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Oliver Twist > Oliver Twist Chapters 23-27

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message 1: by Peter (last edited Jul 07, 2018 04:15PM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 23

Hello Fellow Curiosities

Tristram is enjoying an extended family vacation this month and I will be attempting to fill his shoes. It is an impossible task, but hopefully you will bear with me.

In this chapter we leave Oliver bleeding on the ground and find ourselves in the snug rooms of Mrs Corney, the matron of the workhouse, who is sitting before “the cheerful fire in her own little room.” Once again we see how Dickens moves the reader from one extreme place, environment, or situation to its opposite. The first paragraph of Chapter 23 offers much opportunity to observe how Dickens uses the weather to establish setting and emotion. For those of you who enjoy doing a close reading this paragraph is a wonderful opportunity to see
how Dickens incorporates pathetic fallacy in his writing. In terms of contrasting characters and their situations, Dickens presents Mrs Corney as feeling sorry for herself and lamenting the fact that she is “a poor desolate creature.” At the same time, the reader remembers how Oliver has just been shot and deserted by Sikes. Then Mrs Corney remembers the loss of her husband who has been dead for more than 25 years. At this point in the chapter, Mr Bumble arrives at her door. Another man in her life? She is, it appears, due to become a more important character in the novel.

Bumble and Corney lament how ungrateful the poor are, and how thankful the poor should be of the efforts made for them by government agencies . Bumble sums up the situation by commenting that “the great principle of out-of-door relief is, to give the paupers exactly what they don’t want; and then they get tired of coming.” Bumble and Corney then begin a rather humourous flirting session with references to sweets and sounds of coughing which is followed by sighs and Bumble’s observation that Mrs Corney’s cat is a very lucky cat indeed to be her cat. Then, Bumble moves closer to Mrs. Corney and to end our suspense, he kisses her. The reader is spared any further amorous activity as a knock comes to Mrs Corney’s door to announce that “Old Old Sally is a-going fast.” To this news Mrs Corney demands “Well, what’s that to me ... I can’t keep her alive , can I?” Apparently, Old Sally has “something to tell, which [Mrs Corney] must hear.” After Mrs Corney leaves Mr Bumble is left to himself and goes through her silverware possessions and follows that by making an inventory of her furniture.


Thoughts

A short chapter to be sure, but a chapter that presents much to consider, discuss, and speculate on.

First: The warmth and comforts of Mrs Corney’s rooms serve to remind us that the poor have nothing. Opposite to this setting, we have Oliver who is now wounded and abandoned by Sikes. In what other ways do you see Dickens creating opposition and contrast in this chapter?

Second: Why do you think Dickens introduces a possible amorous connection between Bumble and Corney?

Third: Dickens does like to tease his readers. Just as the flirtatious courtship between Bumble and Corney is heating up they are interrupted by a knock on the door. Stylistically, why do you think Dickens chose to stop their flirtation at this point?

A Victorian audience could not be exposed to much romantic detail. We have discussed Dickens’s choice of names earlier and speculated how conscious he was of his choices. Out of interest, if you put on a Freudian or Jungian cap, can you find any interesting suggestive language or imagery in this chapter?

Four: We have met Old Sally before. What information or confession might she have that will become of great value later in the novel?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 24

In the chapter’s epigraph Dickens tells us that though the chapter is short it may have importance in the story of Oliver Twist. Let’s take Dickens at his word and try to puzzle out what may be of great importance in this chapter.

We learn from the first paragraph that Old Sally’s face was distorted into a “mumbling leer” and “resembled more the grotesque shaping of some wild pencil, than the work on Nature’s hand.” In the next paragraph Dickens comments again on “Nature’s faces” and mentions the “long-forgotten expression of sleeping infancy, and settle into the very look of Early life; so calm, so peaceful, do they grow again, that those who knew them in their happy childhood, kneel by the coffin’s side in awe, and see the Angel even upon earth.”

In the death room of Old Sally two old crones discuss Sally and death. We are told that in her younger years Sally had laid out “many, many, beautiful corpses ... as nice and neat as wax-work” and that Sally’s hands have “touched them too.” At this point Sally sits upright in her bed and states “I will tell her! Come here! Nearer! Let me whisper in your ear.”

The tale that Sally has to tell is critical to our novel as it turns out she was the person who presided over the birth of Oliver. Sally confesses to robbing Oliver’s mother of on object of gold. We further learn that Oliver’s mother hoped that one day Oliver would “not feel so much disgraced to hear its poor young mother named” and hoped that her child would be raised “up by some friends ... in this troubled world, and take pity upon a desolate child, abandoned to its mercy!”


Thoughts

Wow! We need to take a few deep breaths. Here we have some of the missing pieces to the puzzle that is Oliver Twist. We now know more about his mother, and clearly the gold piece of jewellery is key to our story. What might it be, what might it contain?

The beginning of this chapter mentions faces, and as the chapter ends we learn more specifics of Oliver’s mother’s death. Faces. Once again faces are introduced to our story. Where have we seen the mention of faces before? How could all the various threads that have been mentioned be braided together?

Throughout this death scene Mrs Corney has been present. It also appears that Dickens might well be linking Bumble and Mrs Corney together to form some sort of partnership/romantic connection. How might these characters be used by Dickens as the plot continues to evolve?


message 3: by Peter (last edited Jul 07, 2018 04:15PM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 25

We begin this chapter in Fagin’s den and I must say it has a touch, a faint touch of the domestic about it. The fire is smokey and the grate rusty but we do see Fagin in a somewhat meditative mood. Is he thinking of his past, is he contemplating his future illegal activities or is he worried about Oliver and the break in that he is involved in with Sikes?

In the den as well we find Charley Bates, the Artful Dodger, and Mr Chitling who are playing a game of whist. The Artful Dodger is particularly intent on the cards and the play of the somewhat naive Mr Chitling. Dare we suspect that the Dodger may have an ace up his sleeve or has he marked the deck? Hmmm...? Fagin seems to know exactly what is going on. Did you enjoy the Dickensian touch that when the Dodger was not playing whist he was sketching a ground-plan of Newgate on a table. From memory, or from rumour I wonder?

We learn that Chitling is “uncommon sweet upon Betsy.” I hope Sikes or Bulls-eye don’t learn this! I found this mini-scene amusing. A bit of comic relief in Fagin’s den is enjoyable, but I fear such levity will not last too long.

Into Fagin’s den comes Toby Crackit “unwashed and unshorn” who demands food and drink before he recounts the events of the past three days with Oliver and Sikes. The humour of the scene quickly dissolved as Toby reports that “the crack failed” and he has no idea where Sikes is and Oliver was wounded by a gunshot. As the chapter ends we learn that Fagin seems much more concerned about Oliver’s welfare than that of Sikes. Fagin runs from the house as the chapter ends.


Thoughts



Where could Fagin be going? And why in such a hurry?

There seems to be no honour among thieves. We should not be surprised that they cheat at cards but why is Fagin so concerned about Oliver’s welfare?

In what ways are the characters of Bates, the Dodger, Crackit and Fagin further developed in this chapter?


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 26

In this chapter we begin by following Fagin from his den into the street in a “wild and disordered manner.” He heads for an unsavoury part of the city and enters a grimy cellar to meet a merchant named Lively. Lively tells Fagin that there are a few people up at the Cripples where, I hasten to add, there were no Curiosities that particular evening. Fagin proceeds upstairs to a room that seems reserved for a particular group of people, none of whose occupations, I imagine, are legal. Fagin is searching for a man called Monks, who seems to be a rather important person to Fagin. Why is it that Dickens tells us that Fagin’s features were ones of “anxiety and thought.”

From the Three Cripples Fagin heads to Sikes’s house where he finds Nancy but not Sikes. Earlier, we have discussed our views on Nancy and here we meet her again, and again she is presented by Dickens in an interesting light. When Fagin asks Nancy where Sikes is we are told that she “moaned out some half intelligible reply ... and seemed, from the smothered noise that escaped her, to be crying.” When Fagin advances the thought that he has concern for Oliver we are faced with a somewhat perplexing response. Nancy says:

The child ... is better where he is, than among us and if no harm comes to Bill from it, I hope [Oliver] lies dead in a ditch, and that his young bones may rot there. ... I can’t bear to have him about me. The sight of him turns me against myself, and all of you.”

Thoughts

First, who do you think Nancy is crying for - Oliver or Bill? What is your reasoning?

Nancy seems, outwardly at least, to be very hard-hearted towards Oliver. She says Oliver turns her against herself and Fagin and his crew. How would you explain this comment?


Next in the chapter we learn that Oliver is “worth hundreds of pounds.” to Fagin but we do not know why. What we do know is that this value is not based on Oliver’s rather ineffectual skills as a pickpocket. Fagin returns to his own crib (don’t you love Victorian slang) where, out of the shadows, comes a figure, who we learn is called Monks. He discusses some mysterious business with Fagin. We learn as these two men continue their discussions that Oliver is the centre of their interest and that it is Monks’ earnest desire that Oliver ends up in jail. Monks, for some reason, does not want Oliver to die. The men are disturbed by an apparent shadow of a woman that “passe[d] along the wainscot like a breath.” Throughout this scene Monks seems to be, alternatively, intimidating and fearful, dangerous and yet nervous. The chapter ends with no resolution and no further insight into what the connection is between Fagin, Oliver, and Monks.


Thoughts


This was a very busy chapter. The character of Monks was further developed. Who might he be and how might he be further developed in the novel?

This chapter furthered our involvement with Nancy but I’m sure if it has helped us understand her more. Now, with the introduction of Monks we have another character who has a degree of mystery in him. What we do know is that both are somehow connected to Oliver. Put on your best detective cap and suggest how all these threads could be linked together.


message 5: by Peter (last edited Jul 07, 2018 04:14PM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Chapter 27

Well now, this is quite an interesting chapter beginning. Dickens does, on occasion, create an interpolation and address his readers, but I cannot recall one like we find in the beginning of Chapter 27 that is so comprehensive, so far reaching, and, I think, so tongue-in-cheek. The chapter commences with Dickens calling himself “humble” and referring to Bumble as “so mighty a personage.” Dickens goes on to refer to himself as “the historian whose pen traces these words - trusting that he knows his place” and explains what he had planned to do in this chapter but “compelled, by want of time and space, to postpone to some more convenient and fitting opportunity” he will change his tactics.


