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Our Mutual Friend > OMF, Book 4, Chp. 12 - 17

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message 1: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Hello friends,

I might not have a lot of time for this tomorrow because I'll be at my nephew's birthday party, and that's why I am going to open the final threads today. Dickens is starting to tie up his loose ends, and somehow I have the impression that he is glad to be able to do this – because the chapters appear more and more to be written in the vein of a matter of duty. Something that simply remains to be done in order to tidy up the playground where we all had so much fun. There is only one chapter which stands out as great and breath-taking writing, and it is not Chapter 12, which announces “The Passing Shadow”.

Let me summarize the events briefly: Bella and John have become parents of a healthy baby girl, a baby who, by the way, will be used in the course of the chapter to infuse some nonsense sentimentality into the plot, thereby needlessly prolonging the chapter. Again, John asks his wife whether she would not prefer being rich, and again she replies that she has everything she needs and therefore considers herself rich. I think this is the third time we see him ask her that question, and this is another fairy tale aspect in the story. We know that the unsuspecting wife who has been submitted to a test of character will soon learn the truth about her husband’s true identity and his position in society. We also know that Bella will stand all tests because now when she looks at her baby, she is “looking in the glass without personal vanity”, i.e. she is no longer the Bella we knew. Talking about fairy tales, we can also remark that Bella is different from most wives in fairy tales in that she has implicit faith in her husband. She is not like the King’s wife who is shown a door to a forbidden room and cannot withstand taking the first opportunity offering to herself and pry into that room, with direst of consequences. In fact, she even says,

”’John requires me to put perfect faith in him, and he shall not be disappointed.’”


By the way, what do you think of John’s putting his wife to the test in that way? Do you think he is justified, or do you consider it as an insult?

Things come to a head when one day, the Rokesmith couple runs into Mortimer Lightwood in the streets, and the lawyer identifies Bella’s husband as Julius Handford, the man who had been looked for by Mr Boffin with so much zeal. It is quite strange to see Bella walk home with her husband after that, sit down to an entire meal with him and wait for her husband to solve the mystery without even so much as addressing the topic before he does. John is even triumphant about the faith his wife puts into him. What do you make of that?

Suddenly, Mr Inspector is in the room with the couple, and we don’t know how he has managed to slip into the room. The policeman then leads John – in a way, he can consider himself as put under arrest – and his wife to Miss Potterson’s inn, where the couple waits in the little Cosy and Mr Inspector meets Miss Potterson’s brother and the witness Mr Kibble. He manipulates the conversation quite dexterously, and it finally leads to the identification of Rokesmith as – it is not explicitly said in the text, but I assume it to be John Harmon, the passenger Jacob Kibble travelled with and the man they believed had been fished out of the river. Be that as it may, the Inspector no longer holds any suspicions against John and so John is allowed to go home with Bella. What strikes me as odd, though, is that Mr Kibble just happens to be sitting in the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters when John Harmon needs identification.

Afterwards, John makes it clear to his wife that they have to move houses and that he has given up his position in the City. When he takes his wife to their new home, they stop in front of the Boffins’ house, where they find Mr Boffin his old smiling self and where we learn that the Boffins were present at John and Bella’s wedding, in hiding.


message 2: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Chapter 13 proclaims itself as “Showing How the Golden Dustman Helped to Scatter Dust” and, picking up the action where the last chapter left it, it gives us some bits of background story and --- tries our patience, well at least mine!!! You know how rarely I use three exclamation marks at the same time, but here they are called for.

Very early in this chapter, the narrator asks the question “and what had become of all those crooked lines of suspicion, avarice, and distrust, that twisted his [i.e. Mr Boffin’s] visage then?” To put it bluntly, we learn that Mr Boffin has never really turned an avaricious and mean penny-pincher but that he has just put it all on in order to make Bella realize her own heart. I found that a very weak plot device and will not spend a lot of time on this chapter because I found it so silly and annoying. The upshot of it all is this: Mrs Boffin was the first the notice that John Rokesmith was none other but John Harmon, whom everyone believed dead, and she did notice it the very evening Rokesmith got his refusal from Bella. She wanted to collect a paper or document from the Secretary for her husband – I wonder why Mr Boffin ever wanted that document, seeing that he is not really able to read, anyway, and so even the reason why Mrs Boffin dropped in on Rokesmith that night sounds unbelievable to me. When Mrs Boffin saw Rokesmith in a despondent mood, she recognized him immediately as John Harmon and together with her husband, Mrs Boffin and John came up with the plan of putting Bella to the test by showing her how wealth can change a person for the worse. After the memorable day in Mr Boffin’s room, when Bella left the Boffin household, they still postponed the day of clearing up their little plot because John even wanted to show that Bella would still trust him when she saw him under suspicion of having murdered John Harmon.

Again, I could not help asking myself the question whether it was fair to have kept Bella in the dark for such a long time. I mean, it was no longer a question of bringing the young woman round to noticing how mercenary, shallow and superficial she had been, but it became more and more a question of how much power John had over his wife. What do you think of my reading of this test of love and faith?

I also noticed another fairy tale element, namely when Mrs Boffin asks Bella to guess her husband’s true name. Not only are her first two guesses wrong – which again brings us back to the element of three that is so typical of fairy tales –, but there is also the motif of guessing somebody’s name as a prerequisite for re-gaining power. Just remember the Rumpelstiltskin tale.

Apart from that, we have the good old motif of appearances vs truth again, this time, however, unlike in the case of Fledgeby or the Lammles or the Veneerings, appearances are much worse than the golden truth.


message 3: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Now we are coming to one of my least favourite chapters in the whole book, when there is a “Checkmate to the Friendly Move”. I am going to cut this very short because I don’t think that good old Wegg, for all his meanness, deserves such an exit from the story. I also have the impression, from the lack of exuberance, which is so untypical of any of the Wegg-related chapters, that Dickens just wanted to get over with this chapter.

We learn that Rokesmith had found out Wegg long before and that the bottle Mr Boffin dug out from one of the mounds contained a later will than the one Wegg had found. This later will made Boffin the sole proprietor of the whole property, disowning both John and his sister with many a malediction. Boffin kept this will in secrecy because he did not want to see John and his sister brought into such a bad public light, but he did not destroy the will, either, since he was afraid of committing an offence by destroying a legal document. As the owner of the Harmon property, Mr Boffin made it all over to John, with the exception of the mound that was originally set aside for the Boffins. When Wegg now wants to make Boffin pay for keeping silence about the will that he and Venus have found, there are three surprises in store for him. The first one is that Venus opts out of their partnership, declares Wegg a “precious old rascal” and thanks Mr Boffin for having smoothed out things between him and Pleasant Riderhood. This surprises Wegg but does not really dismay him for dividing a loot by one is easier – both mathematically and psychologically – than dividing it by two. He is more dismayed, though, when he realizes that the man who had cleared off all the mounds, keeping him awake both day and night, is none other but Sloppy. Keeping Wegg awake all the time and reducing him to a shadow of his former self was meant as a form of punishment, but it also shows how greed and suspicion can eat a man up. The last surprise comes when Wegg has to learn that he no longer holds any power over Boffin, that, in fact, he never had held any – and when he is unceremoniously chucked out of the room by John Harmon, after he spoilt the opportunity of at least gaining the means of setting up his old stall by his untiring greed.

Mr Wegg, although he is an out-and-out blackmailer and definitely a vile man, is a brilliant comic-relief character with a fertile imagination. Just remember his phrase “minion of fortune and worm of the hour”, which is priceless. I really enjoyed him whenever he made his appearance in the novel and I felt a bit sad about his not being granted an exit from the novel on a more conciliatory note. What do you think?


message 4: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Chapter 15, which tells us “What Was Caught in the Traps That Were Set”, is the most powerful one of this week’s lot, bringing to a close the story of Bradley Headstone and Rogue Riderhood.

With time going by, Bradley’s inner plight is increasing to a degree “[n]ot even he could have told, for such misery could only be felt.” Not only does he fear discovery – for he cannot know that Eugene has told Mortimer under no circumstances to trace the deed back to him –, but he also suffers from the irony of the fact that it was his insidious attack that finally forged the union between Lizzie and his rival. I see a parallel here between Bradley’s sufferings and those of Silas Wegg when he has to keep awake day and night for fear of missing something when the mounds are cleared – even though the two kinds of anguish derive from different sources and Silas’s is to be taken as comic relief. Bradley suffers most from the tragic irony of his situation, and it reduces him to the state of a savage cur at times:

”For, then he saw that through his desperate attempt to separate those two for ever, he had been made the means of uniting them. That he had dipped his hands in blood, to mark himself a miserable fool and tool. That Eugene Wrayburn, for his wife’s sake, set him aside and left him to crawl along his blasted course. He thought of Fate, or Providence, or be the directing Power what it might, as having put a fraud upon him—overreached him—and in his impotent mad rage bit, and tore, and had his fit.”


The narrator summarizes this state of affairs best when he says that Bradley’s “mind was never off the rack”. One winter day – does the first snow, falling in meagre flakes, hint at Bradley’s faint hope that at least the attempted murder will not be laid on his door? – when he is teaching his pupils in the school, Riderhood makes his entrance, and we witness a marvellous scene of a cat-and-mouse-play when that scoundrel uses the presence of the class to make Bradley realize the power he holds over him. Is this not a school where pupils are taught what is right and what is wrong? Can the pupils read their schoomaster’s name? Does the name not sound like something in a churchyard? Do they know what can be fished out of seas, rivers, lakes and ponds? Is this not a bundle of clothes? Would Bradley be so kind as to let their friend, T’otherest governor know that Riderhood wishes him to pay him a visit lest he should pay a visit to T’otherest governor? Bradley is hard on edge, near another of his fits, the pupils are blissfully unaware of the background of the situation, and Riderhood is enjoying the anguish he is causing.

