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Oliver Twist > Oliver Twist Chapters 47-50

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message 1: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3209 comments Mod
Chapter 47

Hello, Fellow Curiosities

As I look at my copy of Oliver Twist it is evident that we are closing in on the final chapters of the novel. This posting is followed by only one other and then we are finished. Where does the time go? I wish I knew. What I do know is that Chapter 47 opens with a rather forlorn Fagin. We see him in the middle of the night and he looks “like some hideous phantom, moist from the grave, and worried by an evil spirit.” An unpleasant sight, but a wonderful description.

If we look at the second paragraph of the chapter we notice many other words that signal all is not well: “crouching over a cold hearth”; “wrapped in an old torn coverlet”; “a wasting candle”; “toothless gums a few such fangs as should have been a dog or rat’s.” It has come to this. To me the “wrapped in a torn coverlet” is suggestive of a burial shroud, his “toothless gums” and fangs reduce him to the state of an animal. Here there is no joy or bravado like in earlier chapters. Fagin’s time is nearly up.

Sikes arrives at Fagin’s and hands over a bundle of what I assume is stolen property. Fagin tells Sikes that he is worried that Bolter May “peach” on them. He then wonders if he himself would “peach” on Sikes, or if Charley, or the Dodger, or Nancy would. Sikes says he would kill any and all that turned against him. Fagin then awakes Bolter and has him explain what he observed when Nancy met two people on the bridge at midnight. Bolter recounts the conversation and how Nancy was asked to give up her friends, especially Monks. Bolter then continues and recounts how Nancy earlier gave Sikes a drink of laudanum so she could meet with Rose secretly. Upon hearing this Sikes makes his way home and confronts Nancy.


Thoughts

We need to pause here and collect our breath. What do you think the reason was Fagin had Bolter tell his story to Sikes? What do you think Fagin wanted Sikes’s response to be?

Which character do you dislike more — Fagin or Sikes? Why?


And now we come to one of the great scenes of Dickens. The murder of Nancy became one of Dickens great scenes to read to his audiences. Contemporary newspapers and magazines recorded that the killing of Nancy evoked horror, screams, and members of the audience fainted at the sheer terror of not only the words, but the theatrical and manic way Dickens delivered his words. Dickens’s doctor’s advised him during his last tour to forgo this scene from his readings for the sake of his health. Nancy realizes she is facing death and tries one last time to appease Sikes. She tells him that the people she saw could arrange for them to “leave this dreadful place, and far apart lead better lives, and forget how we have lived, except in prayers, and never see each other more. It is never too late to repent.”

Sikes ignores Nancy’s pleas and strikes her. In a final act and hope for mercy Nancy holds onto the white handkerchief that Rose has given her and “breathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.” As the chapter ends we read that Sikes “seized a heavy club and struck [Nancy] down.”

Thoughts


Above I asked if you disliked Fagin or Sikes more. That is, perhaps, a rather silly question. Here I will ask another question. To what extent do you have any sympathy for Nancy?


message 2: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3209 comments Mod
Chapter 48

The epigraph of this chapter is “The flight of Sikes” and I dare anyone to read this chapter in short chunks and not straightway through. Let the telephones ring and the doors knock and the dogs bark. This is one powerful and energetic chapter.

As night turned into daylight we find Sikes in his rooms with the body of Nancy. The murdered eyes of Nancy haunt Sikes. He burns the murder weapon and then washes himself but we read that there were spots of blood that he could not remove from his shirt and so he clipped those bloodied pieces out from his clothes and burnt the bloodied clothing fabric. In the back of my mind I wonder if Lady Macbeth’s “out, out, damn spot” scene is any better than this part of the chapter. Well, OK, Shakespeare gets the edge, but I do find Dickens’s description very effective. Sikes leaves the room, locks the door, and with his dog “walked rapidly away.”


Thoughts

I mentioned it earlier so I’ll ask you now — did this scene remind you of Lady MacBeth’s murder of King Duncan? How effective was Dickens in making the murder of Nancy one of shock and horror?

Can you recall any other murder in a 19C novel that surpasses this one? If so, what novel and what murder? A rather gruesome question, I know, but I am curious.



What follows in an extended narrative that follows Sikes as he flees from Nancy’s corpse. If we recall the earlier chapter where Sikes takes Oliver on his mission to rob the Maylie home we again see a full and detailed explanation of Sikes’s route. Stylistically, Dickens keeps the energy and the heightened emotions of this escape by shortening many of his sentences and repeating or contrasting words such as “he wandered over miles and miles of ground, and still came back to the same place” and “Morning and noon has passed, and the day was on the wane, and still he rambled to and fro, and up and down, and round and round and still he lingered about the same spot.” In many ways the confused, undirected, and disoriented flight of Sikes reflects very clearly on his own internal state of mind. In one public-house Sikes seeks a quiet refuge only to have a travelling salesman try and use his bloodied hat to demonstrate how the salesman’s product can remove stains. Sikes flees the public-house only to hear about the murder he has committed from people standing in front of a little post-office. The more he tries to flee the more he is haunted by his actions. Next he hears distant shouting and learns that there is a fire in a stable. In a frenzy, Sikes enters the burning building and seems immune to the flames. Within the fire Dickens tells us that Sikes “bore a charmed life.”

Thoughts

To what extent do you think Dickens used this fire and Sikes’s seeming immunity to it as a symbol? What would that symbol be? Can Dickens be suggesting that Sikes has a touch of the devil in him? Can you recall any earlier part in the novel where Dickens alluded to Sikes as being devil-like?


As the chapter nears its gripping conclusion we read that Sikes resolves to kill his dog by first hitting it on the head with a stone and then drowning it. Sikes calls the dog to him and Sikes then “stooped to attach the handkerchief to [the dog’s] throat.” The dog refuses to come when called and runs away. And so the chapter ends with the reader once again encountering suggestions of hanging. Could this be another point of foreshadowing in the novel?


message 3: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3209 comments Mod
Chapter 49

If readers of Oliver Twist need a breather after the last chapter Dickens is not about to let that happen. This chapter opens in a frenzy with Mr Brownlow arriving at his home with Monks in tow whom he has apparently kidnapped, or at least whisked away from the streets of London. Monks is therefore there reluctantly, and Brownlow has the upper hand. Monks, realizing that he is guarded closely, grumbles but has no options. As we have read the novel Mr Brownlow has been an interesting character to follow. He certainly has shown great sympathy for Oliver, and yet we have seen bursts of frustration and anger as well. He has shown great kindness for Rose, and his resolve to sort the convoluted affairs of Oliver is admirable. In this chapter we see a side of him which is new. Did he actually kidnap Monks? Is he actually daring Monk to escape? Is Brownlow resolved to go to court against Monks?

Thoughts


What is your opinion of Mr Brownlow at this point in the novel?



And then comes a real shock to us when Monks says to Brownlow “This is a pretty treatment, sir ... from my father’s oldest friend.” This was a total surprise to me. How could this be? Well, let's have Dickens explain this twist in the plot. This will take awhile, so get comfortable. Apparently, Brownlow and Monks’s father were best of friends. Monks had a sister and Monks’s father and Brownlow “knelt ... beside his only sister’s death-bed when he was yet a boy, on the morning that would — but Heaven ruled it otherwise— have made her [Brownlow’s] wife.” We then learn that Monks’s real name is Edward Leeford.

More revelations are to come. Let's all take a collective breath ...

Brownlow tells Monks that he has a brother but Monks does not believe Brownlow’s statement. Brownlow counters by saying he may know what Monks does not. We learn that Monks’s father was forced into a “wretched marriage” when he was “a mere boy” and that Monks was “the sole and unnatural issue.” Brownlow tells Monks that the marriage went from bad to worse and Monks’s parents finally separated. We learn that Monks’s father was 10 years younger than his wife. Monks’s father wandered about, made new friends with a naval officer and his two daughters. By the end of the year Monks’s father was in love with the naval officer’s elder daughter.

It then turns out that one of the relations that made Monks’s father’s life so miserable died and left his father a great deal of money. This relative lived in Rome, and his affairs were in a mess. As fate (or as a Dickens twisted tale would have it) Monks’s father suddenly dies in Rome, Monks and his mother show up, and they claim all the money. Before Monks’s father went to Rome, he came to Brownlow and left a portrait of the naval officer’s daughter. This woman, because of a “guilty love,” was pregnant and Oliver was her son. This explains the strong resemblance between Oliver and the portrait he saw in Brownlow’s home.

Monks continues to deny any knowledge of this rather lengthy explanation of Brownlow’s. We learn that the reason Brownlow went to the West Indies was to find Monks who had fled there in “consequences of vicious courses [in England]” How Brownlow knows all this we must accept within the parameters of the novel. But there is more ...

There was a will, which Monks’s mother destroyed, leaving both the secret and her wealth to Monks at her own death. It was the accidental encounter of Monks with Oliver, and Monks’s suspicion that Oliver resembled his father that spun all the above events into action. Brownlow knows about the locket at the bottom of the Thames. Monks finally is overwhelmed by Brownlow’s knowledge. He agrees to disclose all his knowledge and secrets in a statement of truth and facts and repeat it before witnesses. Brownlow also demands that Monks make restitution to Oliver.

At this point Mr Losberne bursts into the room with the news that Sikes will soon be run to ground. We learn that Harry Maylie was involved with the capture of Monks and is in the hunt for Sikes. Fagin is also being hunted and will soon be captured. The chapter ends and its readers, like you and me, are exhausted.


Thoughts


I have tried to be as succinct as possible but there is so much going on in this chapter I am sure I’ve neglected or missed something. Please add what you think we all need to know.

In all of Dickens’s novels we are subject to coincidences. This is an early Dickens novel so perhaps we need be a bit forgiving but I have to ask. To what extent did this chapter stretch your believability concerning all the coincidences?

An equally important question to ask is does it really matter? Is a great story, a great Dickens novel forgiven, if the narrative is crisp and thrilling and the dramatic devices fresh and inventive?

