just suffered, Bumble encounters a well-dressed, enigmatic stranger who is looking for information about Oliver's mother. Thus, the tiff between husband and wife sets up the plot-oriented scene involving Monks and the secret of Oliver's birth. However, whereas Cruikshank has his eye set upon the nemesis Dickens has meted upon the venial beadle, Mahoney has directed his attention and that of the reader towards the "lost heir" plot that Dickens has drafted onto the social satire of the workhouse system. The illustration flags the meeting of Bumble (right, looking over his newspaper, his gin-and-water on the table, but partially consumed, and his cane, sole remnant of his Beadle's uniform, beside him) and black-clad "gentlemanly" Monks, his cape and top-hat still on, as if he is eager to depart, and no beverage on the table before him. The illustrator has stationed him by the fireplace, where nobody can escape his notice undetected as he enters the establishment.

Having had years to ruminate over this text, James Mahoney, like the reader, must have wondered how Monks anticipated that Bumble would seek the shelter of this masculine "cave" after being driven out of the female-dominated space of the workhouse. At this point, Monks has yet to produce his nominal bribe of two sovereigns, and Bumble has not yet drained his glass (which Monks subsequently orders refilled for him). Monks's explanation that the two have been thrown together by mere serendipity does not seem entirely plausible as the diabolical interlocutor concedes, "I came down to this place, to-day, to find you out; and, by one of those one of those chances which the devil throws in the way of his friends sometimes, you walked into the very room I was sitting in, while you were uppermost in my mind" (136). In fact, what better place to search for information about a local parochial figure than a nearby public-house?

Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual character study Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney in the 1867 Diamond Edition of the novel focuses upon their earlier amity, when Mr. Bumble was courting the comfortably circumstanced widow — whereas recently she has revealed her true mettle and will brook no domestic tyrant in her workplace, in which heretofore she has been reigning monarch. The American illustrator reserves a far more mysterious and sinister setting for ​ his study of Monks when the malevolent half-brother destroys the evidence of Oliver's legitimacy in the abandoned factory by the river in the middle of a lightning storm.

In the Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney, eschewing farce in favour of the melodramatic plot,​focusses not on the farcical scene involving the parish beadle's loss of face at the workhouse, but on his subsequent interview with Monks in "Were you looking for me," he said, "when you peered in at the window?", although even an astute reader might not connect the mysterious figure in the cloak and top-hat in the bar with a commanding gentleman in the cape with the Bumbles in the frontispiece The Evidence Destroyed. Not surprisingly, with a greater number of illustrations to complete, Harry Furniss, having studied both Cruikshank's and Mahoney's plates, elected to attempt both satirical and melodramatic strains of these chapters, showing as a full-page illustration the theme he presented in thumbnail in The Characters in the Story, namely the thumbnail version of The Evidence Destroyed.

Illustrations from the original serial edition, Diamond Edition (1867), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's "Monks". Right: George Cruikshank's "Mr. Bumble degraded in the eyes of the Paupers." [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Left: Harry Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Edition illustration (1910) "Mrs. Bumble turns Mr. Bumble out." Centre: James Mahoney's "The Evidence Destroyed". Right: Harry Furniss's "The Evidence Destroyed".​[Click on images to enlarge them.]


Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. New York and Oxford: Oxford U. P., 1990.

Cohen, Jane Rabb. "George Cruikshank." Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980. Pp. 15-38.

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 Letters of Charles Dickens. Ed. Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson, and Angus Eassone. The Pilgrim Edition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1965. Vol. 1 (1820-1839).

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Illustrated by George Cruikshank. London: Bradbury and Evans; Chapman and Hall, 1846.

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

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Diamond Edition. 18 vols. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1867.

Dickens, Charles. The Adventures of Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Household Edition. Illustrated by James Mahoney. London: Chapman and Hall, 1871.

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. Works of Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens Library Edition. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. London: Educational Book Company, 1910.

Last modified 16 December 2014