My friends, this is Dickens at his best, and it would not be very hard to make this conversation a film scene by just taking the hints that are given in the text. After three rather desultory chapters, Dickens is playing the entire orchestra of his exuberant imagination again.

A couple of days later, Bradley is preparing for his visit at Plashwater Weir Mill Lock then. He makes a parcel of his “decent silver watch and its decent guard” and confides it to the care of Miss Peecher by putting it in “the most protected corner of the little seat in her little porch.” Can we see the watch and the guard as the remnants of all that is decent in Bradley, of what he has achieved in life and sacrificed when he gave in to his violent passion? Does his leaving them behind show what he is going to do in the end, or does he entertain hopes of returning into his old life?

The situation is somewhat ambivalent, for the “light snowfall […] still lingered in the air, and was falling white, while the wind blew black.” Bradley sets out on his way to Riderhood’s place. The fact that he is harnessed to Riderhood dawns upon him when he is wandering along the river:

”In the distance before him, lay the place where he had struck the worse than useless blows that mocked him with Lizzie’s presence there as Eugene’s wife. In the distance behind him, lay the place where the children with pointing arms had seemed to devote him to the demons in crying out his name. Within there, where the light was, was the man who as to both distances could give him up to ruin. To these limits had his world shrunk.

He mended his pace, keeping his eyes upon the light with a strange intensity, as if he were taking aim at it. When he approached it so nearly as that it parted into rays, they seemed to fasten themselves to him and draw him on.”


Reaching Plashwater Weir Mill Lock, Bradley soon notices that he is completely at Riderhood’s mercy and that the latter means to bring him to rack and ruin, divesting him of every single possession he has and threatening him to hang on him like a shadow all the while. Bradley seems resigned to his fate when he makes of motion of offering his purse to Riderhood, but he also tells him that his means are very limited and that he has no friends (Is he thinking of his old friend Charley here?). Riderhood claims that he would not have bothered to get any advantage out of the situation at all, had it not been for Bradley’s attempts at pinning the crime on him. Can we believe him here? He also says that he knows there is a schoolmistress is very much in love with Bradley and that she would be more than ready to lay down her own funds in order to protect Bradley from the law. Bradley is going to marry her and make her pay, too. At this moment, Bradley withdraws his purse, and this is probably the moment when he starts considering killing himself and Riderhood.

Why does Bradley decide on this now? Does he not want to make Miss Peecher pay for his own misdeeds? Is the idea of living in marriage with her too much for him? Does he realize the hopelessness of ever satisfying Riderhood’s greed?

By the way, I again saw a little parallel here between Riderhood’s attempt at blackmailing Bradley and Silas Wegg’s plans with regard to Mr Boffin. Bradley now makes two attempts at walking out on Riderhood but that mean scoundrel keeps hovering over him like a vulture. The third time, Bradley lures Riderhood near the weir and then, gripping him by the waist, he throws himself into the weir, knowing full well that neither of them will get out of it ever again alive:

”When the two were found, lying under the ooze and scum behind one of the rotting gates, Riderhood’s hold had relaxed, probably in falling, and his eyes were staring upward. But, he was girdled still with Bradley’s iron ring, and the rivets of the iron ring held tight.”


Like so many other corpses he has gained by, Riderhood is now drawn out of the river himself. Mark the “ooze and scum” that covers the two bodies when they are finally found.


message 5: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
The next chapter allows us a view at “Persons and Things in General”, and it is basically a chapter in which we learn what happens to various characters in the story after John Harmon has entered into his quasi-inheritance. To be brief about it, let’s say John sees to it that most people linked with his fate, be it ever so loosely, come out of the case none the worse, but a little better, e.g. Twemlow, whose debts have now gone over to John Harmon and who can pay them back at leisure, or Riah, who has helped to bring his former employer to heel. Even Mr Inspector is generously remunerated for his troubles so that this official confides to Miss Potterson

”that he ‘didn’t stand to lose a farthing’ through Mr Harmon’s coming to life, but was quite as well satisfied as if that gentleman had been barbarously murdered, and he (Mr Inspector) had pocketed the government reward.”


Here we have the motif of valuing a human life in money, and, if you ask me, Mr Inspector is not quite so different from the birds of prey such as Hexam, who gain money by dragging dead bodies from the Thames.

We also learn that Mr Wilfer no longer works at his old office but for John Harmon now, and we witness the Wilfers pay a visit to Bella and her husband. This scene is full of comedy, thanks to Mrs Wilfer, Lavinia and Mr Sampson, but it is hardly of any consequence to the plot. One interesting thing I’d like to note down all the same, and that is Mr Sampson’s doubts as to whether he will still be considered an eligible match for Lavinia in the light of her sister’s rise in society and of Harmon’s wealth.

”‘Lavinia,’ returned Mr Sampson, in a dismal vein, ‘I did not mean to say so. What I did mean to say, was, that I never expected to retain my favoured place in this family, after Fortune shed her beams upon it. Why do you take me,’ said Mr Sampson, ‘to the glittering halls with which I can never compete, and then taunt me with my moderate salary? Is it generous? Is it kind?’“


After all, Lavinia is probably still the mercenary and superficial creature that her elder sister once was, and the narrator gives several hints at Mr Sampson’s apprehensions of being discarded not being completely uncalled-for.

The chapter then moves on to Jenny Wren and Mr Sloppy and it strongly intimates that the two of them will be joined in marriage not before long.

We also get a glimpse at a morally refined Eugene Wrayburn, who visits Mortimer with his wife, and who tells his old friend that whereas his first impulse was to leave England for the colonies and set up a lawyer’s office there, he is now determined on staying in England because to do anything else would look as though he were ashamed of the origins of his wife. In other words, he is going to brave out the potential scorn and taunts of society for the woman he loves and who has saved his life. Mortimer has to admit that Eugene has got a fine point there.


message 6: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
The final chapter tells us how Mortimer is going to the Veneerings once again in order to find out what “The Voice of Society” has to say about Eugene and Lizzie’s marriage. Everything seems to be as usual in the Veneerings’ dinner party circle but the narrator lets us in on what is going to happen within a week:

”The Veneerings have been, as usual, indefatigably dealing dinner cards to Society, and whoever desires to take a hand had best be quick about it, for it is written in the Books of the Insolvent Fates that Veneering shall make a resounding smash next week. Yes. Having found out the clue to that great mystery how people can contrive to live beyond their means, and having over-jobbed his jobberies as legislator deputed to the Universe by the pure electors of Pocket-Breaches, it shall come to pass next week that Veneering will accept the Chiltern Hundreds, that the legal gentleman in Britannia’s confidence will again accept the Pocket-Breaches Thousands, and that the Veneerings will retire to Calais, there to live on Mrs Veneering’s diamonds (in which Mr Veneering, as a good husband, has from time to time invested considerable sums), and to relate to Neptune and others, how that, before Veneering retired from Parliament, the House of Commons was composed of himself and the six hundred and fifty-seven dearest and oldest friends he had in the world. It shall likewise come to pass, at as nearly as possible the same period, that Society will discover that it always did despise Veneering, and distrust Veneering, and that when it went to Veneering’s to dinner it always had misgivings—though very secretly at the time, it would seem, and in a perfectly private and confidential manner.“


In short, the Veneerings, and Society, will live up to their names, and one cannot help wondering whether the Veneerings, when in Calais, might not run into their oldest of friends, the Lammles, again. It’s quite a pity that our narrator will not be there to tell us something of their encounter.

But let’s go back into the present. It’s quickly done, anyway. Lady Tippins soon brings the conversation on Eugene and his apparent mésalliance, and every single member of the company, from Podsnap to the three B’s, voices a rather unfavourable opinion on it – to the effect that it would have been better if Eugene had set Lizzie up with a small annuity. After each speaker’s statement, Mortimer asks himself if that might have been the Voice of Society – again a repetitive pattern like in a fairy tale. Finally, Twemlow has his say, and his opinion is “that this is a question of the feelings of a gentleman”.

Twemlow also says,

”‘if such feelings on the part of this gentleman, induced this gentleman to marry this lady, I think he is the greater gentleman for the action, and makes her the greater lady. I beg to say, that when I use the word, gentleman, I use it in the sense in which the degree may be attained by any man. The feelings of a gentleman I hold sacred, and I confess I am not comfortable when they are made the subject of sport or general discussion.’”


He is so convinced of his opinion that even Podsnap’s reference to his noble kinsman Lord Snigsworth will not intimidate him, and Mortimer now knows that this is the voice Society should speak with.

Nevertheless, the novel seems to have an open ending because neither do we know how Eugene and Lizzie will get along with each other, how they will fare in life and whether Eugene will remain true to his new self, nor whether Society will finally reconcile itself to Eugene’s marriage.


message 7: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
In a few days, I am going to open a thread on the novel as a whole, as usual.


message 8: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "I found that a very weak plot device and will not spend a lot of time on this chapter because I found it so silly and annoying."

GRUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are now far, far ahead of any of the rest of us.

Oh, and I didn't like John keeping Bella in the dark for so long. It was strange.


message 9: by Peter (last edited Oct 07, 2017 01:15PM) (new)

Peter | 3037 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Hello friends,

I might not have a lot of time for this tomorrow because I'll be at my nephew's birthday party, and that's why I am going to open the final threads today. Dickens is starting to tie..."


Yes, Tristram, this chapter was a bit hard to take. I think the Rokesmith/Harmon plot device has worn too thin these past chapters and you are right that Bella’s bliss is a bit too saccharine.
But who can argue with the fact that with Boffin’s grand return to his old benevolent self the world is righting itself again?

