Page 1


OLIVER! November 30 through December 29

Curriculum and Study Guide


Oliver! Table of Contents Performance Policies and Procedures

2

New York State Learning Standards

4

Audience Role and Responsibility

16

One-Minute Etiquette Reminder

17

Technical Elements

18

Dramatic Criticism

19

Lionel Bart

23

Charles Dickens’ Works

24

Setting, Synopsis, Characters

26

Vocabulary

28

Background

35

Questions for After Reading the Story or Script

59

Post-Performance Questions

60

For Further Discussion

61

Writing Assignments

62

Arts Activities

63

Quotations from the Play

64

Works Consulted

65

Dramaturgical research for Oliver! prepared by Pat Pederson, Education Associate; curriculum activities prepared by Richard Keller. 1


PERFORMANCE POLICIES AND PROCEDURES WHEN TO ARRIVE AT THE THEATRE: We recommend you arrive at the theatre at least 30 minutes prior to the performance to allow time for seating. This is a professional theatre production and will start at the scheduled time. BUS DROP OFF AND PARKING: Busses not staying may load and unload at the Centro bus stop on East Genesee Street. Bus parking is available along East Genesee Street at the bagged meters. Cars must make arrangements in parking facilities as they will be ticketed if parked at the bagged meters. SEAT ASSIGNMENTS: As each seat at Syracuse Stage is reserved and performances are often standing room only, students must sit in their assigned seats. For reasons of convenience, efficiency, and courtesy, we request that students do not trade seats. Regardless of the number in your block of seats, we request that this rule is respected. We ask that chaperons and teachers do not sit together but sit evenly distributed throughout the students. LATECOMERS: Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of the Management. There is no late seating below Row F. BACKPACKS, CAMERAS, AND WALKMANS: Backpacks, cameras and tape recorders (including Walkmans) are strictly prohibited in the theatre. As we do not have storage facilities for these items at Syracuse Stage, we ask that you leave them at school or on the bus. PHOTOGRAPHY: Cameras (flash or otherwise) are strictly prohibited in the theatre. Union rules do not allow the taking of pictures during a production and flash cameras are a distraction to both acting company and audience. FOOD, DRINK AND GUM: There is absolutely no food, drink, or gum allowed in the theatre. Please leave snacks and lunches on the bus. Students will be asked to leave the theatre to remove any food items or the items will be taken and not returned. INTERMISSION REFRESHMENTS: Soda will be available during intermission. Pepsi, Diet Pepsi and 7Up will be offered for $1.00 (exact change will be appreciated). Reminder: You must dispose of all snack items before reentering the theatre. AUDIENCE ETIQUETTE: Live performance theatres require behavior different from that required in the movie theatres. Please review theatre etiquette with your students before attending the performance. If any student becomes disruptive to the point of interference with the performers or other audience members, the chaperon will be asked to remove that student.

2


POST-SHOW FOLLOW UP: Performances at Syracuse Stage are funded by grants, corporations, and individuals. They do want to hear from you. We ask students and teachers to write the sponsors with your likes and dislikes and to let the sponsors know that the student matinees are an important program. Please: 1] Write thank you letters to the sponsors to let them know that this is an important program. (Names and addresses can be obtained from the Director of Education.) 2] Write to Syracuse Stage with suggestions to improve your theatre experience. 3] Call the Director of Education if you have any questions or if there is an issue that requires immediate action. Thank you in advance for the work you put into helping Syracuse Stage present the student matinee program. We hope that the season entertains and enlightens you and your students. Part of the art of living is living with the arts.

PEOPLE YOU SHOULD KNOW Director of Dramaturgy and Education.................. Education Associate……………………………… Group Sales Coordinator........................................ House Manager...................................................... Producing Director................................................. Artistic Director.....................................................