Why might Dickens have brought Harry Maylie back into the plot at this juncture?

What do we still need to know or find out?


message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3209 comments Mod
Chapter 50

In this chapter we bring the life of Bill Sikes and his dog to a close. To do so, Dickens takes the reader on yet another wild ride, this time to a part of London, a part of the Thames, that is even worse than all the other places we have been, if that is even possible. It is called Jacob’s Island. Jacob’s Island is the dirtiest, filthiest, muddiest and most deprived place imaginable, and that is saying a great deal after our earlier visits to Fagin’s cribs, Sikes’s rooms, and The Three Cripples. Dickens tells the readers that a person “must have powerful motives for a secret residence, or be reduced to a destitute condition indeed, who seek a refuge in Jacob’s Island.” At Jacob’s Island we find Toby Crackit, Mr Chiltling and a returned transport by the name of Kags. We learn that Fagin and Bolter have been captured, and Bet, who viewed Nancy’s body, went crazy and is in a straight-jacket. All the criminals in The Three Cripples are now are in custody (I hasten to add that the Curiosities successfully escaped into the 21C before this chapter began). We learn that Bolter will turn King’s evidence and that Fagin will be hanged within a week. We learn that a mob of people turned against Fagin and would have killed him. This mob reminds me of the mob that chased Oliver earlier in the novel. Chitling recounts how he saw blood upon Fagin’s hair and beard and how the women wanted to “tear his heart out.”


Thoughts

In terms of style it is interesting how Dickens often creates opposites in his novels for the purpose of expression and contrast. Our first mob in the novel chased Oliver through the streets. Here, the mob has turned ugly and wants to kill Fagin. What does this suggest about the nature of a mob? Overall, how effective are these binary scenes to your enjoyment of the novel?

Sikes’s dog appears in the Jacob’s Island hideaway and is soon followed by Sikes himself who looks like a ghost. Here, I find more faint allusions to Shakespeare’s MacBeth. Sikes wants to know if Nancy’s body is buried and then he thinks he hears a knocking. When Charley Bates enters the room he fears Sikes and says “Don’t come near me ... You monster.” Bates claims that he will give Sikes up “if he were to be boiled alive.” He then exclaims “Murder! Help! Down with him!” Sikes and Bates begin to fight and Sikes has his knee on Bates’s throat when the authorities are spotted.

Thoughts

More action. More violence. Dickens has certainly kept up a torrid pace. To what extent do you think all this action is too much and too close together in the chapters? Is the narrative too busy and therefore perhaps a sign of a novelist who is not yet in full control of their narrative powers and technique?


Dickens continues with the intensity of the scene and the “infuriated throng” of hundreds outside the gang’s hideout become enraged. At this point I wondered if the mob was, or had the potential to be, as wicked and evil as the criminals inside the house. Where and how, it seemed Dickens was asking, is the line between good and bad people, good and bad actions, good and evil intentions?

I will hasten to the climax of the chapter. Sikes is trapped, and decides to avoid the rabid mob through a Tom Cruise-like escape by attaching a rope to a chimney and then rappelling down the side of the building. A good plan, perhaps, but Sikes imagines he sees the eyes of Nancy, let’s out “an unearthly screech” and loses his balance. The rope around his body slips up to his neck, there is “a sudden jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung.” Sikes is dead. His dog, faithful to the end, jumped to Sikes’s shoulders, missed, and fell to the ground where his head struck a rock which “dashed out his brains.”


Thoughts

Well, that was quite the chapter. We have seen throughout the novel hints, phrases, indications and even a Cruikshank illustration that suggested or represented necks and hanging. Did you expect that there would indeed be a person actually die of hanging? Did you suspect it would be Sikes?

We are nearing the end of the novel. Dickens has been transparent about the fate of Fagin. Do you believe he will actually be killed by hanging? To what extent do you believe that if he does die by hanging, it will be portrayed in a gory manner by Dickens? Why or why not?

While Nancy was not an innocent person by any means, her death was one of extreme cruelty. Now, in this chapter, we have Sikes’s dog die a violent death. To what extent do you believe his death was necessary, and if necessary, why did Dickens make it so gruesome?


message 5: by Mary Lou (last edited Aug 11, 2018 08:30AM) (new)

Mary Lou | 2459 comments Whew... I'm exhausted. A few thoughts to start with...

First, re: Brownlow and Monks, I find the term "detained" preferable to "kidnapped". Surly as Monks is, he realizes that if he has any chance of mercy, it's going to be through Brownlow.

I found the backstory much too convoluted to make sense of, and actually had to draw a family tree of sorts to help my brain wrap around it all. Help me out here... Monks was “the sole and unnatural issue” of Leeford and his shrew of a wife, but Brownlow was to marry Monks sister who died. Is that right? Are we to assume that by "sole" Dickens is referring to those who still survive? Why was the character of the dead sister necessary to the plot at all? Was it just to lend credence to Brownlow's involvement?

Of the many coincidences I found hard to swallow, the worst is that Monks recognized Oliver and put this whole thing in motion based on a momentary interaction and his amazing resemblance to his father. But wait... I thought Oliver bore an amazing resemblance to the portrait of his mother! As most of us know, this is the first of many Dickens plots which rely heavily on look-alikes. They say everyone in the world has a doppelganger, but that so many of them should be running into one another in 19th century London in dramatic circumstances certainly does stretch one's belief.

While Nancy's refusal to take a leap of faith and accept help bothered me, I still hated to see what became of her. She didn't deserve her fate, of course, but she certainly chose it. As did poor Bullseye. Now that we've reached the end of his story, I can say I disagree with what I read about Bullseye being a representative of Sikes. I think he was more representative of Nancy. Between the two of them, I think they sum up a theme of the novel - putting one's trust in the wrong people, and the importance of choosing one's associates carefully. Unfortunately, sometimes circumstances give one few good choices, but we must always look for opportunities to climb out of the gutter (a la Bounderby in Hard Times, haha). Oliver looked for those opportunities and made the most of them. Nancy did not.


message 6: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 47

Hello, Fellow Curiosities

As I look at my copy of Oliver Twist it is evident that we are closing in on the final chapters of the novel. This posting is followed by only one other and t..."


I think Fagin is the worse because he is the great manipulator, the dishonest of the dishonest. For all his manipulations of Sikes in this scene, Fagin might as well have been the one to swing the club. Sikes, for all his brutality, is not the manipulator-schemer that Fagin is. Not because he is better, but because he is not as cunning or as capable.

That Fagin wonders if Sikes and others would turn him in is the reason he has Sikes murder Nancy: he worries that either of the two might do so, and by having the one kill the other, he rids himself of one and has power (of knowledge) over the other. Meanwhile he hasn't touched Nancy.

“A wasting candle” is the best metaphor for both Fagin's career and his life. But didn't we see this coming with the arrest of the Dodger?

Nancy is a fascinating if somewhat inscrutable character. In a way this is catharsis for her, her way of repenting. I think she practically says as much. One book I would like Dickens to have written was the story of Nancy. Now Dickens didn't do such things, but where is Jean Rhys when you need her?

Nancy deserved better, but there was no such thing as Christian forgiveness in the Victorian Era literary world that I recall.


message 7: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2459 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: " there was no such thing as Christian forgiveness in the Victorian Era literary world that I recall"

I would disagree.... kind of. I think we see forgiveness of "forbidden love" and children born out of wedlock, for example, but it always seems to be after the mother dies in childbirth or something. Or in the case of Dombey and Son, Florence wants to forgive her father and stepmother, but they are both too rigid, or guilty, or cold, or whatever, to accept forgiveness. I think you're right, that we never see forgiveness offered freely, accepted gratefully, and they all live happily ever after. The Victorians were too worried about appearances and consequences for that. We'd have to have MAJOR repentance, on a Scrooge level, for that.


message 8: by Peter (new)

Peter | 3209 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Whew... I'm exhausted. A few thoughts to start with...

First, re: Brownlow and Monks, I find the term "detained" preferable to "kidnapped". Surly as Monks is, he realizes that if he has any chanc..."


Hi Mary Lou

Yes. Too many twists and turns. My copy of Oliver Twist is packed for the move so I am relying on my memory and the commentary that I wrote a couple of weeks back for reference. Take the following with a grain of salt and forgiveness if I’m wrong.

My untangling of the knots is that Brownlow and Leeford were best friends. Brownlow was to marry Leeford’s sister but she died shortly before their marriage. I took the phrase “his only sister’s deathbed” to refer to Monks’s father’s sister. Monks is the legitimate child of Leeford and the rather dastardly older woman’s “wretched marriage.” Monks is the sole legitimate child of that union. The phrase “sole and unnatural issue” to me suggests the fact that Monks took after his mother’s personality. Thus the word “unnatural” does not refer to Monks not being the issue in a legal sense, but being rather a nasty piece of business as a child/son.

Does this help at all?


message 9: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2459 comments Yes! The use of pronouns can be tricky, as can two characters with the same last name. 🙂. The sister in question being that of the senior Mr. Leeford, rather than Monks, makes more sense. (Still, an unnecessary addition in my opinion!)


message 10: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments I got the impression that Monks is evil, since he was born from an unhappy marriage, while Oliver is good, since he was a "love child." They have the same father, Leeford, but different mothers.

Agnes had a little sister, two or three years old. I wonder if this is Rose? We still don't know Rose and Harry's story.


message 11: by Peter (last edited Aug 13, 2018 07:26AM) (new)

Peter | 3209 comments Mod
Alissa wrote: "I got the impression that Monks is evil, since he was born from an unhappy marriage, while Oliver is good, since he was a "love child." They have the same father, Leeford, but different mothers.

A..."


Hi Alissa

Yes. In Oliver Twist we certainly see the positive power of love that exists between a natural mother and her child or role model mother such as Mrs Maylie has towards Rose. On the other hand, Monks’s mother was a nasty bit of business and Monks obviously turned out poorly. Dickens often creates child-parent combinations that demonstrate what we would term the concepts of nature versus nurture.