Thoughts

What tone or mood do you think Dickens was trying to establish in the first paragraph of chapter 27? To what extent was he successful?


Bumble continues his inspection of Mrs Corney’s silver and furniture “down to the very horse-hair seats of the chairs” and then goes through her chest of drawers. Mrs Corney returns and what follows is a delightfully awkward courting scene and proposal. Is it me, or is it a delightful stroke of comic genius that the first place that Bumble plans to go after leaving Mrs Corney is to call on Sowerberry the undertaker? Regardless, I love this scene and can imagine Dickens having a good chuckle over its writing as well. I also imagine that many early dramatizations of this scene were extravagantly melodramatic.

Bumble does not find Sowerberry at home but does encounter Noah Claypole and Charlotte who were enjoying a lavish dinner of oysters and liquor. Charlotte happily plies Noah with many oysters and they ready themselves for an embrace and kiss but Bumble ... well, Bumble bumbles in and admonishes them for being so amorous. Bumble is shocked at “the sin and wickedness of the lower orders in this parochial district” and believes that if parliament does not step in to such going’s on “this country’s ruined.” Bumble then stomps off into the night to end the chapter. How ironic is it that Bumble himself is just fresh from the embraces of Mrs Corney.

Thoughts


I would think that after Bumble went through Mrs Corney’s personal effects and gained a kiss or two from her that he would understand Claypole and Charlotte’s emotions, but then that would ruin the humour and the hypocrisy of this delightful chapter. Tell us what you enjoyed about this chapter.

With the re-introduction of Claypole and Charlotte and the engagement of Bumble and Corney it appears that Dickens must have some future plans for them within the novel. Can you speculate on what and how Dickens could employ these characters, both now being “paired up” in future events in the novel?


message 6: by Xan (last edited Jul 08, 2018 04:32AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Peter wrote: "Tristram is enjoying an extended family vacation this month and I will be attempting to fill his shoes. It is an impossible task, but hopefully you will bear w..."

This was a welcoming chapter. The narrator's report of tea cup and tea kettle reminded me of the very observant and clever narrator of Dickens' later books. But before I could get too comfortable enjoying him, he and I are interrupted by a knock on the door, and when the door is opened it's

ROMANCE FOR BEADLE TIME.

Now you might have thought a man of such breeding, aristocratic bearing, and sophistication as one Mr. Bumble might have some difficulty, or even reticence, navigating the shoals of romance with a woman the likes of Mrs. Corney. But never fear, this is the Beadle, and the Beadle is experienced in all things.

It takes him only minutes to maneuver Mrs. Corney into a corner and put the moves on her, and when he is interrupted, only minutes more to assay the worth of her furniture. If the Beadle is successful in his romantic endeavors, one wonders if we won't see Mr. Bumble throw Mrs Corney and her furniture in a cart along with an orphan or two and then make his way slowly, very slowly and in the rain, to London.

As to feeling sorry for Mrs. Corney, any thoughts as to that were erased from my mind upon watching her treat the Help like barnyard animals, who, if we are to be honest with ourselves, looked and acted a bit like barnyard animals while they watched over ol' Sally so they could be the first to rifle through her belongings when she kicks the bucket.

What a pleasant scene!!!

They say Dickens' writing got darker with age, but what do you call this? How many characters have you met who you'd willingly turn your back on? Maybe two. Maybe.


message 7: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments I'm trying to imagine the Beadle participating in one of our (way too many) reality shows.

The Bachelor? All the hearts THE BEADLE would break.

Survivor? My money is on THE BEADLE.

London Shore (British version of Jersey Shore)? That may be too much for even THE BEADLE.


message 8: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Xan

What great insightful and logical responses to read. You brought a big grin and chuckle to my Sunday morning. Generally, I just Bumble into my mornings, but not today.


message 9: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Thank you, Peter.

I've been thinking that the narrator has stuck a sly one past us while we weren't looking. When our man THE BEADLE is explaining to Mrs Cornby, his soon to be Steady, how to evade those pesky and pitiful beggars, doesn't he or she mention that giving them cheap, worthless burning coal is one such way to do it?

And in the next chapter, when Mrs Cornby visits the barn, doesn't one of the barnyard creatures, possibly the Apothecary assistant, say the coal being used is of such poor quality that it can't keep them warm. And doesn't Mrs Cornby respond by saying that's what THE WAISTCOAT gives them, and there's nothing to be done about it?

What with the cheap coal and all the porridge, I figure THE WAISTCOAT and THE BEADLE right about now have about a million in state funds chortled away in a nice private bank in Wales. What I'd like to see is the Dodger and Charlie Bates steal the shirts off the backs of THE WAISTCOAT and THE BEADLE.


message 10: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Thank you, Peter.

I've been thinking that the narrator has stuck a sly one past us while we weren't looking. When our man THE BEADLE is explaining to Mrs Cornby, his soon to be Steady, how to eva..."


Xan

Perfect logic. :-))


message 11: by Mary Lou (last edited Jul 08, 2018 10:57AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2519 comments Chapter 26 was quite cryptic, and hard to hang on to. Obviously there's something about Oliver that makes him different than the other boys, aside from his innocent face. The passage Peter quoted provided some clues:

"When the boy's worth hundreds of pounds to me, am I to lose what chance threw me in the way of getting safely, through the whims of a drunken gang that I could whistle away the lives of!"

But Fagin goes on...

"And me bound, too, to a born devil that only wants the will, and has the power to, to --"

Here Fagin is so wound up that he can't find the words to finish his diatribe. But what has he said thus far? Who is the "born devil" he refers to? Sikes? Monks? Someone else? And that devil "only wants the will" -- does that mean fortitude, or does "will" here describe a legal document?

Lots of questions here, but few answers!

I also highlighted the passage Peter quoted about Nancy hoping Oliver was dead. What a shocking statement! I read it as Nancy thinking Oliver was better off dead than living among this den of thieves, which one can understand. Nancy's been beaten, prostituted, and is in fear for her life, so she knows that there are worse things than death. But what truly shocked me was that she only wished this release for Oliver as long as it doesn't cause Sikes any harm! Talk about Stockholm Syndrome!


message 12: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2519 comments Re: chapter 27... I agree that Dickens meant for this chapter to be amusing but, much as I usually love Dickens' humor, I have yet to find myself grinning (let alone laughing) at anything in this novel.

Perhaps the characters are too black and white here. JK Rowling wrote, "We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on." But this early Dickens, even moreso than Pickwick, seems to have only good and evil characters, with few gray areas, with the exception, perhaps, of Nancy. Dickens, it seems, has not quite matured enough as an author to have well-rounded, more realistic characters who could be good, but still be flawed. It's with those characters that his humor shines.

Regarding Bumble and his snooping... I just finished a NF book by a former FBI profiler, and she talked about possible red flags when one finds a guest or employee in rooms - or drawers and closets - where s/he has no business being. She also cautions against assuming that just because a person holds a high profile job that s/he is beyond reproach. I imagine she would consider Bumble a character worth keeping a close eye on!


message 13: by Mary Lou (last edited Jul 08, 2018 11:33AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2519 comments Peter wrote: "with the introduction of Monks we have another character who has a degree of mystery in him. What we do know is that both are somehow connected to Oliver. Put on your best detective cap and suggest how all these threads could be linked together ..."

In my confusion about chapter 26 and all of those threads to which Peter refers, I was trying to remember if we'd ever met Monks before. I pulled out my handy Dickens Encyclopedia and looked him up to see if it might refresh my memory, and was stunned by the spoiler I read! I thought I'd figured out the gist of where Dickens was taking us - and perhaps I have, in general terms - but now I've inadvertently stumbled upon an upcoming twist (pun intended) in the plot. I must remember not to use my encyclopedia if I want the plot to unfold only as I read the book!


message 14: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Oh, Oh, Marylou, now you've got me going. A baffling twist? I've got to get back to reading this.

That's unfortunate. I'm very tolerant of spoilers. The only two spoilers that bother me are the WhoDoneIt in the WhoDoneIt, and a major plot twist. Sounds like you just got hit with one of them.


message 15: by Peter (last edited Jul 08, 2018 12:48PM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Peter wrote: "with the introduction of Monks we have another character who has a degree of mystery in him. What we do know is that both are somehow connected to Oliver. Put on your best detective c..."

Mary Lou

It is clear that you are enjoying the novel, dare I say intrigued by it? I enjoy pointing out bits that may be interesting to follow later in the novel. I hope I didn’t ruin too much.

You are right. This is a very black vs white novel, partly I would say because Dickens is still finding his writing voice and methodology of introducing and then evolving his characters. Still, at the end of his writing career, most of his characters could be easily catalogued.

The novel will pick up in its intensity now. We all need to put on our seatbelts.


message 16: by Alissa (last edited Jul 08, 2018 08:35PM) (new)

Alissa | 317 comments I enjoyed seeing Mr. Bumble in love. Besides being humorous, I thought the scene humanized him a little, to see him admire someone other than himself. It may be an egotistical love, but it's still something.

I liked seeing what Bumble does when no one is watching. The part about him counting spoons, inspecting objects, doing a dance around the table (four times!), then returning to counting objects again was hilarious!

I got the impression that he is a restless man who likes to distract himself with useless activities. Anything to avoid thinking and self-reflection. If he were to think, he might realize the errors of his ways, and he can't have that.


message 17: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments I did like seeing Bumble alone too, Alissa, but I'm not sure what to make of it.


message 18: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2519 comments Peter wrote: "I enjoy pointing out bits that may be interesting to follow later in the novel. I hope I didn’t ruin too much...."