Richard Keller Pat Pederson Tracey White Lisa Kehoe James Clark Robert Moss

IMPORTANT NUMBERS Syracuse Stage Administration Offices: 315/443-4008 Education Department: 315/443-1150 Group Sales: 315/443-9844 3


The New York State Standards of Learning The following chart is designed to assist you in using the activities and questions in this guide to address the New York State Learning Standards for the Arts in the areas of Theatre, English Language Arts, and Career Development and Occupational Skills in the areas of Universal Skills. As you are the experts at adapting these activities to meet the needs of your specific classroom, this grid is only meant as an easy reference and does not intend to suggest that these are the only learning standards to which these activities apply, nor is every activity and question included on the grid. We hope this is helpful, and if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, you should feel free to call us at (315) 443-1150.

4


AUDIENCE ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY As audience members, your students have a distinct role and responsibility. The success of any performance depends on the actors on the stage as well as the people in the seats. Because, for many students, this is their first exposure to a live theatre production, they might not realize that the behaviors used in the movie theaters or when watching a video or television are not always appropriate in this setting. We encourage you to spend time discussing the subject with your students and have included two pages to assist you. The first contains some discussion questions to use in classroom (with some suggested answers in italics) while the second is a ONE MINUTE ETIQUETTE REMINDER to read on the bus. [ 1 ] What are some of the differences between a live theatre production and a movie? * A movie can be filmed in any order of scenes and can be redone as many times as needed to get a “good scene.” Once a scene is done to the director’s satisfaction, it is “in the can” and will not be done again. Live theatre must be done in sequence as written, continues regardless of mistakes and problems, and is done in its entirety each performance. * The audience’s noise level, activity level, and attention level do not affect the movie actor’s performance. All of these things are heard and noticed by the actors of a live performance and have an immediate effect on the performance. This might be a positive or negative effect-- if the audience laughs at funny lines or is leaning forward in anticipation of the action, this encourages the actors to give an energetic performance; if the audience does not laugh at appropriate times or is restless during the performance, the actors often find it difficult to give their best performance. * The special effects in a movie can be generated by computers or camera angles while the special effects in the theatre rely on the audience’s imagination to help create them. * Movies provide realistic images while live theatre provides images of reality.

[ 2 ] What is the best way to approach viewing a live performance of a play? * The audience attending a live performance must walk into the theatre willing to “suspend their disbelief” and use their imagination to provide part of the setting. * Theatre is alive and active in ways that television and movies are not. Look for the passion and emotion behind the actions and the words. * Because each performance is complete and affected by audience response, an audience member will never see a duplication of a performance. Though the meaning is the same, each performance has its own underlying interpretations.

[ 3 ] What is the audience’s role during a live performance? How do you think audience behavior can affect an actor’s performance? The audience’s role is to form a connection with the actors and to appropriately respond to the performance. This response may be laughter, gasps, applause, or quiet attention as well as restlessness or silence. Noises such as paper rattling from unwrapping food, watch alarms, cell phone ringing, or talking can distract the actors and cause a disruption of the energy flow which in turn weakens the performance. It also keeps those around you from maintaining their connection with the actors.

17


ONE MINUTE ETIQUETTE REMINDER Please read to students on the bus prior to entering the theatre.

Stay in the group to be seated. Your school or class will be called and seated at the same time. Sit in the seat to which you are assigned. If you move or refuse to take a particular seat, you will be sitting in someone else’s place and it will cause a delay in seating other classes. No food, drink, gum-chewing, headsets, or backpacks in the theatre. Please leave lunches and snacks on the bus. NO TALKING OR GETTING UP DURING THE SHOW. This includes whispering. Every performance of a play is a unique experience, created by particular actors with a particular audience. The audience is a very important part of the play. The experience of seeing live theatre is very different from seeing TV or a movie where nothing the audience can do will change the show. Stage actors are very much aware of the reactions of the audience, and indeed it is the audience-- you-- that helps the actors toward a great performance. An audience may applaud, laugh, cry and respond in any way that makes it part of the on-stage action. Please avoid talk or inappropriate actions that distract attention from the stage. Remember, the actors can see and hear you. Please use the restrooms before the show or at intermission only. If you have any problems or questions, please ask the ushers for help. Enjoy yourself!