As to Agnus’s little sister, well, it is Dickens and he does favour coincidences and connections. :-))


message 12: by Xan (last edited Aug 13, 2018 05:27AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Peter wrote: "Chapter 48

The epigraph of this chapter is “The flight of Sikes” and I dare anyone to read this chapter in short chunks and not straightway through. Let the telephones ring and the doors knock and..."


This is a fascinating chapter.

First I noted how the narrator switched from calling Nancy "Nancy" to calling her "it." That emphasizes the death, and how Sikes, by beating her continuously, transformed Nancy from a human being into a thing, a carcass.

At the same time, the word "it" serves as a euphemism conveying the horribleness of the act without providing any more graphic details to the reader than already provided. Good move given I've read that people were horrified by the vividness of the description as it is.

Well, it looks like our boy Sikes had never killed anyone before. I'm surprised; I had thought he had. But he's afraid of being caught more than he feels guilt over what he's done. He feels the hunt before even being hunted, and he's imagining every whisper is about him.

I agree that Sikes' invincibility in the fire is a symbol, but I don't think it has to do with him being a devil. Monks and Fagin are devils, not Sikes. Sikes is more your garden variety brute whose thoughts are too primitive and immediate to be devilish.

If Sikes had died during the fire, he may never have been unmasked as the killer. He could have, in a sense, gotten away with it. No, this temporary invincibility of Sikes is an omen that justice has something else in store for him. He will get his, and he will be unmasked. Note how the wheels of justice have already begun to turn as the terror takes hold of Sikes. He runs without a destination. Every whisper is about him. Every noise is justice waiting to pounce.

A few more hours of this torture and he'll be ripe for what comes next.


message 13: by Xan (last edited Aug 13, 2018 07:49AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments “consequences of vicious courses [in England]”

About what? Maybe his father's death? I'm of the opinion Monk's father was in good health and died rather suddenly. Wasn't the "friend" who died in Rome actually Monk's grandfather or the friend of his grandfather who caused the marriage problem, thus the issue over Will?

I was thinking after reading this chapter that Nancy had to die so Brownlow could threaten to implicate Monks in her murder to extort information, thus Monk's fear. But then I started wondering if those fears might be more about how his father died and what Brownlow may be willing to accuse Monks of.

Pure speculation, but so much comes at you so fast with layers of indirection that one is almost forced to speculate.


message 14: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Does Monks have syphilis of the face?


message 15: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1262 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Does Monks have syphilis of the face?"

My Penguin notes say he has epilepsy, but they don't say why they read it that way.


message 16: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1262 comments Mary Lou wrote: "Yes! The use of pronouns can be tricky, as can two characters with the same last name. 🙂. The sister in question being that of the senior Mr. Leeford, rather than Monks, makes more sense. (Still, a..."

Thanks Peter and Mary Lou for the knot untangling. I'm not even sure how many times I've read this book--I've taught it a lot, although when I teach it as a serial we don't always get to the end before the quarter, so maybe I've only read the end a few times. But the story is still always a surprise to me because I can't keep the details straight: I can never remember who the woman in the portrait is (this time I was thinking it was Oliver's aunt, Brownlow's tragic fiance) or how exactly Brownlow, Monks, and Oliver are connected. And while partly I don't remember because it's so convoluted, partly it just doesn't matter. I think it's this that's the mark of a beginning novelist: so much contrivance and coincidence and effort put into this incredibly detailed backstory that's kind of unnecessary to the plot. All we really need to know is that these people have a stake in Oliver's life, Oliver's mother did not marry his father and yet was still a nice person (whoa!), and Oliver's going to be rich. Oh, and he has an evil half-brother. I don't see why Brownlow needs a prior connection to the family at all: it would be easy enough for him to track down confessions and documents another way. He's clearly got time on his hands.

Sikes's chase scene and the descriptions of London and the mob are excellent; but what I like best is the scene at Toby Crackit's when they're all waiting around, and how the murder and subsequent crackdown has changed everything. This chapter pulls off simultaneously humor (Crackit's dialogues with Tommy) and horror (the story of what happened to Bet, and the palpable fear in the room before and after Sikes arrives) and even a hero: who would have thought Charley Bates of all people would rise to the occasion? (view spoiler) I'm impressed with Charley's loyalty to Nancy. There seems so little room for loyalty in the thieves' world, but Charley makes that room--and ultimately he's more responsible than Misters Maylie and Brownlow that Sikes gets caught.


message 17: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1262 comments Oh, and the only thing that troubles me about the Sikes chase is that while I agree with Xan that he's pretty much just a garden-variety brute (and incidentally corrupted, like so many, by Fagin, so not necessarily evil-from-the-womb like Monks), I find it difficult to believe that anyone that brutish would have as much conscience as Sikes does. The flight chapter says "Let no man talk of murderers escaping justice, and hint that Providence must sleep," and so we see how much Sikes is suffering. I would like to have such a positive view of human nature, but I'm not sure I do. I try to avoid corrupt people, but when I come across them, they tend to be pretty good at justifying their actions.


message 18: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Julie wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Does Monks have syphilis of the face?"

My Penguin notes say he has epilepsy, but they don't say why they read it that way."


Hmmm, epilepsy. His reaction to the lightning, like a strobe light? That's interesting. Can you talk in the midst of a seizure?

I thought Syphilis because of something Brownlow said about his face reflecting his mind and getting his just desserts. But I may have been seeing more there than was present. I'll have to look up that reference again. Wish I had highlighted it.


message 19: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1262 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Julie wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Does Monks have syphilis of the face?"

My Penguin notes say he has epilepsy, but they don't say why they read it that way."

Hmmm, epilepsy. His reaction to..."


Yes, I thought syphilis too because it's the standard your-sins-are-visited-on-you diagnosis. But you're right; the reaction to lightning might be a tell.


message 20: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Julie wrote: "I would like to have such a positive view of human nature, but I'm not sure I do. I try to avoid corrupt people, but when I come across them, they tend to be pretty good at justifying their actions...."

I don't see any conscience. There's no guilt, no regret, no tear shed for Nancy. His fear is for himself.


message 21: by Julie (new)

Julie Kelleher | 1262 comments Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Julie wrote: "I would like to have such a positive view of human nature, but I'm not sure I do. I try to avoid corrupt people, but when I come across them, they tend to be pretty good at justifying..."

I guess I am thinking of the kind of adolescent conscience where you don't feel bad for what you did exactly, but you're really worried your parents might find out. He doesn't mourn for Nancy, but she absolutely haunts him, and he's viscerally horrified at the sight of her corpse. It's not like he throws a rug over it because he thinks that will make it less likely he'll get caught--there's some kind of conscience and self-horror in that action.


message 22: by Xan (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Good points. And there is his assisting with the fire. Very odd. Isn't he more likely to have robbed the place?


message 23: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments Sikes's guilt didn't make sense to me. He put a gun to Oliver's head, beat Nancy, attacked his dog, and threatened to kill people on a regular basis. Now, all of a sudden he is horrified over Nancy's body? That surprised me, because I thought he had no conscience. As Xan said, we haven't seen any evidence that he feels bad for Nancy. Just fear of being caught, and maybe even superstition, with the shadow and the eyes haunting him. Or maybe it's just the writing of these chapters. I enjoyed the story a lot, but feel like Dickens is ending it too fast with too many things going on.


message 24: by Alissa (new)

Alissa | 317 comments The fire scene was a strange one. I felt like it was a symbol of trial by fire or refinement by fire, but I don't get the impression that Sikes improved in any way. I also thought that the fire scene was oddly familiar, like I've seen it before in other books and movies.

I just thought of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders about a gang of boys. One of them kills someone in a gang fight, goes on the run, and is haunted by the killing. Then, he finds a burning schoolhouse, runs into the fire, saves some kids, and dies shortly after from the injuries. His last act in life "redeems" him of his previous sins, and he becomes a town hero.

Many weird parallels to Sikes here, though he's no hero at the end.


message 25: by Xan (last edited Aug 13, 2018 02:23PM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments The mob scene reminded me of Frankenstein.

Was there a fire in Frankenstein?


message 26: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2459 comments I'm pleased to say I don't know the first thing about syphilis, and my experience with epilepsy is all of the canine variety, but one of the recognizable features Nancy mentioned was some mark on his throat. I don't think epilepsy would cause that.


message 27: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2459 comments Julie wrote: "And while partly I don't remember because it's so convoluted, partly it just doesn't matter. I think it's this that's the mark of a beginning novelist: so much contrivance and coincidence and effort put into this incredibly detailed backstory that's kind of unnecessary to the plot. ..."

YES. This is one case in which movie adaptations leaving out some of this detail may have actually helped the story which, at its heart, should have just been a simple plot of good versus evil. And good point about the portrait - so far, we can only guess at whom that may be. Is it the sister/aunt to whom Brownlow was betrothed? Agnes? Not a false lead, but not a well-fleshed out clue, either.

OT has a lot to recommend it, but having read it twice now I still don't know why it stands out more than Bleak House or many of his later novels.


message 28: by Mary Lou (new)

Mary Lou | 2459 comments Alissa wrote: "The fire scene was a strange one. I felt like it was a symbol of trial by fire or refinement by fire, but I don't get the impression that Sikes improved in any way. I also thought that the fire sce..."

I thought of baptism by fire, or a phoenix rising from the ashes, but you're right, that there was no contrition or redemption there.

I feel like there may have been a fire in Frankenstein, Xan, but I don't remember it well enough to be sure.


message 29: by Peter (last edited Aug 14, 2018 01:19PM) (new)

Peter | 3209 comments Mod
Julie wrote: "Mary Lou wrote: "Yes! The use of pronouns can be tricky, as can two characters with the same last name. 🙂. The sister in question being that of the senior Mr. Leeford, rather than Monks, makes more..."