As to your question about John’s seemingly endless testing/withholding of his true person from Bella I think you would agree that too much testing is only going to result in the law of diminishing returns.

John, Bella loves you for who you are, Enough is enough already.


message 10: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3037 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Chapter 13 proclaims itself as “Showing How the Golden Dustman Helped to Scatter Dust” and, picking up the action where the last chapter left it, it gives us some bits of background story and --- t..."

Yes, Tristram. The love testing went on far too long!!! There are three exclamination marks to keep yours company!!!


message 11: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "I found that a very weak plot device and will not spend a lot of time on this chapter because I found it so silly and annoying."

GRUMP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are now far, far..."


It was as though John himself did not have quite the amount of trust and confidence in his wife that he expected of her. And even if he had, we could argue that keeping her in the dark might have been a sign of his pride - à la "I told you before, ye who have eyes to see, that my wife would even stand by and see me accused as a murderer without losing her trust in me." Look at it from whatever angle, it does not redound much to John's honour, I'd say.


message 12: by LindaH (new)

LindaH | 124 comments How is it that I could read those same two chapters, 12,13, and not have the same reaction? I’ve read sentimental text and cringed...and skimmed, but this is not that. Dickens is having fun...all that quack and bow wow business. If I had just plunked down my six pence, or whatever his audience paid for one chapter, and then had to wait a week for the next, I would savor every word and read it aloud to others.


message 13: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
There is, indeed, a lot that I'd like to read out aloud to others, e.g. the first scene of Silas at the Bower, the psychological duel between Eugene and Bradley, the chapter in which they try to bring Riderhood back to life, Bradley's inner plight after the attempted murder, the Lammles walking along the beach, and many others. All in all, this book is quite a gem!


message 14: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod
The wedding of Eugene and Lizzie........


message 15: by Bionic Jean (last edited Oct 09, 2017 03:58AM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) In chapter 12, it strikes me that Dickens's description of Bella's billing and cooing over her baby is so indulgent, that it seems to come from life. We all know how bitter his relations with his wife were by now, and I can't really believe that he'd have put a fond memory of this time in, however much he adored his children. And if it were mere observation, surely it wouldn't be so personal and cosy?

Then I remembered that there's anecdotal evidence of a baby born to Nelly, fathered by Dickens, in France. Claire Tomalin gives some details in her book The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens. The baby is said to have died.

Is this perhaps the memory Dickens was invoking here?


message 16: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod


Lightwood at Last

Book 4 Chapter 12

Marcus Stone

Commentary:

The moment realized brings together the Rokesmiths and Mortimer Lightwood, a meeting that John Rokesmith and the novelist have both endeavoured to put off for as long as possible. The London street scene captured in the thirty-eighth illustration is established at the very opening of the chapter.

Quite by chance, as they are in the city to "make some purchases", Bella and John Rokesmith encounter Mortimer Lightwood on the street, a coincidence which leads to the revelation that John had originally used the alias "Julius Handford" when he arrived in London, and that he is therefore a "person of interest" in the murder of John Harmon. As a result of this revelation, John's reason for having avoided Mortimer, even to the point of refusing to attend the wedding of Eugene Wrayburn and Lizzie Hexam, is now apparent. Bella, of course, is surprised, so that this incident, a year into their marriage, becomes a test of faith for the Rokesmiths. Thus, the trial of Bella — of her renunciation of the quest for wealth instead of love — enters its final phase.

The precise passage complemented by the illustration is this:

They were chatting on in this way, and John had suggested, 'No jewels for your own wear, for instance?' and Bella had replied laughing. O! if he came to that, yes, there might be a beautiful ivory case of jewels on her dressing-table; when these pictures were in a moment darkened and blotted out.

They turned a corner, and met Mr. Lightwood. He stopped as if he were petrified by the sight of Bella's husband, who in the same moment had changed colour.

'Mr. Lightwood and I have met before,' he said.

'Met before, John?' Bella repeated in a tone of wonder. 'Mr. Lightwood told me he had never seen you.'

'I did not then know that I had,' said Lightwood, discomposed on her account. I believed that I had only heard of — Mr. Rokesmith.' With an emphasis on the name.

'When Mr. Lightwood saw me, my love,' observed her husband, not avoiding his eye, but looking at him, 'my name was Julius Handford.'

Julius Handford! The name that Bella had so often seen in old newspapers, when she was an inmate of Mr Boffin's house! Julius Handford, who had been publicly entreated to appear, and for intelligence of whom a reward had been publicly offered!

'I would have avoided mentioning it in your presence,' said Lightwood to Bella, delicately; 'but since your husband mentions it himself, I must confirm his strange admission. I saw him as Mr. Julius Handford, and I afterwards (unquestionably to his knowledge) took great pains to trace him out.'

'Quite true. But it was not my object or my interest,' said Rokesmith, quietly, 'to be traced out.'

Bella looked from the one to the other, in amazement.

'Mr. Lightwood,' pursued her husband, 'as chance has brought us face to face at last — which is not to be wondered at, for the wonder is, that, in spite of all my pains to the contrary, chance has not confronted us together sooner — I have only to remind you that you have been at my house, and to add that I have not changed my residence.'

'Sir' returned Lightwood, with a meaning glance towards Bella, 'my position is a truly painful one. I hope that no complicity in a very dark transaction may attach to you, but you cannot fail to know that your own extraordinary conduct has laid you under suspicion.'

'I know it has,' was all the reply.

'My professional duty,' said Lightwood hesitating, with another glance towards Bella, 'is greatly at variance with my personal inclination; but I doubt, Mr. Handford, or Mr. Rokesmith, whether I am justified in taking leave of you here, with your whole course unexplained.'


The passage and accompanying illustration should mark a moment of high drama: the exposure of John Rokesmith's double identity. And yet, despite the fact that the scene prepares us for Rokesmith's being none other than John Harmon — a fact not known even to Rokesmith's wife, and certainly not to Mortimer Lightwood, who has every reason to suspect Bella's husband of having played some sort of role in Harmon's drowning — the picture is hardly dramatic. Bella smiles enquiringly at her husband, and he in turn smiles at the well-dressed passenger on the sidewalk, neither betraying by their expressions the momentous nature of the meeting. By his posture — leaning back on his walking stick with his right hand, Mortimer is evidently surprised to encounter "Handford" after the latter's being missing for so long. However, Bella should register more than just mild curiosity in her face as her husband will now have to reveal the cause of his absolutely refusing to come into contact with Lightwood face to face.

However, the reader's interest naturally lies in seeing the expressions of the young men. Stone has hidden Lightwood's, so that the reader must construct it for himself. John's expression, however, betrays not the slightest apprehension at meeting the man whom he has for so long avoided. Verisimilitude is created by the hansom cab speeding along the thoroughfare in the background, the rough pavement, the gas lamp (left), and the house-fronts and multiple chimneys that establish the place of meeting as "The City," to which Bella has come up from Blackheath to shop with her husband. Perhaps his evident lack of apprehension should alert the reader to the fact that Rokesmith has nothing to fear on either hand: his wife loves him for who he is, not for his inherited wealth; and he cannot be prosecuted for Harmon's murder because he is Harmon himself, as we are about to learn.


message 17: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod


Bella's husband stepped softly to the half-door of the bar, and stood there

Book 4 Chapter 12

James Mahoney

Text Illustrated:

"And talk of Time slipping by you, as if it was an animal at rustic sports with its tail soaped," said Mr. Inspector (again, a subject which nobody had approached); "why, well you may. Well you may. How has it slipped by us, since the time when Mr. Job Potterson here present, Mr. Jacob Kibble here present, and an Officer of the Force here present, first came together on a matter of Identification!"

Bella's husband stepped softly to the half-door of the bar, and stood there.

"How has Time slipped by us," Mr. Inspector went on slowly, with his eyes narrowly observant of the two guests, "since we three very men, at an Inquest in this very house — Mr. Kibble?

Taken ill, sir?"

Mr. Kibble had staggered up, with his lower jaw dropped, catching Potterson by the shoulder, and pointing to the half-door. He now cried out: "Potterson! Look! Look there!" Potterson started up, started back, and exclaimed: "Heaven defend us, what's that!" Bella's husband stepped back to Bella, took her in his arms (for she was terrified by the unintelligible terror of the two men), and shut the door of the little room. A hurry of voices succeeded, in which Mr. Inspector's voice was busiest; it gradually slackened and sank; and Mr. Inspector reappeared.

"Sharp's the word, sir!" he said, looking in with a knowing wink. "We'll get your lady out at once." Immediately, Bella and her husband were under the stars, making their way back, alone to the vehicle they had kept in wait.



Commentary:

Since it was his visual antecedent, Mahoney's 1875 treatment of the textual material is often his ​response to the original series of illustrations by young Marcus Stone, Dickens's 1860s serial and volume illustrator after Dickens's dropping Hablot Knight Browne, his principal illustrator for twenty-five​years. Although Mahoney sometimes accepts Stone's notions, reacting to Lightwood at Last, one of four illustrations for the November 1865 or the nineteenth monthly part in the British serialization, the Household Edition illustrator decided to focus instead on an even more dramatic scene for chapters originally in that installment. Whereas Stone depicts the chance encounter in the City between John "Rokesmith" and attorney Mortimer Lightwood which results in the unmasking of Bella's husband as sailor Julius Handford (and ultimately as John Harmon), Mahoney felt that a more sensational scene would be that in which the Detective Inspector's suddenly introduces John Rokesmith into The Three Jolly Fellowship Porters to provoke a reaction in Mr. Kibble and Job Potterson ("a semi-seafaring man of obliging demeanor"), both possibly involved in the murder of John Harmon. The three were last seen together in the public house, in fact, at the inquest into Harmon's mysterious death.