Not a bit, Peter. Looking for these "clues" makes the reading more fun. :-)


message 19: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6381 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "I'm trying to imagine the Beadle participating in one of our (way too many) reality shows.

The Bachelor? All the hearts THE BEADLE would break.

Survivor? My money is on THE BEADLE.

London Shore..."


Gee, thanks so much for getting all the reality tv shows I've never, or almost never watched. Now my mind has been trying to remember them all ever since then. I hope I'm missing many of them. But, in my mind are

Survivor

Not just the Bachelor, but also The Bachelorette, both of which I've seen unwillingly, when my mother-in-law stays with us because she loves them both.

Dancing with the Stars, also blame my mother-in-law

Big Brother

The Voice

America's Got Talent

The Apprentice

I simply can't go on. It's overwhelming me.


message 20: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6381 comments Mod


Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea

Chapter 23

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

"The tea was made, and handed in silence. Mr. Bumble, having spread a handkerchief over his knees to prevent the crumbs from sullying the splendour of his shorts, began to eat and drink; varying these amusements, occasionally, by fetching a deep sigh; which, however, had no injurious effect upon his appetite, but, on the contrary, rather seemed to facilitate his operations in the tea and toast department.

"You have a cat, ma'am, I see," said Mr. Bumble, glancing at one who, in the centre of her family, was basking before the fire; "and kittens too, I declare!"

"I am so fond of them, Mr. Bumble, you can't think," replied the matron. "They're so happy, so frolicsome, and so cheerful, that they are quite companions for me."

"Very nice animals, ma'am," replied Mr. Bumble, approvingly; "so very domestic."

"Oh, yes!" rejoined the matron with enthusiasm; "so fond of their home too, that it's quite a pleasure, I'm sure."

"Mrs. Corney, ma'am," said Mr. Bumble, slowly, and marking the time with his teaspoon, "I mean to say this, ma'am; that any cat, or kitten, that could live with you, ma'am, and not be fond of its home, must be a ass, ma'am. [Chapter 23, "Which contains the substance of a pleasant conversation between Mr. Bumble and a lady; and shews that even a beadle may be susceptible on some points,"]


Commentary:

Having enunciated his principle about outdoor relief of sturdy paupers, Bumble takes Mrs. Corney's invitation to tea as an invitation to romance. Accordingly we should regard Cruikshank's rendition of the domestic scene as comic relief. Dickens regards Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble as irresponsible public servants who exploit positions of trust for personal gain.

Although George Cruikshank took obvious delight in depicting the budding romance of the parish beadle and the workhouse matron (a match made in the bureaucracy of the Poor Law if not in Heaven), having already depicted the self-satisfied humbug in Oliver Escapes Being Bound Apprentice to the Sweep (Part 2, March 1837), he does repeat the felicity. With an eye for the grotesque, Cruikshank must have found the notion of the courtship of Mrs. Corney by the arrogant, ridiculous Bumble irresistible, a scene which he echoed in the domestic romance of Charlotte and Noah Claypole, Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out (Part 12, March 1838), in which Bumble has a minor role, peering in at the window. Cruikshank in both instances undercuts the romance by the leering, smirking faces of the would-be lovers. The effective detailism of the furnishings and theatrical properties, including a tea kettle singing on the hob.

Cruikshank expands Dickens's description of the pair's mutually flirtatious behavior by focusing on a mother cat and three kittens romping on the carpet, before the fire, their frisky behaviour an analogue for that of amorous Bumble and simpering Mrs. Corney. And, of course, the cats suggest the sexual dimension of the scene that the writer of the early Victorian period could not directly address, although Cruikshank's animated beadle does not seem particularly "tender" in his appreciation of the widow. The bottles of freshly decanted port for the infirmary sit on Mrs. Corey's sideboard, but are not likely to be transferred to the sick ward. The style of chair in which each character sits is not covered in the text, but again Cruikshank extends the text by providing the matron a padded easy-chair and the beadle a dining-chair; on a second such chair, the beadle has deposited those signs of office (the tricorn hat and cane) that distinguish him from mere mortals. Another astute touch is Cruikshank's suggesting Mrs. Corney's vanity by the portrait of her hanging above the sideboard — one might have expected a portrait of the long-deceased Mr. Corney. And perhaps a hint of an unhappy marriage is given in the birdcage hanging from the ceiling, above the fireplace. As is consistent with the text, the teapot and cups are rather small, although the tea kettle does not strike the viewer as "the smallest of all possible kettles" . Dickens mentions "crumbs," presumably from toast, but the table is so small in the drawing that it can accommodate only the teapot, sugar bowl and tongs, milk pot, tray, and (not specified by the writer) a candle, which does not quite rise to the level of phallic symbol to externalise Bumble's describing himself "hard!" as in "hard-hearted" since he vows he would drown any cat who could live with such a comfortable woman in such a pleasant situation. Shortly the amorous encounter will be disrupted by the knocking of a female pauper who announces that "Old Sally is a-going fast", introducing the inevitable picaresque plot element.

Subsequent illustrators, too, have enjoyed to varying degrees the opportunity for visual satire that the pompous Bumble presents. Sol Eytinge, Junior, in the 1867 Diamond Edition volume that Dickens himself may very well have perused on his second American reading tour, depicts Bumble in full uniform presenting Mrs. Corney with the bottle of port, but the dual study lacks the amorous overtones of the Cruikshank plate. In contrast, Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney realized the same room and figures, although not precisely the same scene as Cruikshank's in the round, but transforms the playful cats into tranquil felines dozing before the fire as Mr. Bumble prepares to propose to the widow, tearfully considering her single marital status. Sentiment has unfortunately replaces humor, and Bumble in this illustration seems genuinely concerned about the lachrymose widow (when in fact he has just scrutinized her silverware and china). However, in 1910 Harry Furniss reinjected the humorous element and the playful cats in his visual satire of the corpulent agents of the Poor Law. He even retains the background portrait and birdcage, adding, moreover, a grandfather clock, perhaps to represent Mrs. Corney's apprehension that, at her age, she is unlikely to replace the lamented Mr. Corney — certainly it implies her affluence. Conspicuous in his drawing, however, is the door to the rear at which the knocking will shortly come, interrupting the tender moment between two venial characters who very much deserve one another.




message 21: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6381 comments Mod


Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney

Chapter 23

Sol Eytinge Jr.

1867 Diamond Edition

Text Illustrated:

"Mrs. Corney," said the beadle, smiling as men smile who are conscious of superior information, "out-of-door relief, properly managed, ma'am: is the porochial safeguard. The great principle of out-of-door relief is, to give the paupers exactly what they don't want; and then they get tired of coming."

"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Corney. "Well, that is a good one, too!"

"Yes. Betwixt you and me, ma'am," returned Mr. Bumble, "that's the great principle; and that's the reason why, if you look at any cases that get into them owdacious newspapers, you'll always observe that sick families have been relieved with slices of cheese. That's the rule now, Mrs. Corney, all over the country. But, however," said the beadle, stopping to unpack his bundle, "these are official secrets, ma'am; not to be spoken of; except, as I may say, among the porochial officers, such as ourselves. This is the port wine, ma'am, that the board ordered for the infirmary; real, fresh, genuine port wine; only out of the cask this forenoon; clear as a bell, and no sediment!"

Having held the first bottle up to the light, and shaken it well to test its excellence, Mr. Bumble placed them both on top of a chest of drawers; folded the handkerchief in which they had been wrapped; put it carefully in his pocket; and took up his hat, as if to go.


Commentary:

Although George Cruikshank made the most of his opportunities to satirize the arch hypocrite Bumble, the venial Beadle of Oliver's home parish., and his wife, formerly the widow Mrs. Corney, subsequent illustrators such as Sol Eytinge have continued the visual satire of the pair.

Sol Eytinge, Junior, in the 1867 Diamond Edition volume that Dickens himself may very well have perused on his second American reading tour, depicts Bumble in full uniform presenting Mrs. Corney with the bottle of port that technically is not his property, implying his abuse of authority. However, Eytinge's dual study lacks the amorous overtones of the Cruikshank serial plate, Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea (February 1838).


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Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney

Chapter 23

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"The tea was made, and handed in silence. Mr. Bumble, having spread a handkerchief over his knees to prevent the crumbs from sullying the splendour of his shorts, began to eat and drink; varying these amusements, occasionally, by fetching a deep sigh; which, however, had no injurious effect upon his appetite, but, on the contrary, rather seemed to facilitate his operations in the tea and toast department.

"You have a cat, ma'am, I see," said Mr. Bumble, glancing at one who, in the centre of her family, was basking before the fire; "and kittens too, I declare!"

"I am so fond of them, Mr. Bumble, you can't think," replied the matron. "They're so happy, so frolicsome, and so cheerful, that they ? ? are quite companions for me."

"Very nice animals, ma'am," replied Mr. Bumble, approvingly; "so very domestic."

"Oh, yes!" rejoined the matron with enthusiasm; "so fond of their home too, that it's quite a pleasure, I'm sure."

"Mrs. Corney, ma'am," said Mr. Bumble, slowly, and marking the time with? ? his teaspoon, "I mean to say this, ma'am; that any cat, or kitten, that could live with? ? you, ma'am, and not be fond of its home, must be a ass, ma'am.

"Oh, Mr. Bumble!" remonstrated Mrs. Corney.

"It's of no use disguising facts, ma'am," said Mr. Bumble, slowly flourishing the teaspoon with a kind of amorous dignity which made him doubly impressive; "I would drown it myself, with pleasure."

"Then you're a cruel man," said the matron vivaciously, as she held out her hand for the beadle’s cup; ‘and a very hard-hearted man besides."

"Hard-hearted, ma’am?’ said Mr. Bumble. ‘Hard?’ Mr. Bumble resigned his cup without another word; squeezed Mrs. Corney’s little finger as she took it; and inflicting two open-handed slaps upon his laced waistcoat, gave a mighty sigh, and hitched his chair a very little morsel farther from the fire.