Julie

Yes. These final chapters of OT are certainly convoluted. Still, I often scratch my head at some of the coincidences and revelations found in the later novels as well. I guess it is part of the Dickensian reading experience.


message 30: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "I'm pleased to say I don't know the first thing about syphilis, and my experience with epilepsy is all of the canine variety, but one of the recognizable features Nancy mentioned was some mark on h..."

I also know nothing about syphilis, but I am rather an expert on epilepsy, if having it for 50 years makes me an expert. As far as I know I have never been able to speak during any of my seizures, regardless of what kind they are - I have both grand mal and petit mal seizures (both of which are called by different names now, but I don't know or care why), if I talk during them no one has ever mentioned it to me. Bright lights are awful for me, if not for seizures, then for migraines, so I just avoid the. Blinking computer screens aren't any of my favorites either which is why my time on them is limited. And I would love to know if any characters in novels who have epilepsy are ever any of the good guys. It doesn't seem like it. :-)


message 31: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "The mob scene reminded me of Frankenstein.

Was there a fire in Frankenstein?"


:-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoL6a...


message 32: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod


The Foul Deed

Chapter 47

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

There was a candle burning, but the man hastily drew it from the candlestick, and hurled it under the grate. Seeing the faint light of early day without, the girl rose to undraw the curtain.

'Let it be,' said Sikes, thrusting his hand before her. 'There's enough light for wot I've got to do.'

'Bill,' said the girl, in the low voice of alarm, 'why do you look like that at me!'

The robber sat regarding her, for a few seconds, with dilated nostrils and heaving breast; and then, grasping her by the head and throat, dragged her into the middle of the room, and looking once towards the door, placed his heavy hand upon her mouth.

'Bill, Bill!' gasped the girl, wrestling with the strength of mortal fear,—'I—I won't scream or cry—not once—hear me—speak to me—tell me what I have done!'

'You know, you she devil!' returned the robber, suppressing his breath. 'You were watched to-night; every word you said was heard.'

'Then spare my life for the love of Heaven, as I spared yours,' rejoined the girl, clinging to him. 'Bill, dear Bill, you cannot have the heart to kill me. Oh! think of all I have given up, only this one night, for you. You shall have time to think, and save yourself this crime; I will not loose my hold, you cannot throw me off. Bill, Bill, for dear God's sake, for your own, for mine, stop before you spill my blood! I have been true to you, upon my guilty soul I have!'

The man struggled violently, to release his arms; but those of the girl were clasped round his, and tear her as he would, he could not tear them away.

'Bill,' cried the girl, striving to lay her head upon his breast, 'the gentleman and that dear lady, told me to-night of a home in some foreign country where I could end my days in solitude and peace. Let me see them again, and beg them, on my knees, to show the same mercy and goodness to you; and let us both leave this dreadful place, and far apart lead better lives, and forget how we have lived, except in prayers, and never see each other more. It is never too late to repent. They told me so—I feel it now—but we must have time—a little, little time!'

The housebreaker freed one arm, and grasped his pistol. The certainty of immediate detection if he fired, flashed across his mind even in the midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all the force he could summon, upon the upturned face that almost touched his own.

She staggered and fell: nearly blinded with the blood that rained down from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising herself, with difficulty, on her knees, drew from her bosom a white handkerchief—Rose Maylie's own—and holding it up, in her folded hands, as high towards Heaven as her feeble strength would allow, breathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.

It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down.


Commentary:

Although not especially lurid, Pailthorpe addresses the murder directly, rather than after the fact, as in the original serial and the Household Edition illustration of James Mahoney in which Sikes is dragging the dog out of the room, leaving Nancy's corpse sprawled on the floor in "He moved, backwards, towards the door: dragging the dog with him" in Chapter 48, "The Flight of Sikes."

The readers of the 1871 Household Edition find an illustration that anticipates both the murder and its aftermath, in Chapter 47, "Fatal Consequences," before the quarrel between the common-law spouses even begins. The Mahoney illustration of a passage in Chapter 48 describing Nancy's body bleeding profusely from the face occurs on page 177, just the page before the textual passage in Chapter 47, setting up within the reader a sense of anticipation and dread not present in the original Cruikshank engravings. In the Charles Dickens Library Edition, Harry Furniss in a lithograph resembling the so-called "dark plates" of Hablot Knight Browne again realizes the murder only indirectly, with only the hands of Sikes and Nancy clearly visible in the terrible darkness as the murder is occurring.

In contrast, Pailthorpe (perhaps responding to popular conceptions about the nature of the criminal mind) depicts Sikes as a Neanderthal throwback raising his club to strike Nancy again; all the details from the text are evident, including Sikes' pistol. In melodramatic fashion, a lurid, theatrical light plays over Nancy's dress as she screams in agony — making this the most sensational British nineteenth-century illustration of the horrific scene made famous on both sides of the Atlantic by Dickens's own dramatic reading of the violent scene in his tours of the United Kingdom and eastern seaboard of the United States (1842, 1867).

Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank in the January 1839 number of Bentley's Miscellany provided the scene in which Sikes, having murdered Nancy as a police collaborator, attempts to drown the only witness to the deed — his dog, Bull's-Eye.


message 33: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod


The Death of Nancy

Chapter 47

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

The housebreaker freed one arm, and grasped his pistol. The certainty of immediate detection if he fired, flashed across his mind even in the midst of his fury; and he beat it twice with all the force he could summon, upon the upturned face that almost touched his own.

She staggered and fell: nearly blinded with the blood that rained down from a deep gash in her forehead; but raising herself, with difficulty, on her knees, drew from her bosom a white handkerchief — Rose Maylie's own — and holding it up, in her folded hands, as high towards Heaven as her feeble strength would allow, breathed one prayer for mercy to her Maker.

It was a ghastly figure to look upon. The murderer staggering backward to the wall, and shutting out the sight with his hand, seized a heavy club and struck her down.


Commentary:

Dickens's orginal illustrator, George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany does not depict Nancy's murder, for such a grisly scene would undoubtedly have been regarded as far too gruesome a scene for family reading, but he does show the deed's effects on the killer in Sikes attempting to destroy his dog (January 1839) and The Last Chance (February 1839), both illustrations already having appeared in the final volume of Richard Bentley's triple-decker in November 1838. The readers of the Household Edition find an illustration that anticipates both the murder and its aftermath, in Chapter 47, "Fatal Consequences," before the quarrel between the common-law spouses even begins.

Furniss leaves the reader in utter puzzlement in this dark plate, so that the reader must piece together the murder scene largely from what Dickens has written. The lithograph offers a second dark plate of the scene made famous by Dickens's thrilling reading of it in Britain and America, the first being the 1871 Household Edition illustration by James Mahoney, who builds up a very different sort of suspense by focusing not on the grisly deed but on its immediate consequences. Accepting the inevitability of Nancy's death as soon as they encounter the illustration, situated in Chapter 47, readers likely would wonder how Sikes will elude detection, and whether authorities will recognise that Sikes committed the murder at Fagin's instigation. In "He moved, backwards, towards the door: dragging the dog with him", Mahoney leaves the reader to imagine the violent scene that has resulted in the contorted body lying in a pool of light on the floor.

Thus, the Furniss illustration is the later artist's response to the Household Edition rather than the serial edition illustration. Whereas Cruikshank shows the psychological impact of the murder on Sikes, like Mahoney Furniss attempts the actual murder scene less obliquely by placing the viewer at the very scene, only moments after the commission of the crime, as Sikes exits the room with his dog. Several later illustrators have depicted Sikes as a throwback to the Neanderthal, with a club for a weapon, although in fact he uses the butt of his pistol initially to inflict his murderous rage upon the woman who but recently has tended him through an illness after the abortive Chertsey robbery. The Pailthorpe illustration is somewhat misleading in this respect as, having already struck Nancy once, Sikes raises his club for the death-blow in A Foul Deed (1886). Likewise, J. Clayton Clarke ("Kyd") in his watercolour study of Sikes, Bill Sikes (circa 1900) shows a grim-faced killer and an overturned chair suggesting that he is about to attack Nancy.

Whereas, albeit in a dimly lit garret, the reader can discern Nancy's body in the foreground and Sikes and Bull's-Eye exiting to the rear in the Mahoney dark plate, in the Furniss illustration the room is engulfed in darkness. Nancy raises the handkerchief recently given her by Rose Maylie, a suggestion of Desdemona's handkerchief in the murder scene in Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Othello. The same shaft of light that reveals the handkerchief descends to Sikes's raised left hand and the club in his right. Thus, Furniss in this highly atmospheric dark plate conveys the writer's horror at the brutality and injustice of Nancy's murder, the direct result of an awakening conscience attempting to protect Oliver from Monks's evil designs. The technique itself is Furniss's homage to another early Dickens illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne who pioneered the style in Bleak House:

Both in combination with and transcending this model the illustrator employs the dark plate technique to convey graphically what is for the Dickens novels a new intensity of darkness. [Steig, Chapter 6, p. 131]


message 34: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod


Sikes attempting to destroy his dog

Chapter 48

George Cruikshank

Test Illustrated:

He acted upon this impluse without delay, and choosing the least frequented roads began his journey back, resolved to lie concealed within a short distance of the metropolis, and, entering it at dusk by a circuitous route, to proceed straight to that part of it which he had fixed on for his destination.

The dog, though. If any description of him were out, it would not be forgotten that the dog was missing, and had probably gone with him. This might lead to his apprehension as he passed along the streets. He resolved to drown him, and walked on, looking about for a pond: picking up a heavy stone and tying it to his handerkerchief as he went.

The animal looked up into his master's face while these preparations were making; whether his instinct apprehended something of their purpose, or the robber's sidelong look at him was sterner than ordinary, he skulked a little farther in the rear than usual, and cowered as he came more slowly along. When his master halted at the brink of a pool, and looked round to call him, he stopped outright.

"Do you hear me call? Come here!" cried Sikes.

The animal came up from the very force of habit; but as Sikes stooped to attach the handkerchief to his throat, he uttered a low growl and started back.

"Come back!" said the robber.