The figures in the illustration are the uniformed Inspector (sitting placidly, center), Miss Abbey Potterson and her brother (center, seated), and standing, staring at each other, Mr. Kibble (right) and John Harmon (left, just stepped in from the side-room known as The Cosy). Again, the nineteenth and final part (November 1865), of which this was the first chapter in the original serial installment, removes plot difficulties and resolves mysteries as Lightwood turns "Rokesmith" into the police as "Handford" and the marine characters at Miss Abbey's can vouch for him as John Harmon.


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13



Mr. Boffin does the Honours of the Nursery Door

Book 4 Chapter 13

Marcus Stone

Commentary:

Stone's illustration for Book 4, "A Turning," Chapter 13, "Showing How the Golden Dustman Helped to Scatter Dust," appeared in the November, 1865, installment. The scene captured in the thirty-ninth illustration is established during the thirteenth chapter of the fourth book by Bella's taking possession of the nursery for Baby Bella ("aloft on an upper floor was a nursery garnished as with rainbows") in the old Harmon mansion after the surprise revelation of her husband's true identity and financial status.

However, as Jane Rabb Cohen notes, there is nothing novel in Bella's profile and pose, her figure being merely a duplicate of that in an illustration eleven months earlier, even to her hair and skirt in "Pa's Lodger and Pa's Daughter" (December 1864). The only significant differences between the two illustrations are Stone's replacing Bella's book with an infant and the secretary with Noddy Boffin. As Cohen notes, owing to the writer's being exhausted by his experiences in the Staplehurst derailment in June 1865, Dickens, having gone abroad to recover, left Stone entirely to his own devices for the final four illustrations: "the author could not even inspect his preliminary sketches". Otherwise, Dickens might have objected to the rather obvious duplication, and might well have asked Stone to tackle some rather more exciting subject in the final double number, such as Rokesmith's and the Inspector's apprehending the murderers in the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters (Chapter 12). Nevertheless, again as Cohen remarks, Stone proved "more reliable than [Hablot Knight] Browne might have been at capturing the myriad moods of the pretty Bella". Thematically, the sharp similarity between the two illustrations may be intended to show that Bella has exchanged the false riches of inherited wealth for the true riches of domestic fulfillment in a happy marriage. The moment realized is this:

The house inspected, emissaries removed the Inexhaustible, who was shortly afterwards heard screaming among the rainbows; whereupon Bella withdrew herself from the presence and knowledge of gemplemorums, and the screaming ceased, and smiling Peace associated herself with that young olive branch.

'Come and look in, Noddy!' said Mrs. Boffin to Mr. Boffin.

Mr. Boffin, submitting to be led on tiptoe to the nursery door, looked in with immense satisfaction, although there was nothing to see but Bella in a musing state of happiness, seated in a little low chair upon the hearth, with her child in her fair young arms, and her soft eyelashes shading her eyes from the fire.

'It looks as if the old man's spirit had found rest at last; don't it?' said Mrs. Boffin.

'Yes, old lady.'


Although he relished his role as the hard-hearted employer as he pretended disrespect to his secretary (in whom he had recognized John Harmon), Noddy Boffin is far happier playing an avuncular role with Bella, John, and their infant daughter. Stone has even gone so far as making Boffin look hirsute, as if he were indeed a cross between a "beaming" middle-aged man and "a regular brown bear" , squeezing his wife out of the frame. Whereas formerly Bella was perpetually discontented, her head inclines towards her baby and the fire, a gentle smile of wistful contentment having replaced the stern set of her lips in "Pa's Lodger and Pa's Daughter."

This illustration reunites the Boffins and Bella Wilfer, and effectively ends the narrative-pictorial sequence for the novel's principal plot line, the romance of John "Rokesmith" and the fate of John Harmon. It also marks the last of Bella's ten appearances in Stone's series, so that by her very frequency Stone was implying her centrality to the main plot, as well as her connection to the chief subplot, the romance of Eugene Wrayburn and Lizzie Hexam. Ironically, the novel's protagonist, John "Julius Handford"/"Rokesmith"/Harmon makes a total of only eight appearances.


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It makes a pretty and promising picter; don't it?"

Book 4 Chapter 13

James Mahoney

1875 Household Edition

Text Illustrated

The house inspected, emissaries removed the Inexhaustible, who was shortly afterwards heard screaming among the rainbows; whereupon Bella withdrew herself from the presence and knowledge of gemplemorums, and the screaming ceased, and smiling Peace associated herself with that young olive branch.

"Come and look in, Noddy!" said Mrs. Boffin to Mr. Boffin.

Mr. Boffin, submitting to be led on tiptoe to the nursery door, looked in with immense satisfaction, although there was nothing to see but Bella in a musing state of happiness, seated in a little low chair upon the hearth, with her child in her fair young arms, and her soft eyelashes shading her eyes from the fire.

"It looks as if the old man's spirit had found rest at last; don't it?" said Mrs. Boffin.

"Yes, old lady.'

"And as if his money had turned bright again, after a long rust in the dark, and was at last a beginning to sparkle in the sunlight?"

"Yes, old lady."

"And it makes a pretty and a promising picter; don't it?"

"Yes, old lady."

But, aware at the instant of a fine opening for a point, Mr. Boffin quenched that observation in this — delivered in the grisliest growling of the regular brown bear. "A pretty and a hopeful picter? Mew, Quack quack, Bow-wow!" And then trotted silently downstairs, with his shoulders in a state of the liveliest commotion.



Commentary:

As is the case with the various plots, the romance of John and Bella ends in a poetically just manner, the Mahoney plate being the reification of domestic rewards for virtue and a re-drafting of the November 1865 Marcus Stone serial illustration Mr. Boffin does the Honors of the Nursery Door (Book Four, chapter 13), which in the Chapman and Hall edition is identified as "It looks as if the old man's spirit had found rest at last; don't it?" said Mrs. Boffin. The day after John's assuming his rightful name and identity at The Three Jolly Fellowship Porters, the Harmons return to the Boffin mansion, and the Boffins explain to Bella (and the reader) how they recognized him and why they undertook to have Noddy pretend to be a miser. Bella's baby, little Bella, is installed in the nursery at the top of the house in this Mahoney illustration, which is actually misplaced in the following chapter in the Chapman and Hall edition, when Wegg is checkmated and receives his comeuppance.

In the original, vertically oriented full-page wood-engraving, the kindly Boffin and his wife (almost entirely obscured) are mere spectators to Bella's happiness, although nothing about the domestic space that Stone is describing specifically suggests that the room with its ornate table and painted setting for a classical nude is, in fact, a "nursery." Already Bella has become an idealized portrait of youthful maternity rather than the rather aggressive, knowing, and wasp-waisted figure that Stone had created in Witnessing the Agreement for the May 1864 installment. His Bella has matured considerably, being more rounded in the face and more benign and philosophical in her facial expression. She and the infant dominate the composition; the older generation are mere witnesses to the new order of things in the old Harmon mansion. On the other hand, Mahoney's interest in his re-drafted version of this same scene is divided between the pairs, and the illustrator has provided significant visual clues as to the purposed nature of the room, with its window giving a vista that suggests it is at the top of the house (where such spaces were usually found in Victorian great-houses).

Although the text does not specifically describe the room to which Bella has vanished with the Inexhaustible (baby Bella) as being a nursery, the Stone picture's caption nevertheless is unequivocal on the point, so that Mahoney is not exercising too much license in providing such realistic details as a large bassinette, several baby rattles (down center), and a nursing chair.

A small chair (center rear) implies that this was the room in which John Harmon himself was a child. The illustrator shows the Boffins as conferring about the fitness of the scene, and they clasp each other's hands in unified appreciation of seeing Bella and her sleeping child. Perhaps this Noddy Boffin in his dressing-gown is less of a "bear" than his hirsute counterpart in the Stone illustration, but the image is both more specific and less idealized, as is consistent with Mahoney's realistic style. His illustration does more than showcase Bella's mature beauty; it resolves the romantic difficulties of John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer as they are now "The Harmons," and will pass along their knowledge about and appreciation of life into the future through baby Bella, so that the British Household Edition caption, pointing towards the extension of the Harmon family line, seems the more appropriate. The Mahoney emphasis on the formerly willful Bella Wilfer as an attentive mother has little to do with the contemporary image of the New Woman; rather, Bella has become a Victorian Madonna of the type memorialized in Coventry Patmore's model of upper-middle-class female beauty and social utility, "The Angel in the House", a lengthy poem that appeared ten years before Dickens wrote this, his last complete novel.


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Not to be Shaken Off

Book 4, Chapter 15

Marcus Stone

Commentary:

To complete the narrative-pictorial sequence and wind up the subplot involving Bradley Headstone and Rogue Riderhood, Marcus Stone takes us back to the Upper Thames lock at Plashwater Mill Weir, although the beautifully drawn lock is actually on the Regent's Canal (constructed from 1814-1820), near London.

Consider the plight of young Marcus Stone as Our Mutual Friend was winding up its serial run and his mentor, the greatest of the great Victorian authors, Charles Dickens, had fled to the continent to recuperate from the shock of the Staplehurst railway accident. Although Stone had had a relatively free hand, Dickens had been accustomed to inspect his drafts and make suggestions for revision. Now, as he prepared the novel's culminating illustrations, Marcus Stone lacked that resource. Instead of choosing a moment of great comedy by depicting Silas Wegg's receiving a richly deserved comeuppance at the hands of Sloppy, Stone had chosen a sentimental moment, Bella in the nursery with her baby. But one significant subplot remained — the blackmailing of Bradley Headstone by Rogue Riderhood, who has the clothes that the schoolmaster wore when, dressed like the waterman, he had attempted to murder Eugene Wrayburn. How should he proceed?