It was a round table; and as Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble had been sitting opposite each other, with no great space between them, and fronting the fire, it will be seen that Mr. Bumble, in receding from the fire, and still keeping at the table, increased the distance between himself and Mrs. Corney; which proceeding, some prudent readers will doubtless be disposed to admire, and to consider an act of great heroism on Mr. Bumble's part: he being in some sort tempted by time, place, and opportunity, to give utterance to certain soft nothings, which however well they may become the lips of the light and thoughtless, do seem immeasurably beneath the dignity of judges of the land, members of parliament, ministers of state, lord mayors, and other great public functionaries, but more particularly beneath the stateliness and gravity of a beadle: who (as is well known) should be the sternest and most inflexible among them all.

Whatever were Mr. Bumble's intentions, however (and no doubt they were of the best): it unfortunately happened, as has been twice before remarked, that the table was a round one; consequently Mr. Bumble, moving his chair by little and little, soon began to diminish the distance between himself and the matron; and, continuing to travel round the outer edge of the circle, brought his chair, in time, close to that in which the matron was seated.

Indeed, the two chairs touched; and when they did so, Mr. Bumble stopped.

Now, if the matron had moved her chair to the right, she would have been scorched by the fire; and if to the left, she must have fallen into Mr. Bumble’s arms; so (being a discreet matron, and no doubt foreseeing these consequences at a glance) she remained where she was, and handed Mr. Bumble another cup of tea.


Commentary:

Furniss depicts them in the manner of caricature, satirizing their complacency, their love of comfort, and their lack of concern for anyone but themselves. As in the text, in the Furniss illustration tea is poured, Bumble expresses his devotion and amorousness with eye and gesture, and a family of cats play at their feet. On the sideboard (upper left) are the two bottles of wine that Bumble has expropriated from the stock ordered for the workhouse infirmary, a detail that reveals Furniss's appreciation of Dickens's pointed criticism of these self-serving "parochial officers" . Furniss exploits the possibilities of illustration by placing it in the in the midst of the text describing Mr. Bumble's visit to the widow, leaving the reader to anticipate by its caption ("Mr. Bumble brought his chair, in time, close to that in which the matron was seated. Indeed, the two chairs touched; and when they did so, Mr. Bumble stopped.") as well as by the closeness of the figures that Bumble is about to pop the marital question.

Although George Cruikshank took obvious delight in depicting the budding romance of the parish beadle and the workhouse matron (a match made in the bureaucracy of the Poor Law, if not in Heaven), having already depicted the self-satisfied humbug in Oliver Escapes Being Bound Apprentice to the Sweep (Part 2, March 1837), he now shows Bumble in love — or as much in love with somebody else as an acquisitive character such as the parish beadle can be. With an eye for the grotesque from his former career as a political cartoonist in the Regency, Cruikshank must have found the notion of the courtship of Mrs. Corney by the arrogant, ridiculous Bumble irresistible, a scene which he echoed subsequently in the adolescent romance of the infatuated housemaid Charlotte and the greedy undertaker's apprentice Noah Claypole, Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out (Part 12, March 1838), in which the fatuous Bumble has a minor role, indignantly peering in at the window. Cruikshank in both instances undercuts the romance by the leering, smirking faces of the would-be lovers. We note in the Cruikshank version of the tea-drinking scene at Mrs. Corney's the effective detailism of the furnishings and theatrical properties, including a teakettle singing on the hob. Admiring Cruikshank's choice of scene as well as his handling of it, Harry Furniss in The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) revisits both of these unlikely romance scenes, undoubtedly enjoying the opportunity to show the exploiters in love. Hat and rod, symbols of his office and public persona put aside temporarily (down left), Bumble reveals a side of his personality not seen before, and becomes utterly ridiculous in consequence in Furniss's illustration. Pailthorpe in his 1886 representation of Bumble reveals his motivation as strictly avaricious and not in the least amorous when he does a jog as he inspects Mrs. Corney's possessions while she is out of room.

The flirtatiousness of both Mrs. Corney and Charlotte is particularly delightful in these illustrations. The couple actually become charming under Charles Pears' sentimentalizing pencil, and almost serious players in Oliver's drama in James Mahoney's rendition of the same scene. Caricaturist Kyd, however, views Bumble with a probing, satirical eye, perhaps as Dickens would have us view the pompous, calculating, hypocritical embodiment of the most callous aspects of the 1834 New Poor Law.


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Mr.Bumble and Mrs. Corney

Chapter 23

Charles Pears

1912

Commentary:

Pears, like Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank, and Harry Furniss after him, mocks the Mrs. Corney, Matron of the Workhouse, and Mr. Bumble, the pompous beadle.

Dickens regards Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble as irresponsible public servants who exploit positions of trust for personal gain. If one may make a modest criticism of Pears' amiable, middle-aged couple it is simply that they are too amiable, too attractive, albeit somewhat self-centred, as well they ought to be as agents of the 1834 New Poor Law. Moreover, those readers accustomed to the details of Cruikshank and Phiz must have taken issue with the lack of context for the figures as the bare wall, ornamented only with striped wallpaper, contains no portraits, and the furnishings of the parlour, indications of Mrs. Corney's affluence, are minimised.

The problem with Pears' reinterpretation is not with the properties, which are exactly as Dickens's text specifies — Pears has even positioned a bottle of port behind Bumble, on the chest of drawers. However, one does not receive the perspective of Mr. Bumble that Mrs. Corney is affluent, a good catch from a materialistic standpoint. Rather, Pears, with an eye for beauty, even in the middle-aged, makes her physically attractive and pleasant.

Although other illustrators have given the cats a place of prominence, they must have seemed too sentimental a touch to Charles Pears, for they are not in evidence in his treatment of the tea-drinking scene in Mrs. Corney's well-appointed parlour — not nearly so lavishly furnished in Pears' plate. However, whereas in 1910 Harry Furniss reinjected the humorous element and the playful cats in his visual satire of the corpulent agents of the Poor Law, Pears dismisses the satirical note almost entirely.

In what ways, then, is Pears' reinterpretation an improvement over the work of Cruikshank and Mahoney? Pears conveys a sense of the couple, enjoying their tea and each other's company, as real people rather than as Cruikshankian caricatures. Although he includes such indications of comfortable affluence as the padded chairs, the tea service, the lace-topped chest-of-drawers, Pears does not clutter the composition with the bric-a-brac to which early Victorian taste usually ran in such a room for entertaining. His figures are intelligible as he conveys by their postures and expressions both their characters and relationships, while he uses their clothing to imply their social status. Moreover, there is not a trace of that all too Victorian failing, sentimentality, which dominates Mahoney's otherwise realistic treatment. In other words, Pears' revision of the tea-drinking scene is completely consistent with the changing tastes and attitudes of the fin de siecle, even if the dual study fails to convey much about Dickens's criticism of their egotism, veniality, and hypocrisy.


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Inexplicable conduct of Mr. Bumble when Mrs. Corney left the room

Chapter 23

Frederick W. Pailthorpe

1885

Text Illustrated:

'If you please, mistress,' said a withered old female pauper, hideously ugly: putting her head in at the door, 'Old Sally is a-going fast.'

'Well, what's that to me?' angrily demanded the matron. 'I can't keep her alive, can I?'

'No, no, mistress,' replied the old woman, 'nobody can; she's far beyond the reach of help. I've seen a many people die; little babes and great strong men; and I know when death's a-coming, well enough. But she's troubled in her mind: and when the fits are not on her,—and that's not often, for she is dying very hard,—she says she has got something to tell, which you must hear. She'll never die quiet till you come, mistress.'

At this intelligence, the worthy Mrs. Corney muttered a variety of invectives against old women who couldn't even die without purposely annoying their betters; and, muffling herself in a thick shawl which she hastily caught up, briefly requested Mr. Bumble to stay till she came back, lest anything particular should occur. Bidding the messenger walk fast, and not be all night hobbling up the stairs, she followed her from the room with a very ill grace, scolding all the way.

Mr. Bumble's conduct on being left to himself, was rather inexplicable. He opened the closet, counted the teaspoons, weighed the sugar-tongs, closely inspected a silver milk-pot to ascertain that it was of the genuine metal, and, having satisfied his curiosity on these points, put on his cocked hat corner-wise, and danced with much gravity four distinct times round the table.

Having gone through this very extraordinary performance, he took off the cocked hat again, and, spreading himself before the fire with his back towards it, seemed to be mentally engaged in taking an exact inventory of the furniture.



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"Toby Crackit Exasperates the Jew"

Chapter 25

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"See there, Faguey," he said, pointing disconsolately to his top boots; "not a drop of Day and Martin since you know when; not a bubble of blacking, by Jove! But don't look at me in that way, man. All in good time. I can't talk about business till I've eat and drank; so produce the sustainance, and let's have a quiet fill-out for the first time these three days!"

The Jew motioned to the Dodger to place what eatables there were, upon the table; and, seating himself opposite the housebreaker, waited his leisure.

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

"First and foremost, Faguey," said Toby.

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

Mr. Crackit stopped to take a draught of spirits and water, and to declare that the gin was excellent; then placing his feet against the low mantelpiece, so as to bring his boots to about the level of his eye, he quietly resumed,

"First and foremost, Faguey," said the housebreaker, "how's Bill?"

"What!" screamed the Jew, starting from his seat.

"Why, you don't mean to say — " began Toby, turning pale.

"Mean!" cried the Jew, stamping furiously on the ground. "Where are they? Sikes and the boy! Where are they? Where have they been? Where are they hiding? Why have they not been here?"

"The crack failed," said Toby, faintly.


Commentary:

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


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"Fagin!" whispered a voice close to his ear."

Chapter 26

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1871

Commentary:

"Fagin!" whispered a voice close to his ear. — James Mahoney's fourteenth illustration, Dickens has just introduced the name "Monks" in the dialogue between Fagin and the landlord of The Three Cripples:

"Will he be here to-night?" asked the Jew, laying the same emphasis on the pronoun as before.