The dog wagged his tail, but moved not. Sikes made a running noose and called him again.

The dog advanced, retreated, paused an instant, and scoured away at his hardest speed.

The man whistled again and again, and sat down and waited in the expectation that he would return. But no dog appeared, and at length he resumed his journey.


Commentary:

To heighten the contrast between Sikes's terrible, unnatural deed and the blameless lives of working people beyond the metropolis, Dickens transports the tormented burglar and killer to the fields and copses north of London, in the area of Hertfordshire about Hatfield. Although the Cruikshank illustration of Sikes and his dog may not be as effective as the author would have liked, it nevertheless underscores the unnaturalness of the housebreaker in so natural and uncontaminated a setting. Returning to town upon the eve of the publication of the novel by Richard Bentley in three volumes on 9 November 1838, in a note to the publisher the day before Dickens, having finally reviewed these late illustrations, responded with extreme negativity to just two of the final six: Sikes with his dog, and Oliver with the Maylies, which Dickens firmly requested be thoroughly revised.

Either [Dickens's business agent, John] Forster magnified the author's objections, or Dickens's temper cooled remarkably overnight [i. e., on the evening of 8 November 1838]. In a temperate letter to Cruikshank the next day, he said nothing about Sikes and his dog (which Forster felt resembled a "tail-less baboon" and even [William M.] Thackeray thought badly drawn). Dickens mentioned only the final sentimental scene . . . [Cohen 22]

After the terrifying scene in chapter 47 in which Sikes brutally assaults Nancy with a pistol butt and then staves her head in with a club, the novel transports Sikes and the reader to the tranquil landscape north of London as Sikes makes his way to Hatfield in chapter 48. With his unique markings, Bull's-eye is a liability, but the clever dog avoids Sikes' grasp when the ruffian attempts to drown him. However, in spite of his master's changed attitude towards him, Bull's-Eye remains loyal, sticking by Sikes and shadowing him when he returns to the gang's hideout in Jacob's Island on the Thames. While in the little village of Hatfield, near the great house built by Sir Robert Cecil in 1611 (replacing the late 15th c. palace on this site where the future Queen Elizabeth spent part of her childhood, and held her first council of state as monarch in 1558), Sikes visits the nearby Eight Bells, a public house familiar to Dickens when as a young reporter in 1835 he covered the disastrous fire that destroyed much of the Jacobean mansion. Dick Turpin, the infamous highwayman, is reputed to have jumped from the second-storey of The Eight Bells onto his steed, Black Bess, to avoid capture by the Bow Street Runners, an historical feature that may have prompted the young author to associate the brutal burglar with the public house.

Here, the fugitive Sikes hears passengers just alighted from a London coach discussing the recently discovered murder of a woman in Spitalfields, so that he now realizes that hue and cry is about to be raised for him. When a conflagration breaks out in the manor house, Sikes heroically joins the firefighters and works tirelessly to save as much property as possible. Tony Lynch in Dickens' England adds that Dickens uses this occasion to insert what amounts to a topical allusion in having Sikes (perhaps suddenly struck by altruism, but more likely tempting Providence to punish him) fight the fire, for "Dickens was in fact remembering the fire of 1835 at Hatfield House".

Fire engines and crews came from as far away as London to fight the conflagration in which the first Marchioness of Salisbury died. Whereas the meeting of Nancy and Oliver's friends on London Bridge in chapter 46 brings the novel geographically into the world of the reader, the reference to the Hatfield Fire cements the date for the concluding action of the novel as about four years prior to the date of composition. By dramatizing Sikes as one of the firefighters at the bucolic village of Hatfield (perhaps seen on the northern horizon in the Cruikshank illustration for chapter 48) Dickens intersects his own life with that of one of his most notorious villains.

Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series offers three illustrations depicting the sensational events in the final days of the Hogarthian blackguard: the dark plate The Death of Nancy, the humorous taproom scene at The Eight Bells, The Flight of Bill Sikes, and the peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The End of Sikes, the 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney depicts Sikes's dragging his dog away from the corpse in He moved backward, towards the door: dragging the dog with him, but does not focus at all upon the murder's flight northward, resolving his story with the scene on the roof-tiles of the gang's hideout at Jacob's Island rookery with And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. In contrast, Dickens's chief American illustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior, offers a very different portrait of the dissolute, depressed criminal and his bedraggled doxy in chapter 39, but has no illustrations inserted into the chapters in which Sikes murders Nancy and flees.

Whereas Cruikshank provides visual continuity by dressing Sikes in much the same clothing throughout, and consistently pairs Sikes with his dog, Mahoney seems to have chosen to avoid depicting Sikes in these later chapters, for he is clearly seen only in the rooftop scene (without his signature white hat) after his earlier appearances as an intimate associate of Fagin: "You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?" and the robbery scenes at Chertsey, Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch and "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!". The Sikes in his penultimate appearance is curiously unemotional, and so much of Dickens's description of him is lacking entirely in the illustration (the noose, the rock, and the futile attempt to entice the dog), so that the criticism that Cruikshank took little care in translating text into image here at least seems fully justified; however, wisely Dickens decided to pick a battle with the illustrator over this drawing, and instead focused on the demerits of the so-called Fireside plate with which Cruikshank intended to conclude the narrative-pictorial sequence by showing Oliver reunited with his relatives, his fortune and identity restored.




message 35: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod


"He moved, backwards, toward the door: dragging the dog with him."

Chapter 48

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

He struck a light, kindled a fire, and thrust the club [which he had employed in bludgeoning Nancy] into it. There was hair upon the end, which blazed and shrunk into a light cinder, and, caught by the air, whirled up the chimney. Even that frightened him, sturdy as he was; but he held the weapon till it broke, and then piled it on the coals to burn away, and smoulder into ashes. He washed himself, and rubbed his clothes; there were spots that would not be removed, but he cut the pieces out, and burnt them. How those stains were dispersed about the room! The very feet of the dog were bloody.

All this time he had, never once, turned his back upon the corpse; no, not for a moment. Such preparations completed, he moved, backward, towards the door: dragging the dog with him, lest he should soil his feet anew and carry out new evidence of the crime into the streets. He shut the door softly, locked it, took the key, and left the house.


Commentary:

Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithograph offers a dark plate of the scene made famous by Dickens's thrilling reading of it in Britain and America, with only the hands of Sikes and Nancy clearly visible in the terrible darkness as the murder is occurring, the 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney builds up a very different sort of suspense by focussing not on the grisly deed but on its immediate consequences. Accepting the inevitability of Nancy's death as soon as they encounter the illustration, situated in Chapter 47, readers likely would wonder how Sikes will elude detection, and whether authorities will recognise that Sikes committed the murder at Fagin's instigation. In He moved, backwards, towards the door: dragging the dog with him, Mahoney leaves the reader to imagine the violent scene that has resulted in the contorted body lying on the floor.He does not even permit more than glimpse of the "ghastly figure" as he moves the dog away from "the pool of gore" surrounding the lifeless head. Mahoney illuminates the grotesque scene by natural light, throwing Nancy's head and arms into glaring chiaroscuro, intensifying the deep shadows, and drawing the viewer's eye diagonally upward to the left and the retreating Sikes, and to the overturned potted plant on the window-ledge (right), suggestive of the violence of the struggle just ended, and perhaps even a symbol of a young woman cut down in her prime. A telling detail derived directly from the text is "paper-mended window" that implies the low quarters that the couple have been living in since the robbery. The illustrator, however, shows the body from the waist up, whereas Sikes has apparently covered the entire corpse with a rug. Mahoney deemed it important that Nancy be recognisable.


message 36: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod


The antic fellow and Sikes

Chapter 48

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

There were two buyers directly, and more of the listeners plainly hesitated. The vendor observing this, increased in loquacity.

"It's all bought up as fast as it can be made," said the fellow. "There are fourteen water-mills, six steam-engines, and a galvanic battery, always a-working upon it, and they can't make it fast enough, though the men work so hard that they die off, and the widows is pensioned directly, with twenty pound a-year for each of the children, and a premium of fifty for twins. One penny a square! Two half-pence is all the same, and four farthings is received with joy. One penny a square! Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains, pitch-stains, mud-stains, blood-stains! Here is a stain upon the hat of a gentleman in company, that I'll take clean out, before he can order me a pint of ale."

"Hah!" cried Sikes starting up. "Give that back."

"I'll take it clean out, sir," replied the man, winking to the company, "before you can come across the room to get it. Gentlemen all, observe the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat, no wider than a shilling, but thicker than a half-crown. Whether it is a wine-stain, fruit-stain, beer-stain, water-stain, paint-stain, pitch-stain, mud-stain, or blood-stain —

The man got no further, for Sikes with a hideous imprecation overthrew the table, and tearing the hat from him, burst out of the house.


Commentary:

Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank, did not illustrate the scene at the tap-room at the Eight Bells at Hatfield. Instead, he provided the scene in which Sikes, escaping possible arrest in London, attempts to drown the only witness to the deed — his dog, Bull's-Eye.

Having brutally murdered Nancy in Chapter 47 on the supposition that she has impeached on the gang, Sikes escapes northward. While in the little village of Hatfield, near the great house built by Sir Robert Cecil in 1611 (replacing the late 15th c. palace on this site where the future Queen Elizabeth spent part of her childhood, and held her first council of state as monarch in 1558), Sikes visits the nearby Eight Bells, a public house familiar to Dickens when as a young reporter in 1835 he covered the disastrous fire that destroyed much of the Jacobean mansion. Dick Turpin, the infamous highwayman, is reputed to have jumped from the second-storey of The Eight Bells onto his steed, Black Bess, to avoid capture by the Bow Street Runners, an historical feature that may have prompted the young author to associate the brutal burglar with the public house.