Other illustrators — notably Hablot Knight Browne— would have depicted the fierce struggle between the schoolmaster and his blackmailer on the very edge of the Plashwater Weir Mill Lock, but such a sensational scene, full of violent passion, was evidently not to Stone's less than melodramatic taste. Instead, he chose to create a highly realistic setting (modeled closely on the upper lock of the Regent's Canal, completed in August, 1820, in what is now the "Little Venice" of Maida Vale, one of central London's more exclusive residential areas) and place the adversaries in it moments before the schoolmaster's attack, thereby keeping the reader in suspense until the last possible moment. And, in the process, the realist has created an evocative landscape portrait: the Thames lock covered in snow, the very picturesque nature of which is foiled by the duel of relentless wills transpiring in the letter-press adjacent to it:

Bradley re-entered the Lock House. So did Riderhood. Bradley sat down in the window. Riderhood warmed himself at the fire. After an hour or more, Bradley abruptly got up again, and again went out, but this time turned the other way. Riderhood was close after him, caught him up in a few paces, and walked at his side.

This time, as before, when he found his attendant not to be shaken off, Bradley suddenly turned back. This time, as before, Riderhood turned back along with him. But, not this time, as before, did they go into the Lock House, for Bradley came to a stand on the snow-covered turf by the Lock, looking up the river and down the river. Navigation was impeded by the frost, and the scene was a mere white and yellow desert.

'Come, come, Master,' urged Riderhood, at his side. 'This is a dry game. And where's the good of it? You can't get rid of me, except by coming to a settlement. I am a going along with you
wherever you go.'

Without a word of reply, Bradley passed quickly from him over the wooden bridge on the lock gates. 'Why, there's even less sense in this move than t'other,' said Riderhood, following. 'The Weir's there, and you'll have to come back, you know.'

Without taking the least notice, Bradley leaned his body against a post, in a resting attitude, and there rested with his eyes cast down. 'Being brought here,' said Riderhood, gruffly, 'I'll turn it to some use by changing my gates.' With a rattle and a rush of water, he then swung-to the lock gates that were standing open, before opening the others. So, both sets of gates were, for the moment, closed.

'You'd better by far be reasonable, Bradley Headstone, Master,' said Riderhood, passing him, 'or I'll drain you all the dryer for it, when we do settle.— Ah! Would you!'

Bradley had caught him round the body. He seemed to be girdled with an iron ring. They were on the brink of the Lock, about midway between the two sets of gates.

'Let go!' said Riderhood, 'or I'll get my knife out and slash you wherever I can cut you. Let go!'

Bradley was drawing to the Lock-edge. Riderhood was drawing away from it. It was a strong grapple, and a fierce struggle, arm and leg. Bradley got him round, with his back to the Lock, and still worked him backward.

'Let go!' said Riderhood. 'Stop! What are you trying at? You can't drown Me. Ain't I told you that the man as has come through drowning can never be drowned? I can't be drowned.'

'I can be!' returned Bradley, in a desperate, clenched voice. 'I am resolved to be. I'll hold you living, and I'll hold you dead. Come down!'

Riderhood went over into the smooth pit, backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him.


The title of the illustration alludes specifically to lines at the opening of the above excerpt, when, despite Headstone's attempts to "shake him off," Riderhood dogs his every step, carrying the bundle of clothes that implicate the schoolmaster in the attempted murder of the attorney months earlier. To the last, Bradley Headstone, despite his pleading minimal income as a schoolmaster, is a gentleman, his dark top coat and respectable bourgeois top hat and ramrod, pillar-like straightness contrasting bareheaded Riderhood's working class clothing and rounded form. The novel's visual conclusion is a suitable match to its opening in "The Bird of Prey", which is also set against the backdrop of the Thames and involves two figures. In the former, Gaffer and Lizzie had been fishing for corpses on the polluted lower river; here, at the pristine, frost-whitened and snow-covered headwaters, the two antagonists are about to drown and become objects of a similar search. But, in destroying the despicable, bullying Riderhood at the cost of his own miserable existence, Headstone retains his gentlemanly status and saves from financial ruin and ignominy the devoted schoolmistress who would marry him; in short, his suicide is purposeful and executes a nemesis upon both himself and his adversary.

Cohen has objected to young Stone's inability in "Eugene's Bedside" to "differentiate the various whites of the patient's face, hands, garments, bed coverings, and hangings", but here Stone is clearly master of the black-and-white medium, distinguishing between the lowering grey sky in subtle strokes of dark infused with the white of the falling snow, which has thinly accumulated on the timbers of the lock-gates and sparsely covers the river-bank, down right and to the left. Justly, then, if one considers this ultimate effort — unaided by Dickens in any respect — one may conclude as Cohen does:

Young Stone, while acting the perfect subordinate, had indeed given the author's book an updated look with his more realistic figures. If Dickens was displeased with Stone or with his published illustrations, he never revealed his dissatisfaction — though it must be admitted that his personal fondness for Stone might have inhibited him.


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Bradley hesitated for a moment; but placed his usual signature, enlarged, upon the board

Book 4 Chapter 15

James Mahoney

Text Illustrated:

"Beg your pardon, governor! By your leave!" said Riderhood, knuckling his forehead, with a chuckle and a leer. "What place may this be?"

"This is a school."

"Where young folks learns wot's right?" said Riderhood, gravely nodding. "Beg your pardon, governor! By your leave! But who teaches this school?"

"I do."

"You're the master, are you, learned governor?"

"Yes. I am the master."

"And a lovely thing it must be," said Riderhood, "fur to learn young folks wot's right, and fur to know wot they know wot you do it. Beg your pardon, learned governor! By your leave! — That there black board; wot's it for?"

"It is for drawing on, or writing on."

"Is it though!" said Riderhood. "Who'd have thought it, from the looks on it! would you be so kind as write your name upon it, learned governor?" (In a wheedling tone.)

Bradley hesitated for a moment; but placed his usual signature, enlarged, upon the board.

"I ain't a learned character myself," said Riderhood, surveying the class, "but I do admire learning in others. I should dearly like to hear these here young folks read that there name off, from the writing."


Commentary:

As is the case with the other plots in the novel, the guilt of Bradley Headstone and scheming of Rogue Riderhood must be brought to closure in the final chapters in a poetically just manner, all the more necessary since Eugene has refused to press charges. Hence, the Mahoney plate in the schoolroom sets up the final meeting between the contrasting adversaries, establishing that the street-wise Riderhood has retrieved the bargeman's clothing and means to use it to blackmail the "learned" schoolmaster. There is no parallel illustration in the November 1865 double number by Marcus Stone, who moves directly to the scene at Plashwater Weir in which negotiations between the pair seem to be proceeding amicably.

Although it is difficult to discern Headstone's growing apprehension at Riderhood's unexpected and unwelcome appearance in his classroom, Mahoney has made the rough-and-ready waterman an effective contrast to the professionally-garbed Headstone. The teacher, proud of his literacy and sure that his adversary's being illiterate assures him of success in dealing with the uncouth lout. The schoolroom scene shows Headstone that he has grossly underestimated his antagonist's ability to use the clothing as leverage in bargaining a payoff. Mahoney has reduced the dynamics of the confrontation to its essentials: the desk and the master (left, his face turned away from the viewer), standing at the portable blackboard whereon he has affixed his signature; at the rear, a two-hemisphere map of the world, perhaps suggesting the two "class" worlds which Headstone and Riderhood represent; Riderhood with the bundle of clothes, center; and six children of about eleven years of age, standing in their jackets, looking at Riderhood and whispering to one another — three hats hang on the pegs, right rear, but these are not mere caps, and probably therefore belong to teachers rather than pupils. As a study of a crucial moment in the plot, the illustration serves its purpose well since it expands the textual passage without betraying what is going on in Headstone's mind. More successful as psychological studies of the neurotic teacher, however, are Marcus Stone's September 1865 portrait of anguish, Better to be Abel than Cain (with its cleverly placed biblical illustration of [The First Murder] Cain & Abel), and Sol Eytinge, Junior's 1867 Diamond Edition description of incipient insanity, Bradley Headstone and Charley Hexam, in which both figures are conferring in a classroom setting while students do their exercises in the background.


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Riderhood went over into the smooth pit backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him

Book 4 Chapter 15

James Mahoney

1875 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Come, come, Master," urged Riderhood, at his side. "This is a dry game. And where's the good of it? You can't get rid of me, except by coming to a settlement. I am a going along with you wherever you go."

Without a word of reply, Bradley passed quickly from him over the wooden bridge on the lock gates. "Why, there's even less sense in this move than t'other," said Riderhood, following.

"The Weir's there, and you'll have to come back, you know."

Without taking the least notice, Bradley leaned his body against a post, in a resting attitude, and there rested with his eyes cast down. "Being brought here," said Riderhood, gruffly, "I'll turn it to some use by changing my gates." With a rattle and a rush of water, he then swung-to the lock gates that were standing open, before opening the others. So, both sets of gates were, for the moment, closed.

"You'd better by far be reasonable, Bradley Headstone, Master," said Riderhood, passing him, "or I'll drain you all the dryer for it, when we do settle. — Ah! Would you!"

Bradley had caught him round the body. He seemed to be girdled with an iron ring. They were on the brink of the Lock, about midway between the two sets of gates.

"Let go!" said Riderhood, "or I'll get my knife out and slash you wherever I can cut you. Let go!"