Monks, do you mean?" inquired the land-lord, hesitating.

Hush!" said the Jew. "Yes."

Certain," replied the man, drawing a gold watch from his fob; "I expected him here before now. If you'll wait ten minutes, he'll be —" [Chapter 26, "In Which a Mysterious Character Appears Upon the Scene; and Many Things, Inseparable from This History, are Done and Performed," ]


Although Mahoney has introduced this shadowy figure in a black cape in the Frontispiece, ironically, Dickens reveals Monks' role in the story only after the object of his antipathy has once again slipped the custody of Sikes, who has deposited the wounded boy in a ditch near Chertsey, believing the boy to be dying. In the original narrative-pictorial serial sequence by George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany, the periodical reader did not encounter a pictorial realization of Monks until the June 1838 installment, whereas Dickens introduces this clandestine meeting between Fagin and Monks (designated "A Mysterious Character,") in Chapter 26, which originally was situated in Part Twelve (March 1838), at the mid-point of serialization, but was accompanied by the humorous illustration Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out at the north of England town where Oliver began his journey. The Field Lane scene by Mahoney, a species of "dark plate", occurs as an adjunct to what was originally the middle-most monthly installment of Dickens's The Adventures of Oliver Twist, a placement suggesting that Dickens felt that he had exhausted the possibilities for critiquing the institution of the workhouse, and was casting about for some fresh means of sustaining reader interest — and monthly sales of Bentley's.

Text Illustrated:

The sharp wind that scoured the streets, seemed to have cleared them of passengers, as of dust and mud, for few people were abroad, and they were to all appearance hastening fast home. It blew from the right quarter for the Jew, however, and straight before it he went: trembling, and shivering, as every fresh gust drove him rudely on his way

He had reached the corner of his own street, and was already fumbling in his pocket for the door-key, when a dark figure emerged from a projecting entrance which lay in deep shadow, and, crossing the road, glided up to him unperceived.

"Fagin!" whispered a voice close to his ear

"Ah!" said the Jew, turning quickly round, 'is that —

"Yes!" interrupted the stranger. "I have been lingering here these two hours. Where the devil have you been?"

"On your business, my dear,' replied the Jew, glancing uneasily at his companion, and slackening his pace as he spoke. 'On your business all night."

"Oh, of course!" said the stranger, with a sneer. "Well; and what's come of it?"

"Nothing good," said the Jew.



The viewer's first reaction to this scene is, "What is a well-dressed gentleman doing, consorting with the disreputable figure of Fagin in such a slum area at such a time of night?" And, indeed, the arrival of the cloaked figure and shadowed visage of "Monks" transforms the narrative from a Newgate Novel, the burglary in Chertsey having already morphed the story of the parish boy into a tale of crime and detection. (It is possible to argue that the novel from first to last is a mystery, but the term "bildungsroman" does not fit simply because Dickens does not follow Oliver in adulthood.)

Now the narrative begins to reveal Fagin's true motives in training the boy to become a thief, for Oliver will either vanish from middle-class eyes into the murky criminal underworld of London, or be incarcerated, or transported — or executed as a felon. This shadowy figure of the evil, is the subject of Sol Eytinge, Junior's character study Monks in the 1867 Diamond Edition of the novel. Whereas Mahoney, like Eytinge, was well aware of Monks's importance to the plot, Cruikshank introduces Monks later. Eytinge shows the melodramatic villain by himself, alienated, brooding, and malevolent, who considers nobody's welfare but his own. The cape in which the various illustrators clothe him is the outward and visible sign of his attempt to act in secret, so that he acts with his criminal associates under an assumed identity. His association with Fagin in Cruikshank's and Mahoney's illustrations shows that he is prepared to violate the barriers of class and propriety in order to advance his fortunes, even at the cost of Oliver's life. Cruikshank, Eytinge, and Mahoney depict the venomous older man as "a tall man wrapped in a cloak" (Ch. 34, 121; "his face averted,"), his height consistently exaggerated by his respectable top-hat. Tellingly, Fagin apparently fears even uttering his name.

Mahoney's interpretation of Monks' clandestine meeting with Fagin at Saffron Hill past eleven o'clock at night accords well with the gothic figure's surreptitious nature, similarly presented in Mahoney's Household Edition frontispiece. From the outset in the Household Edition, Monks is a significant figure in the plot — but then, Mahoney, having read the entire book before receiving the Chapman and Hall commission, would have known the entire story, whereas Cruikshank knew only as much as he had read in the monthly installments up to that point and as much as Dickens himself was prepared to reveal.

That Harry Furniss gave the black-cloaked figure of Monks holding the lantern a place of prominence (the lower left-hand corner) in Characters in the Story, the ornamental border for the title-page of the 1910 volume, suggests that the later artist felt this was a pivotal moment in the narrative, even if he felt it necessary to depict Monks with his signature hat on in both the vignette and the full-page lithograph, which we encounter immediately after Dickens's economical but telling description in the text. Furniss, guided by the author's and original illustrator's choice of scenes for the monthly engravings, introduces Monks in a scene precisely paralleling Cruikshank's in Chapter 34, Monks and the Jew (June 1838).


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Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out

Chapter 27

George Cruikshank

Text Illustrated:

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry having gone out to tea and supper: and Noah Claypole not being at any time disposed to take upon himself a greater amount of physical exertion than is necessary to a convenient performance of the two functions of eating and drinking, the shop was not closed, although it was past the usual hour of shutting-up. Mr. Bumble tapped with his cane on the counter several times; but, attracting no attention, and beholding a light shining through the glass-window of the little parlour at the back of the shop, he made bold to peep in and see what was going forward; and when he saw what was going forward, he was not a little surprised.

The cloth was laid for supper; the table was covered with bread and butter, plates and glasses; a porter-pot and a wine-bottle. At the upper end of the table, Mr. Noah Claypole lolled negligently in an easy-chair, with his legs thrown over one of the arms: an open clasp-knife in one hand, and a mass of buttered bread in the other. Close beside him stood Charlotte, opening oysters from a barrel: which Mr. Claypole condescended to swallow, with remarkable avidity. A more than ordinary redness in the region of the young gentleman's nose, and a kind of fixed wink in his right eye, denoted that he was in a slight degree intoxicated; these symptoms were confirmed by the intense relish with which he took his oysters, for which nothing but a strong appreciation of their cooling properties, in cases of internal fever, could have sufficiently accounted.

"Here's a delicious fat one, Noah, dear!" said Charlotte; "try him, do; only this one."

"What a delicious thing is a oyster!" remarked Mr. Claypole, after he had swallowed it. "What a pity it is, a number of 'em should ever make you feel uncomfortable; isn't it, Charlotte?"

"It's quite a cruelty," said Charlotte.

"So it is," acquiesced Mr. Claypole. "A'n't yer fond of oysters?"

"Not overmuch," replied Charlotte. "I like to see you eat 'em, Noah dear, better than eating 'em myself."

"Lor'!" said Noah, reflectively; "how queer!"

"Have another," said Charlotte. "Here's one with such a beautiful, delicate beard!"

"I can't manage any more," said Noah. "I'm very sorry. Come here, Charlotte, and I'll kiss yer."

"What!" said Mr. Bumble, bursting into the room. "Say that again, sir."


Commentary:

Although Dickens wrestled with the issue of the writer's control of the illustrations that would accompany his work, in this instance Dickens merely selected the title from among several which his illustrator offered him. Frederic G. Kitton reproduces the original sketch that the illustrator sent to Dickens in a letter, the pencilled image, energetically and rapidly sketched, surrounded by handwriting, that at the bottom of the sketch involving a series of possible captions:

Here . . . we find the first sketch of Noah Claypole enjoying an oyster-supper, with the following query written by the artist: "Dr. [Dear] Dickens, 'Title' wanted — will any of these do? Yours, G. Ck." The proposed titles are then given, thus: "Mr. Claypole Astonishing Mr. Bumble and 'the Natives' [i. e., Colchester Natives, or oysters]; "Mr. Claypole Indulging;" "Mr. Claypole as he Appeared when his Master was Out," — the latter being adopted.

The pencil sketch is very much like the finished etching, although Bumble is barely discernible in the window, rear. With an eye for grotesque character comedy, Cruikshank must have found the notion of the oyster-consuming scene to represent the romance of Noah and Charlotte as irresistible as that of Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney in the previous installment. Cruikshank in both instances undercuts the spirit of romance (youthful or middle-aged) by the leering, smirking faces of the would-be lovers, in this and the previous illustration Mr. Bumble and Mrs. Corney taking tea. As in the previous month's plate, too, the detailism of the furnishings and theatrical properties, including the curtained parlour door, the little keg of oysters, and Charlotte's shucking an oyster beside a laden table, contributes to the effectiveness of the illustration. In particular, we should note the framed print on the wall, a country church with a cemetery in front — an undoubted allusion to Mr. Soweberry's occupation. Finally, that we should regard this month's illustration as a companion to the previous month's is signaled by the fabric covering the back of Noah's chair: it is identical to that of Mrs. Corney's easy-chair in the earlier plate, and the chair is positioned identically. However, to emphasize Noah's stick-thin, gangly legs Cruikshank has given this easy-chair spindly legs.

Accordingly we should regard Cruikshank's rendition of the romantic interlude, about to be interrupted by the beadle (centre, rear), as yet further comic relief. Cruikshank foregrounds Dickens's description of the pair's oyster binge in which Charlotte provides and Noah consumes, possibly with a view to sexual innuendo, as is the case with the mother cat and three kittens romping on the carpet before the fire in the previous month's illustration. Subsequent illustrators, too, have enjoyed to varying degrees yet another opportunity for visual satire that the self-centered apprentice-undertaker and the fatuous and infatuated maid presents.