Here, the fugitive Sikes hears passengers just alighted from a London coach discussing the recently discovered murder of a woman in Spitalfields, so that he now realizes that hue and cry is about to be raised for him. When a conflagration breaks out in the manor house, Sikes heroically joins the firefighters and works tirelessly to save as much property as possible. Tony Lynch in Dickens' England adds that Dickens uses this occasion to insert what amounts to a topical allusion in having Sikes (perhaps suddenly struck by altruism, but more likely tempting Providence to punish him) fight the fire, for "Dickens was in fact remembering the fire of 1835 at Hatfield House" (109).

Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series offers three illustrations depicting the sensational events in the final days of the Hogarthian blackguard: the dark plate The Death of Nancy, the humorous taproom scene at The Eight Bells, The Flight of Bill Sikes, and the peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The End of Sikes, the 1871 Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney depicts Sikes's dragging his dog away from the corpse in He moved backward, towards the door: dragging the dog with him, but does not focus at all upon the murder's flight northward, resolving his story with the scene on the roof-tiles of the gang's hideout at Jacob's Island rookery with And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. Like Furniss a quarter-of-a-century later, Pailthorpe attempts to describe the scene in the taproom at The Eight Bells when a mountebank (an "antic fellow") tries to make Sikes's blood-stained hat the object of a demonstration of the efficacy of a patent product that removes stains. Sikes responds with fear and suspicion when the enterprising salesman grabs his hat. Compare Pailthorpe's caricatural treatment with the more impressionistic style in Furniss's The Flight of Bill Sikes after the Murder.


message 37: by Kim (new)

Kim | 5978 comments Mod


The Flight of Sikes after the Murder

Chapter 48

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"This," said the fellow, producing one, "this is the infallible and invaluable composition for removing all sorts of stain, rust, dirt, mildew, spick, speck, spot, or spatter, from silk, satin, linen, cambric, cloth, crape, stuff, carpet, merino, muslin, bombazeen, or woollen stuff. Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains, pitch-stains, any stains, all come out at one rub with the infallible and invaluable composition. If a lady stains her honour, she has only need to swallow one cake and she’s cured at once — for it's poison. If a gentleman wants to prove this, he has only need to bolt one little square, and he has put it beyond question — for it's quite as satisfactory as a pistol-bullet, and a great deal nastier in the flavour, consequently the more credit in taking it. One penny a square. With all these virtues, one penny a square!"

There were two buyers directly, and more of the listeners plainly hesitated. The vendor observing this, increased in loquacity.

"It's all bought up as fast as it can be made," said the fellow. "There are fourteen water-mills, six steam-engines, and a galvanic battery, always a-working upon it, and they can't make it fast enough, though the men work so hard that they die off, and the widows is pensioned directly, with twenty pound a-year for each of the children, and a premium of fifty for twins. One penny a square! Two half-pence is all the same, and four farthings is received with joy. One penny a square! Wine-stains, fruit-stains, beer-stains, water-stains, paint-stains, pitch-stains, mud-stains, blood-stains! Here is a stain upon the hat of a gentleman in company, that I'll take clean out, before he can order me a pint of ale."

"Hah!" cried Sikes starting up. "Give that back."

"I'll take it clean out, Sir," replied the man, winking to the company, "before you can come across the room to get it. Gentlemen all, observe the dark stain upon this gentleman's hat, no wider than a shilling, but thicker than a half-crown. Whether it is a wine-stain, fruit-stain, beer-stain, water-stain, paint-stain, pitch-stain, mud-stain, or blood-stain —"


Commentary:

Although depicting Sikes in the public house at Hatfield seems a logical way of suggesting Sikes's unease after the murder, no previous illustrator had attempted this scene. A relatively minor character, the mountebank, in daring to snatch the stained hat from the housebreaker's head, becomes a significant catalyst for the killer's becoming more and more certain that "murder will out." The tension is between the two urbanites, the salesman (standing, dominating the image, arms stretched wide as he delivers his histrionic pitch for the product in his hand) and the housebreaker, heavy of body and possessing the skull and features of a Neanderthal).

In the original serial illustrations, since Oliver has now effectively disappeared because he is out of danger, the narrative shifts the reader's attention Nancy and Sikes, first to her murder and then to Sikes's futile attempts to escape both human and divine justice. Frederic W. Pailthorpe in his 1886 series of twenty-one engravings moves directly from Sikes's grisly crime in The Foul Deed, to Sikes's consternation at the loss of his blood-stained hat in The antic fellow and Sikes (1886). However, whereas Pailthorpe is working in the earlier caricatural tradition of George Cruikshank and Hablot Knight Browne, Furniss here is working in the more realistic, three-dimensional style of the Household Edition illustrators Fred Barnard and James Mahoney.

Having brutally murdered Nancy in Chapter 47 on the supposition that she has impeached on the gang, Bill Sikes now escapes northward. While in the little village of Hatfield, near the great house built by Sir Robert Cecil in 1611 (replacing the late 15th c. palace on this site where the future Queen Elizabeth spent part of her childhood, and held her first council of state as monarch in 1558), Sikes visits the nearby Eight Bells, a public house familiar to Dickens when as a young reporter in 1835 he covered the disastrous fire that destroyed much of the Jacobean mansion. Dick Turpin, the infamous highwayman, is reputed to have jumped from the second-storey of The Eight Bells onto his steed, Black Bess, to avoid capture by the Bow Street Runners, an historical feature that may have prompted the young author to associate the brutal burglar with the public house. Moreover, the 1835 fire enables Dickens to have the fictional Sikes enter an historical event recollected by many of his serial readers, lending the story the aura of documentary, even down to the costumes of the village chorus and signs advertising ale and cider in this picture.

Here, the fugitive Sikes, having rushed out of the inn, overhears passengers just alighted from a London coach outside the local post-office discussing the recently discovered murder of a woman in Spitalfields, so that he now realizes that hue and cry is about to be raised for him. Shortly, when a conflagration breaks out in the manor house, Sikes heroically joins the firefighters and works tirelessly to save as much property as possible. Tony Lynch in Dickens' England adds that Dickens uses this occasion to insert what amounts to a topical allusion in having Sikes (perhaps suddenly struck by altruism, but more likely tempting Providence to punish him) fight the fire, for "Dickens was in fact remembering the fire of 1835 at Hatfield House".

Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series offers three illustrations depicting the sensational events in the final days of the Hogarthian blackguard — the dark plate The Death of Nancy, this humorous taproom scene at The Eight Bells, and the peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The End of Sikes — in the 1871 Household Edition volume the illustrator, James Mahoney, depicts Sikes's dragging his dog away from Nancy's corpse in He moved backward, towards the door: dragging the dog with him, but does not focus at all upon the murderer's flight northward, resolving his story with the scene on the roof-tiles of the gang's hideout at Jacob's Island rookery with And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet.

Like Pailthorpe a quarter-of-a-century earlier, Furniss shows Sikes responding with fear and suspicion when the enterprising salesman grabs his hat in order to remove its stain. The scene, indicated by the high wooden settle in which the massive Sikes lounges (right), is the public house's taproom. occupied by the kinds of village character whom one finds in such scenes in the fiction of Wessex novelist Thomas Hardy and George Eliot — the village character under the mountebank's arm even wears the linen smock frock of an agricultural labourer, in contrast to the urban salesman's great-coat. Between Sikes, reaching for his hat, and the salesman is the latter's case of samples. The illustrator shows Sikes as somewhat incapacitated, probably by excessive drinking and fatigue from his epic, eighteen-mile walk from the Spitalfields in the East End of London north to the village of Hatfield.


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"Don't come near me you monster!"

Chapter 50

Frederic W. Pailthorpe

1886

Text Illustrated:

'Damn you all!' said Sikes, passing his hand across his forehead.

'Have you nothing to say to me?'

There was an uneasy movement among them, but nobody spoke.

'You that keep this house,' said Sikes, turning his face to Crackit, 'do you mean to sell me, or to let me lie here till this hunt is over?'

'You may stop here, if you think it safe,' returned the person addressed, after some hesitation.

Sikes carried his eyes slowly up the wall behind him: rather trying to turn his head than actually doing it: and said, 'Is—it—the body—is it buried?'

They shook their heads.

'Why isn't it!' he retorted with the same glance behind him. 'Wot do they keep such ugly things above the ground for?—Who's that knocking?'

Crackit intimated, by a motion of his hand as he left the room, that there was nothing to fear; and directly came back with Charley Bates behind him. Sikes sat opposite the door, so that the moment the boy entered the room he encountered his figure.

'Toby,' said the boy falling back, as Sikes turned his eyes towards him, 'why didn't you tell me this, downstairs?'

There had been something so tremendous in the shrinking off of the three, that the wretched man was willing to propitiate even this lad. Accordingly he nodded, and made as though he would shake hands with him.

'Let me go into some other room,' said the boy, retreating still farther.

'Charley!' said Sikes, stepping forward. 'Don't you—don't you know me?'

'Don't come nearer me,' answered the boy, still retreating, and looking, with horror in his eyes, upon the murderer's face. 'You monster!'

The man stopped half-way, and they looked at each other; but Sikes's eyes sunk gradually to the ground.

'Witness you three,' cried the boy shaking his clenched fist, and becoming more and more excited as he spoke. 'Witness you three—I'm not afraid of him—if they come here after him, I'll give him up; I will. I tell you out at once. He may kill me for it if he likes, or if he dares, but if I am here I'll give him up. I'd give him up if he was to be boiled alive. Murder! Help! If there's the pluck of a man among you three, you'll help me. Murder! Help! Down with him!'

Pouring out these cries, and accompanying them with violent gesticulation, the boy actually threw himself, single-handed, upon the strong man, and in the intensity of his energy and the suddenness of his surprise, brought him heavily to the ground.



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The Last Chance

Chapter 50

George Cruikshank

Text Illustration

The man had shrunk down, thoroughly quelled by the ferocity of the crowd, and the impossibility of escape; but seeing this sudden change with no less rapidity than it had occurred, he sprang upon his feet, determined to make one last effort for his life by dropping into the ditch, and, at the risk of being stifled, endeavouring to creep away in the darkness and confusion.