Bradley was drawing to the Lock-edge. Riderhood was drawing away from it. It was a strong grapple, and a fierce struggle, arm and leg. Bradley got him round, with his back to the Lock, and still worked him backward.

"Let go!' said Riderhood. "Stop! What are you trying at? You can't drown Me. Ain't I told you that the man as has come through drowning can never be drowned? I can't be drowned."

"I can be!" returned Bradley, in a desperate, clenched voice. "I am resolved to be. I'll hold you living, and I'll hold you dead. Come down!"

Riderhood went over into the smooth pit, backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him. When the two were found, lying under the ooze and scum behind one of the rotting gates, Riderhood's hold had relaxed, probably in falling, and his eyes were staring upward. But, he was girdled still with Bradley's iron ring, and the rivets of the iron ring held tight.



Commentary:

Mahoney does not attempt to describe the entire panorama of the Thames lock, but focuses on the essentials of the scene: the desperate, black-clad schoolmaster (left), the lock-keeper in fustian, gripped by his lapels (center), the beams and lock gates, and the keeper's hut (right). Although the whitespace is intended to suggest a recent snowfall, there is little of the painterly or picturesque about Mahoney's treatment, which sacrifices Stone's artistic overview of the river scene to the high drama of Headstone's desperate move to rid himself of the blackmailer. Behind the two figures on the brink of the lock Mahoney has employed considerable cross-hatching to suggest the darkness of the grave into which both combatants are about to fall, in sharp contrast to the snow-covered banks.

In The Death-Struggle in the Lock (1910) Harry Furniss draws upon the work of both Marcus Stone in the ultimate number of the 1864-65 nineteen-month serialization and this plate by James Mahoney, the penultimate illustration in the 1875 Household Edition volume. While Furniss like Stone utilizes the panoramic view of the upper Thames lock and weir in the November 1865 wood-engraving Not to be Shaken Off, he shifts the moment captured from the tranquil verbal negotiation of the antagonists to the moment that James Mahoney elected to illustrate, when Headstone suddenly grapples with Riderhood as he prepares to tumble both of them into the water in Riderhood went over into the smooth pit backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him, reinforcing to Victorian readers the power of poetic justice. Compared to Furniss's realization, however, Mahoney's is more visceral, and elicits sympathy for the would-be blackmail victim by his dominant position and more readable facial expression. As compared to Stone's, the Mahoney wood-engraving demonstrates the advantages of illustrating for a volume work over a serial in that, whereas Stone could not reveal too much of the plot at the start of the monthly number (the illustrations were not bound into the wrapped monthly parts, but positioned at the beginning of the installment), Mahoney was free to present the illustration as a complement to the text opposite.

Whereas F. O. C. Darley in the fourth American "Household" Edition volume of 1866 had focused in the frontispiece on Rogue Riderhood's surveillance of Headstone as he attempts to destroy the evidence of his involvement in what he believes to be the murder of the young lawyer in On the Track, the crime-and-detection aspect of the novel, Mahoney and Furniss have seized upon the most suspenseful moment in the final movement of the story, in which both would have recognized the climactic scene in No Thoroughfare, the collaborative Wilkie Collins-Charles Dickens novella for Christmas 1867 in All the Year Round as originating with this scene in the last complete novel Dickens wrote. At the climax of the Christmas story, the young English protagonist George Vendale wrestles with his Swiss antagonist, Jules Obenreizer, on the edge of a glacier — the scene appears in the 1877 Household Edition volume Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. G. Dalziel, He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow, although Furniss's interpretation, like Mahoney's in 1875, may well have been conditioned by Charles Green's 1868 Illustrated Library Edition wood-engraving No Thoroughfare. Although the mountain scene is set in the Simplon Pass, near the village of Brieg, above Lausanne, the composition — two figures grappling with one another and about to experience a fatal fall — is decidedly similar; however, in the 1864-65 novel the adversaries are the working-class villain Rogue Riderhood and his middle-class counterpart, the obsessed and psychologically damaged schoolmaster Bradley Headstone. The dynamic then is one of class (Riderhood being as poor an exemplar of the working class as Headstone is of the middle class), rather than nationality. Whereas the reader is engaged on behalf of neither figure in the combat in the novel, in the 1867 novella the reader is on the edge of his seat to discover whether the protagonist lives or dies. Since James Mahoney would have seen Charles Green's plate in the 1868 Illustrated Library Edition, he would have recognized the parallels and significant differences between the two suspenseful scenes. However, since Dalziel's interpretation of the scene in the novella post-dates Mahoney's illustration for the novel, the only influence on Mahoney's composition from No Thoroughfare would have been the 1868 Illustrated Library Edition plate by Charles Green, in which Vendale is going over the precipice as the perfidious Swiss businessman, attired as a mountaineer, watches.

In his version of the Stone and Mahoney illustrations for the 1864-65 novel, Furniss shows the pair hurtling through the air towards the frigid Thames water in the lock rather than still on the right bank near the lock stairs, partially covered in snow. The pair are distinguished principally by their hats: whereas Riderhood is still wearing his proletarian fur cap (center), Headstone has already lost his top hat (right). The Mahoney illustration uses clothing and juxtaposition rather than hats to distinguish the adversaries.



"No Thoroughfare"

Edward G. Dalziel



"No Thoroughfare"

Charles Green


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The Death-Struggle in the Lock

Book 4 Chapter 15

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

Bradley was drawing to the Lock-edge. Riderhood was drawing away from it. It was a strong grapple, and a fierce struggle, arm and leg. Bradley got him round, with his back to the Lock, and still worked him backward.

"Let go!' said Riderhood. "Stop! What are you trying at? You can't drown Me. Ain't I told you that the man as has come through drowning can never be drowned? I can't be drowned."

"I can be!" returned Bradley, in a desperate, clenched voice. "I am resolved to be. I'll hold you living, and I'll hold you dead. Come down!"

Riderhood went over into the smooth pit, backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him. When the two were found, lying under the ooze and scum behind one of the rotting gates, Riderhood's hold had relaxed, probably in falling, and his eyes were staring upward. But, he was girdled still with Bradley's iron ring, and the rivets of the iron ring held tight.



Commentary:

In "The Death-Struggle in the Lock," Harry Furniss draws upon the work of two earlier British illustrators, Marcus Stone in the ultimate number of the 1864-65 nineteen-month serialization and James Mahoney in the penultimate plate in the 1875 Household Edition volume. Whereas Furniss utilizes the panoramic view of the upper Thames lock and weir in the November 1865 wood-engraving Not to be Shaken Off, with an instinct for the dramatic he shifts the moment captured from the tranquil verbal sparring of the antagonists to the moment that James Mahoney elected to illustrate when, fed up with Riderhood's demands, Headstone suddenly grapples with the old salt as he prepares to tumble both of them into the water in Riderhood went over into the smooth pit backward, and Bradley Headstone upon him, reinforcing to Victorian readers the power of poetic justice.

Whereas F. O. C. Darley in the fourth American "Household" Edition volume of 1866 had focused in the frontispiece on Rogue Riderhood's surveillance of Headstone as he attempts to destroy the evidence of his involvement in what he believes to be the murder of the young lawyer in On the Track, the crime-and-detection aspect of the novel, Furniss has seized upon the most suspenseful scene in the final movement of the story, which he would have recognized as the origin of the climactic scene in No Thoroughfare, the collaborative Wilkie Collins-Charles Dickens novella for Christmas 1867 in All the Year Round in which the young English protagonist George Vendale wrestles with his Swiss antagonist, Jules Obenreizer, on the edge of a glacier — the scene appears in the 1877 Household Edition volume Christmas Stories, illustrated by E. G. Dalziel, He became roused to the knowledge that Obenreizer had set upon him, and that they were struggling desperately in the snow, although Furniss's interpretation, like Mahoney's in 1875, may well have been conditioned by Charles Green's 1868 Illustrated Library Edition wood-engraving No Thoroughfare. Although the mountain scene is set in the Simplon Pass, near the village of Brieg, above Lausanne, the text realized — two figures in a natural setting grappling with one another and about to experience a fatal fall — is decidedly similar to this in the fourth book's fifteenth chapter; however, in the 1864-65 novel the adversaries are the greedy working-class villain Rogue Riderhood and his middle-class counterpart, the obsessed and psychologically damaged schoolmaster Bradley Headstone.

Whereas the reader is engaged on behalf of neither figure in the combat, in the 1867 novella the reader is on the edge of his seat to discover whether the English protagonist lives or dies. Since Harry Furniss in the Charles Dickens Library Edition illustrated both Our Mutual Friend and No Thoroughfare and had undoubtedly studied the illustrations of earlier British editions, he would have recognized the parallels as well as the significant differences between various artists' handlings of the two suspenseful scenes from the 1860s.

In his version of the Stone and Mahoney illustrations for the 1864-65 novel, Furniss shows the pair hurtling through the air towards the frigid Thames water in the lock rather than still on the right bank near the lock stairs, partially covered in snow. The pair are distinguished principally by their hats: whereas Riderhood is still wearing his proletarian fur cap (center), Headstone has already lost his top-hat (right). To balance the figures in the center of the composition, Furniss has made the snow-covered lock-keeper's house much more substantial than the mere "hut" in the earlier illustrations. Furniss's illustration of Lizzie Hexam's recue of Eugene Wrayburn (preceding this) likewise reinforces his interest in these active, secondary characters and his artistic fascination with the dramatic scenes of the novel.


message 24: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod


"There, there, there!" said Miss Wren. "For goodness' sake, stop, giant, or I shall be swallowed up alive before I know it."

Book 4 Chapter 16

James Mahoney

1875 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

The dolls' dressmaker, being at work for the Inexhaustible upon a full-dressed doll some two sizes larger than that young person, Mr Sloppy undertook to call for it, and did so. "Come in, sir," said Miss Wren, who was working at her bench. "And who may you be?"