Subsequent studies of the couple, including Sol Eytinge's, lack any sense of romance between the pair. In the Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney reflects the same understanding of the couple, and likewise realizes a Noah who is less cartoon-like, if less visually humorous. However, in 1910 Harry Furniss reinjects the humorous element in the figure of Noah, having an indignant Bumble burst in on a shocked Charlotte (hiding her face behind her apron) and the gangly Noah in the Sowerberrys' parlour. Curiously, in his synopsis of Chapter 27, the usually astute Paul Davis does not remark upon this in flagrante delicto scene (very much an English translation of a French farce), focusing instead in his Chapter 27 (Part Twelve) summary on Bumble's determining to pop the question to Mrs. Corney now that he has been able to assess the value of her possessions and the likelihood of their becoming co-directors of the local workhouse, a sinecure as delectable to the acquisitive beadle as the widow's china and furnishings.




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Alissa | 317 comments Peter wrote: "Nancy seems, outwardly at least, to be very hard-hearted towards Oliver. She says Oliver turns her against herself and Fagin and his crew. How would you explain this comment?..."

I was surprised by Nancy's comments about wanting Oliver dead, and even stranger...wanting Sikes safe?

The only thing I can think of is that she was very drunk at the time and feeling awful about her role in corrupting Oliver. It sounds like she wants to go back to her old life before Oliver existed, when she didn't have the conflicted feelings.

I noticed that the narrator did not call her Nancy anymore, just "the girl," implying that she wasn't herself anymore.

I wondered if she was faking like Brownlow, since she's already proved she's a good actress, and the scene was written from Fagin's perspective, as he tried to "read" her behaviors. The narrator doesn't give explicit clues though, so I don't know.

Nancy is an unpredictable character, so I think anything could happen.


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Don't sigh, Mrs. Corney," said Mr. Bumble

Chapter 27

James Mahoney

Text Illustrated:

"Put out, ma'am!" exclaimed Mr. Bumble; "who has dared to —? I know!" said Mr. Bumble, checking himself, with native majesty, "this is them wicious paupers!"

"It's dreadful to think of!" said the lady, shuddering.

"Then don't think of it, ma'am," rejoined Mr. Bumble.

"I can’t help it," whimpered the lady.

"Then take something, ma'am," said Mr. Bumble soothingly. "A little of the wine?"

"Not for the world!" replied Mrs. Corney. "I couldn't, — oh! The top shelf in the right-hand corner — oh!" Uttering these words, the good lady pointed, distractedly, to the cupboard, and underwent a convulsion from internal spasms. Mr. Bumble rushed to the closet; and, snatching a pint green-glass bottle from the shelf thus incoherently indicated, filled a tea-cup with its contents, and held it to the lady's lips.

"I'm better now," said Mrs. Corney, falling back, after drinking half of it.

Mr. Bumble raised his eyes piously to the ceiling in thankfulness; and, bringing them down again to the brim of the cup, lifted it to his nose.

"Peppermint," exclaimed Mrs. Corney, in a faint voice, smiling gently on the beadle as she spoke. "Try it! There's a little — a little something else in it."

Mr. Bumble tasted the medicine with a doubtful look; smacked his lips; took another taste; and put the cup down empty.

"It's very comforting," said Mrs. Corney.

"Very much so indeed, ma'am," said the beadle. As he spoke, he drew a chair beside the matron, and tenderly inquired what had happened to distress her.

"Nothing," replied Mrs. Corney. "I am a foolish, excitable, weak creetur."

"Not weak, ma'am," retorted Mr. Bumble, drawing his chair a little closer. "Are you a weak creetur, Mrs. Corney?"

"We are all weak creeturs," said Mrs. Corney, laying down a general principle.

"So we are," said the beadle.

Nothing was said on either side, for a minute or two afterwards. By the expiration of that time, Mr. Bumble had illustrated the position by removing his left arm from the back of Mrs. Corney's chair, where it had previously rested, to Mrs. Corney's apron-string, round which it gradually became entwined.

"We are all weak creeturs," said Mr. Bumble.

Mrs. Corney sighed.

"Don't sigh, Mrs. Corney," said Mr. Bumble.

"I can’t help it," said Mrs. Corney. And she sighed again.

"This is a very comfortable room, ma'am," said Mr. Bumble looking round. "Another room, and this, ma'am, would be a complete thing."


Commentary:

Having enunciated his principle about outdoor relief of sturdy paupers, Bumble takes Mrs. Corney's invitation to tea as an invitation to romance. Accordingly we should regard Cruikshank's rendition of the domestic scene as comic relief. Dickens regards Mrs. Corney and Mr. Bumble as irresponsible public servants who exploit positions of trust for personal gain.

Although George Cruikshank took obvious delight in depicting the budding romance of the parish beadle and the workhouse matron (a match made in the bureaucracy of the Poor Law if not in Heaven), having already depicted the self-satisfied humbug in Oliver Escapes Being Bound Apprentice to the Sweep (Part 2, March 1837), he repeats the figure of Bumble, in love with Mrs. Corney's possessions, if not with the widow herself. With an eye for the grotesque, Cruikshank must have found the notion of the courtship of Mrs. Corney by the arrogant, ridiculous Bumble irresistible, a scene which he echoed in the domestic romance of Charlotte and Noah Claypole, Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out, in which Bumble has a minor role, peering in at the window. Cruikshank in both instances undercuts the romance by the leering, smirking faces of the would-be lovers.

In contrast, Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney has realised the same room and figures, but in a later chapter, in which Dickens concludes the courtship phase of the Bumble-Corney relationship. Mahoney transforms the playful cats (representative in Cruikshank of the humans' mutual flirtatiousness) into tranquil felines dozing before the fire as Mr. Bumble prepares to propose to the widow, tearfully considering her single marital status as he anticipates enjoying all her material possessions and comforts. Sentiment in Mahoney has unfortunately replaced Cruikshank's humor, and Bumble in this illustration seems genuinely concerned about the lachrymose widow (when in fact he has just scrutinized her silverware and china). Unusually in the Household Edition volume, the sentimental illustration appears only a page ahead of its textual equivalent, so that the reader is acutely aware of Bumble's true motives here, for he in the midst of recounting her tea-spoons, reweighing her sugar-tongs, and conducting a general financial appraisal of the apartment as the reader encounters the wood-engraving in the middle of the page. Bumble has laid his enormous hat to one side (right), signifying that this is a personal rather than official visit. Mrs. Bumble's bric-a-brac, tea-pot, and chest-of-drawers fill up the left-hand register, while Mahoney casts a spotlight upon the middle-aged figures comfortably ensconced before the fire with a purring cat at their feet. The enormous wardrobe immediately behind Mrs. Corney again reminds the viewer that Bumble regards Mrs. Corney as just so much property, the ultimate complement to the furnishings of this comfortable parlour. Thus, Mahoney has sentimentality (the solicitous Bumble and the tearful widow) vy for tonal supremacy with Bumble's acquisitiveness.


message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim | 6381 comments Mod


Bumble surprises Noah and Charlotte

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

Now, Mr. and Mrs. Sowerberry having gone out to tea and supper: and Noah Claypole not being at any time disposed to take upon himself a greater amount of physical exertion than is necessary to a convenient performance of the two functions of eating and drinking, the shop was not closed, although it was past the usual hour of shutting-up. Mr. Bumble tapped with his cane on the counter several times; but, attracting no attention, and beholding a light shining through the glass-window of the little parlour at the back of the shop, he made bold to peep in and see what was going forward; and when he saw what was going forward, he was not a little surprised.

The cloth was laid for supper; the table was covered with bread and butter, plates and glasses; a porter-pot and a wine-bottle. At the upper end of the table, Mr. Noah Claypole lolled negligently in an easy-chair, with his legs thrown over one of the arms: an open clasp-knife in one hand, and a mass of buttered bread in the other. Close beside him stood Charlotte, opening oysters from a barrel: which Mr. Claypole condescended to swallow, with remarkable avidity. A more than ordinary redness in the region of the young gentleman's nose, and a kind of fixed wink in his right eye, denoted that he was in a slight degree intoxicated; these symptoms were confirmed by the intense relish with which he took his oysters, for which nothing but a strong appreciation of their cooling properties, in cases of internal fever, could have sufficiently accounted.

"Here's a delicious fat one, Noah, dear!" said Charlotte; "try him, do; only this one."

"What a delicious thing is a oyster!" remarked Mr. Claypole, after he had swallowed it. "What a pity it is, a number of 'em should ever make you feel uncomfortable; isn't it, Charlotte?"

"It's quite a cruelty," said Charlotte.

"So it is," acquiesced Mr. Claypole. "An't yer fond of oysters?"

"Not overmuch," replied Charlotte. "I like to see you eat 'em, Noah dear, better than eating 'em myself."

"Lor!" said Noah, reflectively; 'how queer!"

"Have another," said Charlotte. "Here's one with such a beautiful, delicate beard!"

"I can't manage any more," said Noah. "I'm very sorry. Come here, Charlotte, and I'll kiss yer."

"What!" said Mr. Bumble, bursting into the room. "Say that again, sir."

Charlotte uttered a scream, and hid her face in her apron. Mr. Claypole, without making any further change in his position than suffering his legs to reach the ground, gazed at the beadle in drunken terror.

"Say it again, you wile, owdacious fellow!" said Mr. Bumble. "How dare you mention such a thing, sir? And how dare you encourage him, you insolent minx? Kiss her!' exclaimed Mr. Bumble, in strong indignation. "Faugh!"

"I didn't mean to do it!" said Noah, blubbering. "She's always a-kissing of me, whether I like it, or not."

"Oh, Noah," cried Charlotte, reproachfully.


Commentary:

Dickens regards the temporary romance of workhouse matron Mrs. Corney and parish beadle Mr. Bumble not merely as ridiculous, but as setting the stage for their nemesis, just as the clandestine affair between the Sowerberrys' maid, Charlotte, and the charity boy apprentice Noah Claypole will develop into mutual torment and antipathy that justly rewards them for their ill-treatment of Oliver. Thus, the scene of Noah's amorous oyster consumption in Furniss as in Cruikshank is preceded by the middle-aged flirtatiousness of Bumble and Mrs. Corney, Furniss's model here being Mr. Claypole as he appeared when his master was out (Part 12, March 1838).

