"When she was about the same distance in advance as she had been before, he slipped quietly down." — James Mahoney's wholly original illustration of Noah Claypole's following Nancy to her appointment with Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie on the water-stairs of New London Bridge, one of the most memorable scenes by George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany, whose December 1838 number included not one but two illustrations, The Meeting and an​earlier illustration not previously published serially (although Dickens had used it in the November 1838 Bentley triple-decker), The Evidence Destroyed. The readers of the​Household Edition find an illustration that indicates Noah, in his countryman's disguise, trailing Nancy to London Bridge, but does not indicate clearly whom she is meeting. In the original narrative-pictorial serial sequence, the periodical reader encountered instead Nancy, Rose, and Brownlow being overheard — somewhat theatrically, in the manner of a scene from melodrama — by "Morris Bolter," Fagin's confidential agent, so that the source of the suspense is not whom Nancy is meeting, but rather what intelligence she is communicating — and what Fagin's reaction will be when hears about this clandestine meeting in Part 20 (December 1838) in The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. The Mahoney illustration of Noah on London Bridge occurs on page 169 at the end of Chapter 44 and the beginning of Chapter 45 ("Noah Claypole is Employed by Fagin on a Secret Mission"), three pages before the textual passage in Chapter 46 ("The Appointment Kept"). 1871. Wood engraving by the Dalziels, 9.4 cm high by 13.6 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 the Victorian Web in a print one.].

Passage Realised

That night, and the next, and the next again, the spy sat booted and equipped in his carter's dress: ready to turn out at a word from Fagin. Six nights passed — six long weary nights — and on each, Fagin came home with a disappointed face, and briefly intimated that it was not yet time. On the seventh, he returned earlier, and with an exultation he could not conceal. It was Sunday.

"She goes abroad to-night," said Fagin, "and on the right errand, I'm sure; for she has been alone all day, and the man she is afraid of will not be back much before daybreak. Come with me. Quick!" [Chapter 45, "Noah Claypole is Employed by Fagin on a Secret Mission," p. 170]

. . . . They walked onward, looking about them with the air of persons who entertained some very slight expectation which had little chance of being realised, when they were suddenly joined by this new associate. They halted with an exclamation of surprise, but suppressed it immediately; for a man in the garments of a countryman came close up — brushed against them, indeed — at that precise moment.

"Not here," said Nancy hurriedly, "I am afraid to speak to you here. Come away — out of the public road — down the steps yonder!"

As she uttered these words, and indicated, with her hand, the direction in which she wished them to proceed, the countryman looked round, and roughly asking what they took up the whole pavement for, passed on.

       [Chapter 46, "The Appointment Kept," p. 172]


Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithograph offers a reworking of this famous scene, the 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney builds up the suspense by focussing on Nancy's shadow, the amazingly adept spy "Morris Bolter," still dressed in his countryman's linen smock-frock given him by Fagin as a disguise to wear at the magistrate's court to observe the trial of The Artful Dodger in Chapter 44. Instead of realizing "The Meeting," however, the Household Edition illustrator depicts "Morris" on the deck of new London Bridge as Nancy (upper right) awaits the arrival of two indistinct figures — Mr. Brownlow and Rose Maylie (upper right); thus, Mahoney shifts his perspective from the hunted to the hunter, so to speak. Mahoney carefully costumes Noah in the outfit given him by Fagin in Chapter 43: "a waggoner's frock, velveteen breeches, and leather leggings. . . a felt hat garnished with turnpike tickets; and a carter's whip" (104). In When she was about the same distance in advance as she had been before, he slipped quietly down, and followed her again, Mahoney eschews comedy in order to create suspense, and subordinates the element of satire to the mystery surrounding Oliver's birth and his gentlemanly persecutor. Clearly for Mahoney the creation of atmosphere and the sustaining of suspense are more important than trying to outdo the original illustrator's handling of the meeting on the water-steps. Placed ahead of the chapters in which "Morris" receives and carries out his commission, the illustration telegraphs to the reader in advance of the textual moment​the next "job" that Noah will undertake for Fagin.

Whereas Cruikshank provides visual continuity by placing Oliver as the eponymous character in fourteen of the twenty-four monthly illustrations (the majority of these being in the first half of the novel), Mahoney depicts Oliver in only ten of the twenty-eight wood-engravings, Sikes and Fagin appear in five each, and Mahoney has signalled the importance of Monks (Edward Leeford) by placing him in the only full-page cut, Frontispiece, and a further three times. Often Mahoney subordinates such lesser figures as Noah to the setting, thereby emphasizing the importance of the figures whose faces we do see. The visual continuity of Noah's disguise (the illustrator emphasizes his felt bowler hat, derived from the original Cruikshank illustration The Meeting) in both the courtroom scene and this is a significant signal to the reader that the newcomer is acting as Fagin's eyes and ears, both at The Dodger's trial and here at London Bridge. Consequently, the presence of the costume is a visual reminder of Fagin's giving Morris the commission, and the illustration sets up the reader's expectations about how Fagin will react when he learns of the meeting, and what the consequences will be for Nancy in her apparent betrayal of the gang: dead women tell no tales in magistrate's court.

In Furniss's illustration The Meeting under London Bridge (see below), derived very much from Cruikshank's, a curious Noah peers around a pillar to observe the clandestine meeting, the illustrator implying Nancy's agitation by depicting her dress almost in motion, while that​of Rose is perfectly still. Goggle-eyed, Noah carries the carter's whip that Mahoney gave him in the 1871 illustration, based on Dickens's text. The arches of the bridge now dominate the scene, and one has little sense of the landing-stairs as Furniss has moved in, as it were, for a closeup.

None of this detailing is evident in the Mahoney illustration, which foregrounds Noah and therefore creates the sense that the reader, too, is following Nancy through the great city after dark. We see her but indistinctly, in the distance, so that (were we unfamiliar with the story) we would wonder whether Noah will lose track of her in the darkness. The effect then is wholly realistic, without even a hint of the character comedy implicit in Cruikshank's conception of "Morris Bolter," private eye. Flaring gaslights in the distance establish the aeria;l perspective; presumably "Morris" is standing under such a lamp, for his smock-frock and hand on the parapet are highlighted, aas is a portion of the kennel in the foreground.

Illustrations from the original serial (1838), Diamond Edition (1867), and Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910)

Left: George Cruikshank's "The Meeting" (1838). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's "Noah and Charlotte" (1867). Right: Harry Furniss's Charles Dickens Library Edition​ ​ illustration "The Meeting under London Bridge" (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]


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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 23 December 2014