Mr. Sloppy introduced himself by name and buttons.

"Oh indeed!" cried Jenny. "Ah! I have been looking forward to knowing you. I heard of your distinguishing yourself."

"Did you, Miss?" grinned Sloppy. "I am sure I am glad to hear it, but I don't know how."

"Pitching somebody into a mud-cart," said Miss Wren.

"Oh! That way!" cried Sloppy. "Yes, Miss." And threw back his head and laughed.

"Bless us!" exclaimed Miss Wren, with a start. "Don't open your mouth as wide as that, young man, or it'll catch so, and not shut again some day."

Mr. Sloppy opened it, if possible, wider, and kept it open until his laugh was out.

"Why, you're like the giant," said Miss Wren, "when he came home in the land of Beanstalk, and wanted Jack for supper."

"Was he good-looking, Miss?" asked Sloppy.

"No," said Miss Wren. "Ugly."

"Where is he coming from, Miss?"

"Why, good gracious, how can I tell! He is coming from somewhere or other, I suppose, and he is coming some day or other, I suppose. I don't know any more about him, at present."

This tickled Mr. Sloppy as an extraordinarily good joke, and he threw back his head and laughed with measureless enjoyment. At the sight of him laughing in that absurd way, the dolls' dressmaker laughed very heartily indeed. So they both laughed, till they were tired.

"There, there, there!" said Miss Wren. "For goodness' sake, stop, Giant, or I shall be swallowed up alive, before I know it. And to this minute you haven't said what you've come for."

"I have come for little Miss Harmonses doll," said Sloppy.



Commentary:

Since it was his visual antecedent, Mahoney's 1875 treatment of the textual material is often his response to the original series of forty illustrations by young Marcus Stone, Dickens's 1860s serial and volume illustrator after Dickens's dropping Hablot Knight Browne, his principal illustrator for twenty-five​years. Although Mahoney sometimes accepts Stone's notions, with a greater number of illustrations to complete, Mahoney was quite free to innovate, adding scenes that Stone had not attempted. Whereas the final Stone illustration, Not to be Shaken off (November 1865) anticipates the climactic confrontation of Bradley Headstone and his blackmailer that leads to their melodramatic mutual destruction, the Household Edition illustrator had the opportunity to end the novel on a comic note by bringing together the ever-optimistic "natural," Sloppy, a child in an adult body, and the pessimistic "knowing child," Jenny Wren.

Whereas Mahoney has already dealt fairly extensively with these decidedly odd outsiders, Stone has essentially neglected them, depicting "Jenny" (Fanny Cleaver) significantly in just two illustrations — The Person of the House and the Bad Child (October 1864) and Miss Wren fixes her Idea (October 1865) — and not depicting Sloppy even once. Mahoney, therefore, fills in the blanks by depicting these comic figures, especially Sloppy, to enhance the "streaky bacon" effect of the novel by accentuating both comedic, romantic, and melodramatic strands, seen from the first in Dickens's works in such scenes as Nancy in hysterics in Oliver Twist and in Pickwick's stay in debtors' prison in such scenes as Phiz's The Warden's Room. Mahoney's conception of Sloppy is consistent with that of Sol Eytinge, Junior, in Mrs. Higden, Sloppy, and the Innocents (1867). Although he is not likely to have seen this illustration by his trans Atlantic colleague, he responded to the same descriptive passages and likewise realized the significance of Sloppy's comic contribution to the texture of the sprawling novel:

Of an ungainly make was Sloppy. Too much of him longwise, too little of him broadwise, and too many sharp angles of him angle-wise. One of those shambling male human creatures, born to be indiscreetly candid in the revelation of buttons; every button he had about him glaring at the public to a quite preternatural extent. A considerable capital of knee and elbow and wrist and ankle, had Sloppy, and he didn't know how to dispose of it to the best advantage, but was always investing it in wrong securities, and so getting himself into embarrassed circumstances. Full-Private Number One in the Awkward Squad of the rank and file of life, was Sloppy, and yet had his glimmering notions of standing true to the Colors. — Book One, Ch. 16, "Minders and Reminders," in the Chapman and Hall Edition.

Thus, Mahoney depicts "the long boy" when he introduces Betty Higden in "Come here, Toddles and Poddles" in Chapter 16, when Mrs. Boffin and the Secretary pay her a call in quest of an orphan to adopt. In this final illustration, which ends the narrative on both a humorous and speculative note, Mahoney underscores Dickens's tantalizingly raising the prospect of a romance between good-natured but learning disabled cabinet-maker Sloppy and the dolls' dressmaker Jenny Wren. Mahoney, then, would likely have disagreed with those critics who take issue with this possible closure, believing that Dickens only paired the two together because of their complementary physical and mental disabilities — and personalities. Interestingly, Dickens describes both of them as readers, and therefore as models for construing prose, even though Jenny was quite wrong for some time in her reading of Fledgeby and Riah. In a chapter whose function is "to set all matters right", it does not seem likely that this meeting of Jenny and Sloppy is a red herring; rather, in a relationship with Sloppy Jenny will get to be a doting rather than a reprimanding parent while Sloppy will continue to be of service, for this is a narrative, in the final analysis, governed by the principles of poetic justice — and this is but "the first interview between Mr. Sloppy and Miss Wren", and, as the picture implies, he is very taken with her hair, which she has just shaken loose: she "is not displeased by the effect it had made.


message 25: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod


Marcus Stone


message 26: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3037 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Chapter 15, which tells us “What Was Caught in the Traps That Were Set”, is the most powerful one of this week’s lot, bringing to a close the story of Bradley Headstone and Rogue Riderhood.

With t..."


The question of who, what and why Bradley Headstone is the way he is and does what he does is, Tristram, as you note, one of Dickens’s great creations and one of Dickens’s greatest puzzles for his readers.

I’m one of the readers who never really liked him. I never was a fan of Charley either. Sad to say, because they are both teachers. I can appreciate a person who wants to improve themselves and their position in society. Headstone, however, with his knarley aggressiveness, his self-absorbed importance, and, of course, his crude treatment of Lizzie (my favourite character of the novel) made him unacceptable as a person. As a creation and a character in the novel, of course, he is a glorious.

Can anyone think of a character who has more complexities, more hidden corners as a personality, in a Dickens novel?

As you note, his ending with Riderhood is classic and highly symbolic in terms of drawing all the separate threads of the novel together. The Thames claims its final victims, and the Thames takes its final bow in the novel.

Our summary week will be a delight. I miss my copy of OMF. Didn’t pack it. I feel somewhat at a loss without my scribbles and notes.


message 27: by Ami (last edited Oct 09, 2017 09:59AM) (new)

Ami | 372 comments Tristram wrote: "Hello friends,

I might not have a lot of time for this tomorrow because I'll be at my nephew's birthday party, and that's why I am going to open the final threads today. Dickens is starting to tie..."


By the way, what do you think of John’s putting his wife to the test in that way? Do you think he is justified, or do you consider it as an insult?
I found it off putting, Tristram...And yet another example of the sluggish moments seen in this novel. In fact, the dinner scene the two endure after the revelation with Lightwood was more comic than dramatic in my eyes. What happened to the impetuous and unyielding Bella Wilfur...Has love completely changed her into this uber patient and submissive wife? I didn't like seeing her in this light.

Also, now that John Harmon has come into his own, who exactly is he now...Who was that powerful force sitting in the room with Boffins, Sloppy and Wegg, orchestrating the dynamics between these men? The quiet and calculating Rokesmith/Handford, seems to have found his voice...Reserved and unassuming he is no longer. Is there a role reversal here, between Bella and John...Bella's once passionate countenance, now lulled; and John's lulled countenance, now quite passionate?

What do you think of my reading of this test of love and faith?
I thought, enough was enough already. The woman is genuinely in love with you, John, she aligned herself with you against Mr. Boffin, leaving her well to do post with them and settling for a lot less. Stop, testing her already.

No dramatic value at all.

I really enjoyed him whenever he made his appearance in the novel and I felt a bit sad about his not being granted an exit from the novel on a more conciliatory note. What do you think?
I read this chapter twice, like I read the chapter concerning Wegg having found the bottle and updating plans with Venus, twice...And I still don't think I completely understand what's going on with those mounds...Or the wills. Do the Boffins's legally have rights to all the Harmon property, or is it just the mound?

I loved this chapter on the whole, it was my favorite alongside CH 17. I know Wegg is dear to you, Tristram, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading how Sloppy (Wegg's sleepless nights and days to being catapulted from the Boffins's home onto the street) all at John direction, was able to give Wegg a nice dose of humility. It was rough, I'll admit, but so was Wegg...Rough and misguided.

Does he realize the hopelessness of ever satisfying Riderhood’s greed?
Oh, absolutely. I don't think he saw any other way in finding a way out from Riderhood's blackmail. Not realizing Riderhood's scrappy capabilities, and Headstone being the impulsive man that he is, he would have rather died with the evil secret than live with a sword hanging over his head.

Eugene Wrayburn
Oh my...So, he lives! LOL! Love cures all (rolling eyes). However, my tried and true, says it best...LOVE: A temporary insanity curable by marriage (Ambrose Bierce on "Love"). Ah, I'm being jaded, I know, and I really like Eugene too. Well, I'm glad he lives for Lizzie's sake, she doesn't need any more grief.


message 28: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "The wedding of Eugene and Lizzie........"

... belongs into quite another category of scenes ;-)


message 29: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "Not to be Shaken Off

Book 4, Chapter 15

Marcus Stone

Commentary:

To complete the narrative-pictorial sequence and wind up the subplot involving Bradley Headstone and Rogue Riderhood, Marcus Sto..."