Harry Furniss in The Charles Dickens Library Edition (1910) revisits both of these unlikely romance scenes, undoubtedly enjoying the opportunity to show the exploiters in love. In the Furniss treatment, however, Bumble is not merely peeping through the window (rear in Cruikshank); rather, he has burst in upon the lovers at a moment in the text when the infatuated Charlotte is about to kiss Noah. Subtly, Furniss has adjusted the scene so that the maid is no longer positioned to kiss her fellow-servant.

Bumble Surprises Noah and Charlotte, positioned in the volume some ten pages ahead of the scene realised, sets up a deliciously comedic anticipation in the reader as he or she progresses through Chapter 27. In her shock at being discovered by the parochial official in a compromising situation, Charlotte has lifted both feet off the floor as she has covered her embarrassment with the sign of her domestic status, her servant's apron. Although Noah is slow in reacting to Bumble's bursting in upon his oyster repast and romantic idyll (it cannot have been lost on readers that oysters were regarded as aphrodisiacs), Charlotte, already having screamed, has dropped an oyster and the bread-and-butter knife (lower left). Furniss makes the apron obvious as it is the outward and visible sign of Charlotte's inferior social status, her badge as a servant.

The gangly Noah, has been taken unawares as the beadle bursts into the shop's back-parlour from the space defined as "commercial" (off left) into this private space. He is still lolling awkwardly in the easy chair (presumably his master's seat) with both a pot of porter and a wine bottle strategically ready to hand between himself and Charlotte, seated rather than standing, right. Although somewhat cramped in order to accommodate the furnishings and the comic principals, the shop's back parlour seems well appointed, with prints on the walls, a cabinet surmounted by books (behind Noah), a small clock and assorted bric-a-brac (including a miniature coffin) on the fireplace mantle, behind the maid servant. The centrepiece of the interrupted feast, the small wooden keg of oysters, sits on the table behind Charlotte (right). The accumulation of these smaller items plus the figures of the lovers balances the large figure of the uniformed beadle, staff of office in hand (left). Noah is so stunned by Bumble's unexpected intrusion that he appears oblivious to the fact that his left hand is near the candle flame (centre), a symbol of sexual ardour suddenly cooled.

The glass window of the shop's parlour in the Furniss illustration has become a door with multiple panes. Behind Noah is yet another door, presumably connecting the parlour and the kitchen below stairs, where Charlotte and Noah ought to be conducting their gustatory tryst. Theatrically, the set and properties are otherwise exactly as specified in the text, although the room is of much smaller dimensions. Since Dickens has little to say about the indignant authority figure (who supervises the moral climate of the parish), Furniss has supplied such details of costume as Bumble's traditional hat, top coat, breeches. and staff of office from earlier textual descriptions. The juxtaposition of all three incommoded figures intensifies the farce, although the illustrator has avoided any suggestion of sexually tinged French situation comedy by not depicting Charlotte about to kiss Noah.

As John O. Jordan has pointed out, the clothing of all three points to their social status, real (as in the case of Bumble and Charlotte) or assumed (as in the case of the pretentious Noah). Bumble's authority as the executive arm of the parochial boards is vested in "his beadle's cocked hat, laced coat, and cane". Noah is a poser and an over-reacher, affecting a swagger and assuming a status to which, as a charity boy, he is hardly entitled by wearing the fashionable clothing of a regency "buck" and by engaging in a sexual and culinary idyll with the maid. As distinct from the illegitimate workhouse boy, Oliver, Noah is an orphan, legitimate by birth but still a case for parish charity — but still fellow apprentice Oliver's social superior. Thus, Noah, with his sense of entitlement, has been affronted by Sowerberry's promoting his rival to the role of funeral mute. Noah feels that Oliver threatens his status, although Noah is really just another lowly apprentice. He appropriates the master's chair and parlour, consumes his porter and wine, and makes love to the housemaid in the master's space rather than below stairs. He appropriates what is not his, and exploits Charlotte for sexual and culinary favours, particularly the luxury dish, the raw oysters. Thus, Noah's appropriation of his master's property (the parlour and alcohol) and authority is consistent with his earlier hectoring of Oliver which resulted in his being beaten, and with Bumble's chastising him for his presumption.


message 31: by Peter (last edited Jul 11, 2018 06:27AM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
These illustrations must have impressed the original reading audience. The words on the page clearly convey the hypocrisy of Mrs Corney and Mr Bumble. Dickens’s description of the pair in Mrs Corney’s home is clear and focussed. With the added dimension of the illustration, however, we have the visual added to the reader’s experience.

There, in front of a reader’s eyes, was an illustration of a corpulent couple in a room furnished with some taste, two liquor bottles, and a china tea set on the table with a cat and kittens playing on the floor. Surely the reading public would know the reality of the life of the workhouse population. The population of the workhouse would never eat off china, never have the luxury of two bottles of liquor within easy reach, never have a domestic setting with decent furniture and certainly never be able to enjoy the innocent joy of a cat and kittens playing around them. With a little imagination would it be too hard to believe that the cats ate just as well as the workhouse population?

There is also in the Cruikshank illustration a birdcage. The birdcage, as an icon, is suggestive of imprisonment, a lack of freedom. That it appears in the home of Mrs Corney is not surprising as she is a person also directly responsible for the running of the workhouse. Bumble, another major figure, is also pictured sitting beneath the birdcage. He too is an official responsible for the maintenance of the rules and discipline of the workhouse.

Finally, in this illustration we have a future couple. Will their marriage be one of liberation for the couple or will their union be the incarceration for one, or both Corney and Bumble?


message 32: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Alissa wrote: "Peter wrote: "Nancy seems, outwardly at least, to be very hard-hearted towards Oliver. She says Oliver turns her against herself and Fagin and his crew. How would you explain this comment?..."

I w..."


Hi Alissa

Nancy is an enigma to me. I found your comment on how Dickens moved from calling her by her name to the much more impersonal “the girl” to be revealing. The change in the appellation does move her from a personal and individual entity to the general. Furthermore, the word “girl” generalizes, and, at the same time, reminds us that Nancy is still a teenager.

This is the first time in all my readings of OT that I have paid a focussed attention to Nancy. It proves to me, once again, how much I have missed in the past.


message 33: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Kim wrote: "Dancing with the Stars, also blame my mother-in-law
..."


Yes, I missed that one. A definite since the Beadle is a born dancer. Just suit him up in a tutu.


message 34: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments I like every one of the Bumble-Corney illustrations, and I especially enjoyed the details in Pears'.


message 35: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Peter wrote: "First, who do you think Nancy is crying for - Oliver or Bill? What is your reasoning?

Nancy seems, outwardly at least, to be very hard-hearted towards Oliver. She says Oliver turns her against herself and Fagin and his crew. How would you explain this comment? ..."


Nancy may be crying about her life in general. Her hard-hearted reaction may be nothing more than resignation. Nancy may believe an early death is preferable to what will become of Oliver if he's left in the clutches of Fagin and Sikes. What with all that drinking alone with her miserable thoughts, she may prefer death herself? Does she secretly wish it would all end for her too?

As to the narrator referring to Nancy as "the girl," this might be a narrator's device to acknowledge and distinguish two Nancys, the known Nancy with mothering or sisterly instincts towards Oliver, and another, unknown Nancy who is the hardened street girl.


message 36: by Xan (last edited Jul 11, 2018 07:50AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments Ah, the final chapter for the week. And is it the case that I am fortunate enough to get two episodes of the Beadle and The Matron in the same week? Yes, I am.

Tenterhooks --> Broken bottles
+
the little something extra in the wine.

I should remember not to drink coffee around keyboards when reading Dickens.

And it's only the beginning. The Beadle professes his eternal love for the Matron, and in return the Matron accepts the Beadle's not quite audible marriage proposal. Personally, I think the dresses between newspapers sealed the deal for the Beadle, while on the Matron's part, she has no intention of telling her brand spanking new finacée about the gold locket.

What a couple!

Isn't it wonderful when the powers that be see to it that two people as deserving of each other as The Beadle and The Matron find one another?

Does anyone in this novel build a relationship upon trust?

But we're not done. No. No. No. The Beadle is the gift that keeps on giving.

He finds Noah Claypole and Charlotte as close to one another as he and the Matron were just minutes before -- so close that only slimy oysters separate the two -- and he scolds them for it. Oh, Mr. Beadle, you are indeed the gift that keeps on giving.

What a wonderful chapter.


message 37: by Mary Lou (last edited Jul 11, 2018 03:18PM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2519 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Oh, Mr. Beadle, you are indeed the gift that keeps on giving."

Pailthorpe's depiction of Mr. Bumble's jig has just jumped to the top of my list of favorite Dickens illustrations, surpassed only by Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, who also happen to be dancing. The latter fills my heart with warmth; the former, with laughter. For the first time I can remember, an illustration has surpassed Dickens' own text in my enjoyment of the scene it depicts.


message 38: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Yes, I really enjoy this week's illustrations, especially Mr. Bumble dancing! The love scenes are great too.


message 39: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Peter wrote: "In what ways are the characters of Bates, the Dodger, Crackit and Fagin further developed in this chapter?"

Dodger is crafty, so I wasn't surprised that he kept winning the game. He anticipates several moves in advance. I thought about his tendency to "dodge" things, like dodging rules, dodging consequences, and even his dodgy way of talking with his strange slang. My favorite line, "Hark, I heard the tinkler."

Master Bates is insane. I liked the part when he said he was "never more serious in his life," then laughed hysterically. And when Dickens called him a "scientific rubber." I still don't know the purpose of this character other than innuendo. Maybe all of the characters in the "den of theives" are personifications of sins?

I love that the burgular's name is Crackit. But why "flash?" He seems too relaxed, and he took his time eating dinner, to Fagin's frustration. This scene was funny.