Roused into new strength and energy, and stimulated by the noise within the house which announced that an entrance had really been effected, he set his foot against the stack of chimneys, fastened one end of the rope tightly and firmly round it, and with the other made a strong running noose by the aid of his hands and teeth almost in a second. He could let himself down by the cord to within a less distance of the ground than his own height, and had his knife ready in his hand to cut it then and drop.

At the very instant when he brought the loop over his head previous to slipping it beneath his arm-pits, and when the old gentleman before-mentioned (who had clung so tight to the railing of the bridge as to resist the force of the crowd, and retain his position) earnestly warned those about him that the man was about to lower himself down — at that very instant the murderer, looking behind him on the roof, threw his arms above his head, and uttered a yell of terror.

"The eyes again!" he cried in an unearthly screech.

Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up with his weight, tight as a bow-string, and swift as the arrow it speeds. He fell for five-and-thirty feet. There was a sudden jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand.

The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely. The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy, thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called to the people to come and take him out, for God's sake.

A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and forwards on the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting himself for a spring, jumped for the dead man’s shoulders. Missing his aim, he fell into the ditch, turning completely over as he went; and striking his head against a stone, dashed out his brains.


Commentary:

Although other illustrators may have presented more satisfactory and consistent images of Sikes's companion, Bull's-Eye, Cruikshank is without equal in his depiction of the powerfully built, thirty-five-year-old burglar coolly assessing how he may yet elude capture by daring to drop from a rooftop on Jacob's Island. Thinking to avoid detection and capture, Sikes hopes to throw the authorities off the scent by returning to the vicinity of the crime scene, hoping to lay low for a few days in fellow-burglar Toby Crackit's safe-house on Jacob's Island (only truly an island in those days when the tide was in) before slipping across the Channel to start a new life in France. In Dickens's England, Tony Lynch notes that the modern tourist, searching the London grid, will be hard pressed to find revenants of Jacob's Island, a byword for vice, crime, and deplorable sanitation in Dickens's time.

Jacob's Island once lay a mile to the east of London Bridge on the south side of the River Thames. The area has long since been 'improved away' and now forms that part of Bermondsley bounded by Mill Street, Jacob Street and George Row. In the 1830s the island — so named because it was cut off at high tide by a stretch of water known as Folly Ditch — was a maze of narrow, muddy alleyways between grim tenement buildings . . . . [Lynch 122]

However, the squalid slum retained something of its original character even at the turn of the century with its wooden, two-storey houses assembled from material left over from wharf construction and ship-building. In the 1830s it rivalled Field Lane as a centre of vice and crime — and is therefore the logical locale for Toby Crackit's safe-house and Sikes's demise. The multiple chimneys of the houses at Jacob's Island prove instrumental in Sikes's accidental hanging.

With all the cockiness of a young writer who thought he knew a great deal about illustration, Dickens had written to Cruikshank "that the scene of Sikes' escape will not do for illustration. It is so very complicated, with such a multitude of figures, such violent action, and torch-light to boot, that a small plate could not take in the slightest idea of it." Fortunately for generation after generation of readers of the novel, the illustrator did not heed Dickens's warning. According to Robert L. Patten in his 1996 biography George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art, Volume 2: 1835-1878, the illustrator

chose to ignore Dickens's advice that the death of the housebreaker could not be represented (cover). The "multitude of figures" is indicate by the onlookers leaning out of tenement windows. The "torch-light" is suggested by the illumination picking out the wall, the chimney, and Bill's leg and features. The "violent action" is recapitulated by the structure, a collision of verticals with diagonals, and by the imagery, which moves from the background of scudding clouds and frantically gesturing neighbors to the foregrounded tiles of the vertiginous roof thrust forward onto the picture's front plane, up to Bull's-eye perched precariously on the apex of the roof, around the chimney and down through the rope to the ominous dangling noose and the strong T of the guttering. The streaming tails of Bill's Belcher neckerchief identify the wind whipping past (a trick Cruikshank had used in plate IV of The Progress of a Midshipman) and signify that potential for hanging which has been applied so often to so many characters in this parable. The abrupt recession on the houses behind, whose distance is exaggerated by their diminution, reads as an analogue of the steep drop into Folly Ditch below. "the tiles of the roof," Swinburne said, "and the stack of chimneys and glimmering walls and lattices and the smoke-swept sky . . . give the fittest and the fearfullest relief to the imminence of [Sikes's] doom" [Charles Dickens, 1913, p. 13]. At the intersection of these dizzying, energized spaces, the housebreaker balances, legs and arms straining to hold himself stable by means of the very hemp that will shortly terminate his frantic activity. The whole plate is a bravura pictorial narration, fully in accord with Dickens's vivid prose yet independent and supplementary, a similar story told by different means. The preliminary drawing is captioned as Cruikshank saw the scene verbally: "Sykes endeavouring to escape by fixing the rope around the stock of chimneys by which he is killed." — "Oliver Twist and the 'Apples of Discord'," pp. 87-88.

Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series offers three illustrations depicting the sensational events in the final days of the Hogarthian blackguard: the dark plate The Death of Nancy, the humorous taproom scene at The Eight Bells, The Flight of Bill Sikes, and the peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The End of Sikes (see below), the 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney depicts Sikes's raging at his pursuers from the roof top of the gang's hideout at Jacob's Island rookery with And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. In contrast, Dickens's chief American illustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior, offers a portrait of the dissolute burglar and his bedraggled doxy in chapter 39, but has no illustrations inserted into the chapters in which Sikes murders Nancy, flees, and in a sensational scene worthy of dramatist Dion Boucicault falls to his death in a final bid to cheat the law.

With a sharper eye for detail than his illustrator's, Dickens undoubtedly noticed that the parapet over which Sikes stares at the mob below is missing from the illustration, that Cruikshank (perhaps to show all of the malefactor's face and form) has substituted the strong horizontal of a rain-gutter for the parapet, that the case-knife Sikes intends to employ is not evident, — and that the illustrator, probably to avoid cluttering the composition, has deprived Sikes of enough rope to hang himself, let alone get himself down from the roof. Nevertheless, whereas Mahoney's Sikes almost snarls over the parapet, Cruikshank's coolly appraises both the people below and his situation as he braces himself for his descent — unaware that Bull's-Eye is on the other side of the chimney. Even as Sikes believes that he is going to elude his pursuers, the reader apprehends through the facing page of text that Sikes, suddenly unmanned by thinking that he sees Nancy's eyes, grossly miscalculates at the critical juncture and inadvertently hangs himself. Cruikshank's figure of the redoubtable rogue is infinitely better conceived than that of Sikes's dog. Moreover, Cruikshank's conception of the scene, utilizing people at four windows below Sikes, is charged with energy and conveys a sense of his being high above the surrounding houses, but, unphased by the danger of his precarious position as he trusts to the stoutness of his legs and arms, he assesses the spot that he should make for when he jumps. The wind blows back his neckerchief, smoke scuds past him, and the background buildings are lightly rendered or obscured (suggesting fog and smoke), contrasting the sharply realised figure on the rooftop, but he is undeterred and, despite his brutal nature, admirable in his determination. Juxtaposed against the pillar-like Sikes is the centrally positioned noose, which Sikes appears not to consider as he looks down.

Whereas Cruikshank provides visual continuity by dressing Sikes in much the same clothing throughout, and consistently pairs Sikes with his dog even in this final scene, Mahoney seems to have chosen to avoid depicting Sikes in these later chapters, for he is clearly seen only in this rooftop scene after his earlier appearances as an associate of Fagin: "You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?" and the robbery scenes at Chertsey, Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch and "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!". The Sikes in his ultimate appearance in Mahoney's sequence rages at the mob below, but the illustrator offers a closeup that precludes showing the onlookers or attempting to indicate the height from which Sikes surveys the scene, so that one can appreciate Cruikshank's middle-distance perspective that allows us to see eight denizens of Jacob's Island pointing upward and leaning out of their windows to getter a better view of the sensational chase scene as the authorities close in upon the murderer. In retrospect, Cruikshank realized that this is one of the most dramatic scenes in the novel, and accordingly selecting it as one of the eleven scenes on the 1846 monthly wrapper that he designed for Chapman and Hall. To the Victorian reader Sikes's accidental self-hanging would have been an affirmation of divine intervention in the affairs of humanity rather than mere coincidence or miscalculation.




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And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet

Chapter 50

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

"The tide," cried the murderer, as he staggered back into the room, and shut the faces out, "the tide was in as I came up. Give me a rope, a long rope. They're all in front. I may drop into the Folly Ditch, and clear off that way. Give me a rope, or I shall do three more murders and kill myself."

The panic-stricken men pointed to where such articles were kept; the murderer, hastily selecting the longest and strongest cord, hurried up to the house-top.

All the window in the rear of the house had been long ago bricked up, except one small trap in the room where the boy was locked, and that was too small even for the passage of his body. But, from this aperture, he had never ceased to call on those without, to guard the back; and thus, when the murderer emerged at last on the house-top by the door in the roof, a loud shout proclaimed the fact to those in front, who immediately began to pour round, pressing upon each other in an unbroken stream.

He planted a board, which he had carried up with him for the purpose, so firmly against the door that it must be matter of great difficulty to open it from the inside; and creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet.

The water was out, and the ditch a bed of mud.


Commentary:

Thinking to avoid detection and capture, Sikes hopes to throw the authorities off the scent by returning to the vicinity of the crime scene, hoping to lay low for a few days in fellow-burglar Toby Crackit's iron-shuttered safe-house on Jacob's Island (only truly an island in those days when the tide was in) before slipping across the Channel to start a new life in France.