I really love this scene in the snow: The solitary figure of Bradley Headstone, who is followed by Riderhook - quite a chain to the schoolteacher's ankle. Riderhood is carrying the bundle of clothes like a memento of his power over his involuntary companion, and on the other side there is the ominous river, "Our Mutual Friend". How good this scene would look in a movie, but then I'm a sucker for snow movies, anyway.


message 30: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "Can anyone think of a character who has more complexities, more hidden corners as a personality, in a Dickens novel?"

It's indeed difficult to think of another example that is quite as complex. A few characters spring to my mind, however, like Edith Dombey, Miss Wade, Pip, maybe Mrs Clennam, and Mrs Lammle. Interestingly, most of them are women, although it is generally assumed that Dickens was not too good at creating interesting and three-dimensional female characters.

Miss Wade may come nearest Bradley because, like him, she is definitely destructive, but both are ultimately desctructive to themselves. On the other hand, they are not evil as Quilp, Squeers and other of the earlier monsters but their dark sides are psychologically more complex, and maybe, given other circumstances, their lives could have taken a more wholesome course.

One interesting afterthought: While Eugene is cleansed by his encounter with the Thames, both Bradley and Riderhood remain unchanged by it. Instead, they are drowned.


message 31: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Has love completely changed her into this uber patient and submissive wife? I didn't like seeing her in this light."

Yes, it's all like a tamer, and less intersting version of The Taming of the Shrew.


message 32: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Ami wrote: "Oh, absolutely. I don't think he saw any other way in finding a way out from Riderhood's blackmail. Not realizing Riderhood's scrappy capabilities, and Headstone being the impulsive man that he is, he would have rather died with the evil secret than live with a sword hanging over his head."

I may be one of the few here who at first rooted for Bradley, seeing that he is a responsible and energetic man, somebody who makes himself useful but who has also developed a certain ambition, which unfortunately made him suppress much of his impulsiveness. And that's why I like to think that part of his determination to close Riderhood's mouth for ever (by filling it with water instead of with gin) stemmed from his fear that Miss Peecher would be dragged into the unwholesome affair.

I loved your reference to Bierce, Ami! The Devil's Dictionary is one of my bedside books. I also felt reminded of one of Nietzsche's aphorisms which was a bit like this: There would be fewer lovesick people if the ability to imagine a face twenty years older were more wide-spread.


message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5700 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "I loved your reference to Bierce, Ami! The Devil's Dictionary is one of my bedside books."

I thought you wrote it.


message 34: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
I could have, but Nietzsche and Bierce were quicker, having the benefit of an earlier birth.


message 35: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments Certainly, Tristram, that was a ludicrous way for Bella to be treated. It seemed so patronising. Meanwhile the others were having a little "tee hee" to themselves behind the scenes.


message 36: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments Bwah ha ha, Kim, you're a riot!


message 37: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments Jean, I agree: the scene with the 'inexhaustible' seemed to be very vivid and it struck me, at the time, that it was something that Dickens had witnessed personally.


message 38: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments Ami, I confess that I haven't even heard of Bierce! It's good to know ...


message 39: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments Tristram, I, as did you, liked the earlier scenes with Wegg. I found his poetry recitation hilarious. I loved how he would constantly reach for the right words and then something almost completely off would come out and f his mouth. I was sad that all we were left with was the sour side of Wegg. I know that he was probably never a nice person but he did amuse me!


message 40: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments What an ending for Headstone and Riderhood! Justice? I'm not sure.


message 41: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) | 149 comments The two weddings were a tad unusual: the sneaky foursome or 'sixsome' with the Boffins as hidden onlookers and the 'almost-deathbed' ceremony. I'm happy that Eugene survived for Lizzie's sake if not for his own.


message 42: by Bionic Jean (last edited Oct 11, 2017 12:12PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Did we read the same 5 chapters here Tristram? Must I challenge you to a duel? For far from finding them routinely tying up ends, I found them masterly!

ch 12, perhaps was the weakest and as I mentioned before, I feel that Dickens was perhaps self-indulgently reliving his recent fatherhood, and passion for the new young mother. The mimsy, saccharin description was not to my taste, and (since you ask) neither was the over-testing of Bella's wifely dutifulness, but then I am not a Victorian reader.

But the rest! Chris was startled to find me in tears for one chapter and boo-ing out loud at another. I usually read quietly with an odd chuckle. But these! I had to stop after each one and come back later. So much to think about and react to.


message 43: by Bionic Jean (last edited Oct 11, 2017 12:17PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) ch 13, where Noddy Boffin reveals his true colours was a delight!!! Yes I shall also use three exclamation marks, as I had been completely taken in. All that discussion about whether it was psychologically plausible, or whether Dickens had skimped part of the description about Noddy's ever-growing avarice, merely added to the authenticity! Of course we had lingering doubts - we can now see that they were intentional, but not so convincing as to make us suspicious. It all made total sense to me now. Also, in the afterword, Dickens puts in a little dig about the reader trusting the artist to know his craft, and to know what he is doing!

(What makes less sense to me, is the memory I have of reading this several decades ago, and watching a miniseries more recently. How could I have forgotten this so completely?)

So yes, a little weep for joy from me, and I also had a big fat smile on my face later, when Pleasant Riderbood and Mr Venus, and Sloppy and Jenny Wren all became beaux. Who doesn't love happy endings?

Thanks for the fairy tale details - I'm not sure I picked those up this time.


message 44: by Bionic Jean (last edited Oct 11, 2017 12:20PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) ch 14 - "least favourite chapters" why? Oh because of the damp squib ending for Silas Wegg. Yes, I too wished for something more ... dramatic. And in his case, I wished for retribution in preference to reform! But then in real life the villains don't all get their comeuppance, as we expect from Dickens. Silas Wegg certainly didn't have what he wished for, so we weren't left dangling.

I'm wondering if the first readers also disliked this chapter, because in his afterword, Dickens defends the passages about the will, saying basically that real life can be much more strange, devious and circumlocutory, and that many cases in law were just this. Didn't he also write something similar in the preface to Bleak House?


message 45: by Bionic Jean (last edited Oct 11, 2017 12:23PM) (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Ch 15 - wow! I immediately thought of "The Final Problem", but of course Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was writing far later than Dickens. Once again, Dickens had the idea first!

I found it a compelling read, especially the guilt felt by Bradley Headstone, and agree that this is one of Dickens's most complex characters. I'm pleased to find that the illness I suspected he must have is now clear. He's like a much more fully developed version of Monks, (view spoiler) in Oliver Twist, who was also subject to fits. Both of these I find I feel dreadfully sorry for, even now, after everything.

It strikes me that Our Mutual Friend is perhaps the novel Dickens would have written at the time of Oliver Twist, if he had had the skill. Riah is to Fagin what Headstone is to Monks.

Perhaps Headstone was trying to make some small recompense to Miss Peecher? I seem to remember Charley pointed out to him earlier that she was sweet on him.

Did Rogue Riderhood deserve this end? I'm not sure ... but it was masterly the way it had been telegraphed, with his conviction that he could never be drowned. No, I didn't guess this! With the growing remorse and guilt felt by Headstone, I thought he would throw himself into the weir, nobody else!

What happens to Charley? I feel he's one of the less successful characters. I also feel that oddly, both Lizzie and John Rokesmith/Harmon are amorphous, and often seen through others, even though these are arguably two of the main characters.


message 46: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) ch 16 - more tying up of ends, and I enjoyed meeting some old friends such as Twemlow, a character I really like. But no!!! (And this is when I booed!) Dickens really let me down here ... Eugene lives? Huh! Does it matter not that he treated everyone with disdain, treated those below him in society like scum, never did anything worthwhile, made jokes at the expense of his best friend, made Bradley Headstone's life a living hell etc etc? Because of love, and a battering, all is forgiven? Not by me! And yes, I do fear for Lizzie's future with this specimen of humanity, whose leaf-turning may be temporary. Perhaps his request not to track Headstone down was because he knew that Headstone's own guilt would torture him more than being hanged by Law ever could.

ch 17 - ah Dickens is back on form! I enjoyed the society chapters, recalling the early chapters of this book. Strange to think that the original readers will have been reading about the Veneerings over a year earlier! This section reminded me quite a lot of parts of Little Dorrit, with Mrs Merdle presiding, and expostulating that she would delight in being a "perfect savage" but that Society would not allow her to be. It was a very neat ending, I thought.


message 47: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3037 comments Mod
Jean wrote: "ch 16 - more tying up of ends, and I enjoyed meeting some old friends such as Twemlow, a character I really like. But no!!! (And this is when I booed!) Dickens really let me down here ... Eugene li..."

Jean

I really enjoyed your detailed thoughts on the final chapters of the novel. I too thought of Sherlock Holmes as Riderhood and Headstone tumbled into the water. The illustrations for the scene also closely resemble those of Paget. I wonder if he was thinking of his Dickensian predecessors when he drew his.

As for Eugene, I can’t see his new personality lasting either. Like you, I could see his “head-turning” being temporary. But Dickens, being Dickens, may have waved his literary pen over him. A last touch of the fairy tale ending perhaps?


message 48: by Bionic Jean (new)

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Ah, I like this, Peter!


message 49: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Hilary wrote: "Tristram, I, as did you, liked the earlier scenes with Wegg. I found his poetry recitation hilarious. I loved how he would constantly reach for the right words and then something almost completely ..."

Having to earn his living by the sweat of his brow, poor old Wegg could simply not afford to be a very nice person ;-)


message 50: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4461 comments Mod
Jean wrote: "Who doesn't love happy endings?"

*whistles*


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