Fagin might have some money riding on Oliver that Sikes doesn't know about. That's probably why he's nervous about Oliver's condition.


message 40: by Xan (last edited Jul 14, 2018 03:45AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments People laugh for all sorts of reasons, and some laughs can make your skin crawl. Why does Charley Bates laugh so much? I'm not sure, but he probably laughs for different reasons, and maybe one reason is that he approaches each day as if it is his last. Nothing matters.

The Dodger is clever and not without skills that would take him far in the non-criminal world. He picks up on things quickly, sees far enough into the future to weigh the consequences of actions, and most importantly, makes friends easily. The way he befriended Oliver is a good example of all three skills. I don't think Bates would be as good a thief without the Dodger at his side.

Sikes is interesting for what he possibly represents. At one time one of Fagin's kids, he is now a full grown criminal and as dangerous and as murderous as any psycho. Does Sikes' presence foretell what will become of each of Fagin's male children if they should make it to adulthood? Is this Bates' and the Dodger's fate? Does this explain Nancy's attitude towards Oliver? Why she might prefer he die now? Why she drinks and cries herself into a stupor?

Monks is a strange one. I can't tell if he is head of a criminal enterprise or is a loner who lurks in the shadows. But for some reason I'm interested in how he and Sikes get along. I suspect like oil and water.

But why does Charley laugh so much?


message 41: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2519 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: " At one time one of Fagin's kids, he is now a full grown criminal and as dangerous and as murderous as any psycho..."

I missed this little tidbit about Sikes having been one of "Fagin's kids". Interesting.

(Interesting, the associations one's brain makes -- now I'm thinking back to Jerry Lewis telethon's and "Jerry's kids". Not quite the same thing....)


message 42: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
When first I wrote my GR review on this novel, I was focused on our hero Oliver and what goody-two-shoes kind of child he is, virtuous, humble and boring, and never in any real danger of succumbing to the effects of his surroundings, nor of giving in to Fagin's and Sikes's threats. He is too good to be true, and too sanctimonious to be endured. That's mainly why I rated this novel a three-star read.

Roughly five or four years later, however, I happen to focus more on Nancy and must say that she is one of the best female characters Dickens ever wrote, and that if I had to rate the book again, I would rate it a four-star read entirely because of Nancy.

I, too, was struck by the quotation that has been discussed here already,

"’I shall be glad to have him away from my eyes, and to know that the worst is over. I can’t bear to have him about me. The sight of him turns me against myself, and all of you.’",


and I would not put it down to any hard-heartedness of Nancy's but to the fact that Oliver marks a turning point in her life in that he has aroused her conscience and her consciousness. She feels bad about her role in the plot of getting Oliver back into Fagin's clutches, but Oliver's resilience to Fagin's treatment with a view of turning him into a thief makes her conscient of how different her own life could have been.

In a way, Oliver's existence is a reproach to her own way of going through life, i.e. he makes her loathe herself and her companions, but on the other hand, Oliver's existence also awakens the better parts in Nancy's nature - those strands that were not hidden too deeply but just needed a little nudging. And that is why Nancy's feelings with regard to Oliver are so contradictory and seemingly cruel. At least, that's my humble interpretation.


message 43: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
I also noticed that we are dealing with two consecutive instalments - for Dickens's contemporary readers, they would have amounted to two months -, in which no direct information on Oliver Twist is given. Remember we left him in the last instalment, severly injured from a gunshot, and this is probably a situation in which curiosity as to his whereabouts and well-being might arise in the bosom of the average reader.

Dickens, however, keeps us on ... ahem ... tenterhooks, not only by shifting the action completely from Oliver to Mrs. Corney, a lady we have never met before, but also by later interspersing some rumour as to Oliver's death, related by Toby Crackit. Crackit may be right, but he also may be wrong, and all this keeps us in suspense.

Similarly, I found the construction of the last chapter of our two instalments returning with many apologies of having kept her waiting to Mrs. Corney, whom we met in the first chapter of this week's reading bit, rather Shandy-esque. However, I am sure we would have kept the venerable battleship Corney waiting a little bit longer if only we had been given some more information on the protagonist of our story.


message 44: by Tristram (last edited Jul 14, 2018 08:27AM) (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
I used to think that OT is a story populated with rather black-and-white characters, and even at second, and maybe, third sight, this assessment seems justifiable, but still, Dickens is very good at depicting his characters and making them work as a concept. I'll give you three examples:

The first is taken from the scene when Noah Claypole and Charlotte are eating oysters, or rather Noah is, with Charlotte preparing them for him:

”’An’t yer fond of oysters?’

‘Not overmuch,’ replied Charlotte. ‘I like to see you eat ’em, Noah dear, better than eating ‘em myself.’

‘Lor!’ said Noah, reflectively; ‘how queer!’”


Does this last sentence not brilliantly summarize Noah's self-centredness and egoism? Charlotte should think twice about linking her fate to Noah's after such a sentence, and especially after seeing his behaviour when Bumble bounces in on them, where Noah tries to present himself in the light of an innocent youth being seduced by the impudent Charlotte. In short, this boy Claypole is scum.

Second example: Mr. Bumble, the scheming hypocrite. Not only does he - as Xan so readily pointed out - express his horror at Noah and Charlotte's being surprised in the same kind of tête-à-tête that Mrs. Corney and he himself enjoyed but a few moments ago, but his declaration of love to Mrs. Corney says it all:

”’Coals, candles, and house rent-free […] Oh, Mrs. Corney, what a Angel you are!’”


My last example is Fagin: We already know him as a schemer, an egoist, a creep, but when he arrives at Sikes's place and finds Nancy sitting at a table with her head on the table board, we hear him say these words:

”’She’s been drinking,’ thought the Jew, coolly, ‘or perhaps she is only [my emphasis, T.S.] miserable.’”


I was genuinely struck by the callousness revealing itself in the "only" here. This settles it for me that Fagin is a heartless villain and that certain film adaptations, like "Dickensian", which depict him as having, deep inside him, concern for Nancy and the boys, go beside the mark.


message 45: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
I've got a last comment to make for now on a more meta-fictional level: Do you think that Dickens knew from the very start that he would introduce the sinister Mr. Monks and with him the mystery about Oliver Twist? Maybe, as he was writing the novel, he thought that some kind of background story would add more momentum and suspense to the story? Just consider how Monks first set eyes on Oliver – he happened to see the boy when he was involved in the Brownlow incident, and he immediately knew who the boy was. He can never have seen Oliver before, and still he knew that the boy is in some way connected to him? Do you think this believable?


message 46: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments I'm beginning to think Oliver is Queen Victoria's grandson, or the grandson of some equally famous individual, and he's the only one who doesn't know it. It's that or England is a lot smaller than I had thought, and it's near impossible to go from one place to another without being recognized by people who have never seen you before. Needless to say, I find the totality of these circumstances unbelievable.

Also, I'm thoroughly enjoying this despite the limitations of plot when compared to Dickens' more mature stories.

PS: Your idea that Monks is a thought-up character after the start of publication to add more substance to the Oliver story is interesting and believable. Moving forward, this book and others, will we be able to recognize other such characters?


message 47: by Tristram (new)

Tristram Shandy | 4853 comments Mod
I quite like the idea of Oliver's being Queen Victoria's grandson, but judging by the virtuous boredom the character exudes, he is probably not the Queen's grandson, but her wax figure's.

Another character that might have been inserted into the story on second thoughts and with a view to establish a background story, is Mrs. Corney herself. After all, we have never heard about her in the first half of the book.


message 48: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1340 comments Tristram wrote: "I also noticed that we are dealing with two consecutive instalments - for Dickens's contemporary readers, they would have amounted to two months -, in which no direct information on Oliver Twist is..."

Yes, this seems like very much a setting-up-the-pieces to fall into place later installment and not an installment that actually moved the story forward. I've already mentioned I'm a plot person, but the number of intriguing mysteries introduced here was too much even for me. What is the secret gold jewelry? Why is Oliver worth hundreds to Fagin? Who is Monks? Was Nancy faking her drunkenness, and did she follow Fagin back to become the woman's shadow on the wall, and if so to what purpose? What's happened to Sikes and Oliver?

I'm with Xan that the plot feels limited here, excessive rather than intriguing. I felt overly teased as a reader by this installment, and spent much of it inwardly rolling my eyes and muttering to Mr. Dickens to just get on with it please, enough!

BUT, there was that Bumble and Corney scene to make up for it, so very fun, and the constant rewarding dialogue moments like the ones Tristram points out. I do sometimes get fed up with Dickens's plotting or characterization, but there's always the immediate texture and insight of his prose to carry me through.

Speaking of Bumble and Comey--I know "sweet" was in there for the tea as a setup for romance, but after Pickwick I'm now noticing every time a hypocrite asks for sugar with tea. Can anyone think of a character who takes sugar in a Dickens novel and *isn't* a villain? I haven't paid enough attention to this to be able to answer that question at all, but I'll really be watching for it now.


message 49: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 969 comments In this day and age, at least here in the U.S., the tale is that oysters are aphrodisiacs. I thought that was why Charlotte was feeding Noah oysters as fast as he could eat them (I mean it's not like they lived by the sea.) Does anyone know if oysters were considered an aphrodisiac 150 years ago in the U.K.? And if not, why the oysters?


message 50: by Peter (last edited Jul 16, 2018 08:48PM) (new)

Peter | 3444 comments Mod
Xan

Oysters and their shells. In the past oysters were a food favoured by the poor as they were cheap. T S Eliot refers to them in “Prufrock” stanza one as such. Nowadays the oyster has a more exotic association in their apparent value, as you noted, as an aphrodisiac.

With the scene of Charlotte feeding Noah the oysters perhaps Dickens was ahead of the curve. Noah and Charlotte are poor but their scene certainly has elements of romance. That’s not a very good theory on my part but was fun to suggest nevertheless. :-))


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