Mahoney's illustration features the roof and parapet, but not that one of the many chimneys of the houses at Jacob's Island that proves instrumental in Sikes's accidental hanging. Whether he realised it or not, in focusing on the figure of Sikes Mahoney was actually addressing a series of objections that Dickens had posed to Cruikshank regarding making the escape scene the subject of an illustration for the forthcoming Bentley triple-decker:

I find on writing it, that the scene of Sikes's escape will not do for illustration. It is so very complicated, with such a multitude of figures, such violent action, and torch-light to boot, that a small plate could not take in the slightest idea of it. ["6 October 1838," Letters, Vol. 1, p. 440]

The 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney depicts Sikes's studying his pursuers from the roof top of the gang's hideout at Jacob's Island rookery in "And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet".

Suggesting the frantic nature of the pursuit of the murderer through the blurred tiles and the pent-up energy in Sikes's facial expression, Mahoney examines neither Sikes' defiant posture nor his embattled situation, but his state of mind — his psychology as, like Shakespeare's Macbeth "bayed about by many enemies," with feral cunning and grim determination Sikes coolly appraises his odds of success in climbing down to the mudflats and escaping the pursuing mob. In the Household Edition, the picture does not tell the story, but it does prepare the reader for the climactic scene of Sikes's accidental hanging. Cruikshank reinforces the narrative aspect of his illustration by providing visual continuity by dressing Sikes in much the same clothing throughout, and consistently pairs Sikes with his dog even in this final scene. In the Mahoney sequence, we have lost track of the burglar as Mahoney seems to have chosen to avoid depicting Sikes in these later chapters, for he is clearly seen only in this rooftop scene after his earlier appearances as an associate of Fagin: "You are on the scent, are you, Nancy?" and the robbery scenes at Chertsey, Sikes, with Oliver's hand still in his, softly approached the low porch and "Directly I leave go of you, do your work. Hark!". Sikes in his ultimate appearance in Mahoney's sequence studies the mob below, but the illustrator offers a closeup that precludes showing the onlookers or attempting to indicate the height from which Sikes surveys the scene below, so that one can appreciate Cruikshank's middle-distance perspective that allows us to see eight denizens of Jacob's Island pointing upward and leaning out of their windows to getter a better view of the sensational chase scene as the authorities close in upon the murderer. The deliberately out-of-focus tiles and blurred background may indicate the influence of early photography as the illustrator employs a selective focus on the fugitive. In retrospect, Cruikshank realized that this is one of the most dramatic scenes in the novel, and accordingly selecting it as one of the eleven scenes on the 1846 monthly wrapper that he designed for Chapman and Hall. To the Victorian reader Sikes's accidental self-hanging would have been an affirmation of divine intervention in the affairs of humanity rather than mere coincidence or miscalculation.


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The Death of Sikes

Chapter 50

Harry Furniss

1910 Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"The eyes again!" he cried in an unearthly screech.

Staggering as if struck by lightning, he lost his balance and tumbled over the parapet. The noose was on his neck. It ran up with his weight, tight as a bow-string, and swift as the arrow it speeds. He fell for five-and-thirty feet. There was a sudden jerk, a terrific convulsion of the limbs; and there he hung, with the open knife clenched in his stiffening hand.

The old chimney quivered with the shock, but stood it bravely. The murderer swung lifeless against the wall; and the boy, thrusting aside the dangling body which obscured his view, called to the people to come and take him out, for God's sake.

A dog, which had lain concealed till now, ran backwards and forwards on the parapet with a dismal howl, and collecting himself for a spring, jumped for the dead man's shoulders. Missing his aim, he fell into the ditch, turning completely over as he went; and striking his head against a stone, dashed out his brains.


Commentary:

Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany provided a sensational rooftop scene to complement Sikes's accidentally hanging himself in the text in The Last Chance (Part 22, February 1839). The present lithograph is Furniss's response to that original engraving, and also to the James Mahoney wood-engraving for Chapter 50 in the third volume of the Household Edition, And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. In the present lithograph, a cartoon-like Bull's-Eye looks curiously down the length of taught rope, presumably at his master in his death throes.

Dickens's original illustrator, George Cruikshank in Bentley's Miscellany depicts the very moment before Sikes falls to his death, a victim of Nemesis, followed shortly by his faithful dog, the enforcer of his master's will. And so the tormentors of Oliver and the murderer are punished by Fate — or coincidence. The readers of the Household Edition find an illustration that anticipates both Sikes's fall and Bull's-Eye's disclosure before the fatal event.

Whereas Harry Furniss in his 1910 lithographic series offers three illustrations depicting the sensational events in the final days of the Hogarthian blackguard — the dark plate The Death of Nancy, the humorous taproom scene at The Eight Bells, The Flight of Bill Sikes, and this peculiar rendition of Sikes's hanging in which Sikes himself is not in the frame at all, The End of Sikes, the 1870s Household Edition illustrator James Mahoney depicts Sikes's studying his pursuers from the roof top of the Toby Crackit's hideout on Jacob's Island rookery in And creeping over the tiles, looked over the low parapet. In contrast, Dickens's chief American illustrator, Sol Eytinge, Junior, offers a portrait of the dissolute burglar and his bedraggled doxy in chapter 39, but has no illustrations inserted into the chapters in which Sikes murders Nancy, flees, and in a sensational scene worthy of dramatist Dion Boucicault falls to his death in a final bid to cheat the law. F. W. Pailthorpe (1886) effectively dramatizes how the gang respond to Sikes's crime with the recently arrived Charley Bates's denunciation of him at the safe-house, "Don't come near me, You monster!" Furniss's approach is more oblique, and requires more imaginative engagement of the reader.

The dark blotch on the wall of the safe-house may represent the shadow cast by Sikes's lifeless body. That something upon which readers' imaginations must work lies outside the lower left frame is signalled by Bull's-Eye's gaze and the downward pointing gestures of the denizens of Jacob's Island at their windows, a detail borrowed from the Cruikshank original. Opposite the proleptic illustration, ten pages before the passage realised, Furniss's readers would have seen the description of the people watching the drama unfolding on the rooftop opposite:

In such a neighborhood, beyond Dockhead in the Borough of Southwark, stands Jacob’s Island, surrounded by a muddy ditch, six or eight feet deep and fifteen or twenty wide when the tide is in, once called Mill Pond, but known in the days of this story as Folly Ditch. It is a creek or inlet from the Thames, and can always be filled at high water by opening the sluices at the Lead Mills from which it took its old name. At such times, a stranger, looking from one of the wooden bridges thrown across it at Mill Lane, will see the inhabitants of the houses on either side lowering from their back doors and windows, buckets, pails, domestic utensils of all kinds, in which to haul the water up; and when his eye is turned from these operations to the houses themselves, his utmost astonishment will be excited by the scene before him. Crazy wooden galleries common to the backs of half a dozen houses, with holes from which to look upon the slime beneath; windows, broken and patched, with poles thrust out, on which to dry the linen that is never there; rooms so small, so filthy, so confined, that the air would seem too tainted even for the dirt and squalor which they shelter; wooden chambers thrusting themselves out above the mud, and threatening to fall into it — as some have done; dirt-besmeared walls and decaying foundations; every repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage; all these ornament the banks of Folly Ditch.

In Furniss's illustration which calls for imaginative recreation of the moment of Sikes's death, the artist has provided a wilderness of blackened chimneys, blotched and cracking walls, and spectators at their windows, sashes thrown up. Thus, the picture of the moments after the murder relies for its complete decoding on the material on the facing page which establishes the particulars of the unsavoury setting, Sikes's last resort, hardly the haunt of a dashing highwayman of the John Gay variety; in his ending as in his life, Bill Sikes has proven to be no Captain Macheath from the 1726 ballad opera. There is no romance on Sikes's gloomy road.


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Here is what Kyd thought of Nancy and Bill:






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Nancy (advertisement for performance at His Majesty's Theatre, London, January 1, 1850)


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Death of Bill Sikes

Dwight C. Sturges

1920


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Advertisement showing how much the appearance of Bill Sykes, villain of ''Oliver Twist'' by Charles Dickens, would be if he gave up his clay pipe and smoked ''Pioneer' cigarettes instead. From ''The Illustrated London News'', London, 1900.


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Kim

What a variety of illustrations. I am truly speechless/wordless at Kyd’s portrayal of Nancy.

Of all the Sikes illustrations I like Cruikshank’s the best. Not only do I think Cruikshank has captured the moments before Sikes slips and falls with great clarity and drama, but also because I can’t see Dickens’s objections being logical.

As always I found the commentaries interesting and informative. As Nancy dies so does my hope that any of the illustrations of her would match my mental image of her formed throughout OT. Funny how some characters become so vivid in one’s mind.

I found the Harry Furniss illustrations a bit disappointing this time. I guess everyone has an off week or two.


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Kim wrote: "Advertisement showing how much the appearance of Bill Sykes, villain of ''Oliver Twist'' by Charles Dickens, would be if he gave up his clay pipe and smoked ''Pioneer' cigarettes instead. From ''Th..."

This is too funny. Just imagine a time when smoking cigarettes was thought to improve one’s looks. Now that’s some stretch for an advertisement.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Kim wrote: "Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "The mob scene reminded me of Frankenstein.

Was there a fire in Frankenstein?"

:-)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SoL6a..."


Thank you, Kim. That's truly awful, the acting I mean. But those electrodes in the neck are iconic. Is there a more iconic symbol than them?

Now if that scene, or something like it, was in the book (I can't remember), then we have a model for Dickens fire and mob.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Kim wrote: "The Foul Deed

In contrast, Pailthorpe (perhaps responding to popular conceptions about the nature of the criminal mind) depicts Sikes as a Neanderthal throwback raising his club to strike Nancy again..."


I think the phrase "Neanderthal throwback" is a synonym for "brute," so Pailthorpe get 3 merit points for interpretation and 2 demerits for the backhanded slap. This isn't tennis.


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Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 890 comments Kim wrote: ""He moved, backwards, toward the door: dragging the dog with him."

Chapter 48

James Mahoney

1871 Household Edition..."



I like the way the illustration of the immediate aftermath of Nancy's murder forces the reader/viewer to think about the brutality of the murder itself. This is very well done, in my opinion, so 5 merit points to Mahoney. I'm liking a lot of Mahoney's work.


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