Mr. Bumble and Oliver Twist
Approximately 7 x 5 inches (17.9 x 12.4 cm)
From Character Sketches from Dickens, facing p. 32, illustrating the following: "Oliver was then led away by Mr. Bumble from the wretched home . . . . And yet he burst into an agony of childish grief, as the cottage-gate closed after him. . . . . Mr. Bumble walked on with long strides; little Oliver, firmly grasping his gold-laced cuff, trotted beside him."
Scanned image, caption, and commentary below by Philip V. Allingham
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Very early in the novel, the pompous beedle, Mr. Bumble, Dickens's satirical personification of the antiquated British laws that regulate the lives of the poor and underprivileged, removes the youthful protagonist from the only real home he has known in his first eight years of life, Mrs. Mann's "baby farm," and returns him to the penitentiary-like orphanage. In this first instalment of the novel (February 1837), Mr. Bumble accompanies a crying, disoriented Oliver on his ninth birthday from Mrs. Mann's establishment. The text accompanying Copping's realization of the scene on the high road, "Oliver Twist Returns to the House," occurs Chapter 1, "Treats of the Place where Oliver Twist was Born, and of the Circumstances attending his Birth."
Oliver Twist first appeared as a serial in Bentley's Miscellany during the years 1837-38. In it Dickens assailed the abuses of the poor-law and workhouse system. "I have yet to learn," he said, "that a lesson of the purest good. may not be drawn from the vilest evil. I saw no reason, when I wrote this book, why the dregs of life, so long as their speech did not offend the ear, should not serve the purpose of a moral, at least as well as its froth and cream." By his effort many of the evils of his own time were reformed or abolished, and Oliver Twist stands to-day as the indictment that brought about the change in the poor law system. Oliver Twist, an orphan, was born in a workhouse and left to the tender mercies of church-wardens and overseers. He was, a year or two later, "farmed out" with other boys to an old lady, Mrs. Mann, who lived three miles away, and who was paid by the Parish to " bring them up."Oliver's ninth birth-day found him a pale, thin child, somewhat diminutive in stature, and decidedly small in circumference. The first incident extracted from the story is his transference from Mrs. Mann back to "the house" under Mr. Bumble's guidance, and is followed by that incident which has become world-wide in renown, when he had the temerity to ask for more gruel.
Matz, B. W., and Kate Perugini; illustrated by Harold Copping. Character Sketches from Dickens. London: Raphael Tuck, 1924. Copy in the Paterson Library, Lakehead University.