18


TECHNICAL ELEMENTS A performance does not just happen; it is the product of a great deal of teamwork. The technical elements of a production support the characters the actors create to present the audience with the illusionary reality that is theatre. Sets, lights, sound, props, and costumes create the environment in which the play lives. These elements combine with the audience’s imagination to create the special effects and illusions. The following discussion questions are intended to help students focus on each of these technical elements and analyze its part in a production. SECTION A: SETS  Before the performance began, what were your first impressions of the set design? How did it make you feel? Which of your senses were involved by the set design?  What was the physicality of the stage? Did the set incorporate any theatrical devices such as a rake, a thrust, ramps or stairs, voms or the pit? What type of action did you expect?  As the performance progressed, how did the set change from scene to scene or did it remain one setting for the entire play? Were the changes of location made by actual set alterations or by the actors use of the set?  How was the stage used? Did the action take place across the whole stage or was it contained in small areas? What could you tell about each environment and time of the used area? Was movement between areas fluid or rigid? Did the actors move around the set in purposeful motion or did action flow from one area to another?  What materials and color schemes were used for walls, the deck (stage floor), set pieces? Did the materials and colors fit the time and location of the play?  Were you able to concentrate on the action and characters or did the elements of the set attract your attention?  After viewing the performance, do you feel the set design supported the play? Did it make sense to you? Would you have done anything differently? SECTION B: COSTUMES What could you tell about each of the characters based on his or her appearance before any action took place? Did the costumes influence your expectations or opinion of each character?  Did the costumes put you in the correct time period? Did the style of the costumes go with the personality of the character and the mood of the play?  How did the colors and materials used compliment or contrast with the colors and materials of the set? Did the colors and materials group the characters in any way?  Were there any parts of the costumes you found distracting or out of place? SECTION C: LIGHTING  What clues did the lighting give you about the feel or emotional tone of the play?  Was the lighting from an identifiable source or did it blend into the setting? Was the lighting supportive to the action of the performance or distracting?  Could you identify the colors that were used? Why do you think these particular shades were chosen? Did any one character have a particular shade or degree of lighting?

19


SECTION D: SOUND  What types of sounds were used? Were the sounds environmental noise or in response to specific character actions? (for example: crickets chirping in the summer or a gunshot)  Did the sounds fit the situation or distract you from the performance?  Were the sounds correct for time period and location? SECTION E: PROPS  Were the props appropriate to the time period and setting?  Did the characters have all the props they needed for the scenes? Did they have too many props? SECTION F: GENERAL What aspect of the performance impacted you the most? Was this aspect more content or physical?  Did the technical elements of the performance enhance or detract from your enjoyment of the play? Would you have changed anything about this production? How would you have changed it? 

DRAMATIC CRITICISM

The following is taken from a chapter in Katherine Anne Ommanney’s Book, The Stage and the School. Though her book was written in 1939, the information she imparts is still valid today. The questions that follow are designed to help students focus on the areas she discusses. No matter what degree of mechanical perfection the theatres of the screen and air may obtain, they can never take the place of the legitimate stage because they can never create that intangible magnetic quality which passes from actor to audience. To appreciate fully any type of drama and judge it fairly, you must consider the play itself, the interpretation by the actors, its staging by the director, and its reception by the audience. Your judgment is naturally colored by your personal preferences, immediate state of mind, social background, and technical theatrical knowledge. Often the company you are in can make or break the joy of a performance. There are four considerations to be kept in mind as you judge the play-- the type, the theme, the plot, and dialogue and characterization: [a] The Type-- Naturally the type of play and its fundamental purpose must color your attitude toward it-- a frothy social satire cannot be judged by the same standards as a romantic drama in blank verse, though both may be worthy of discriminating analysis. [b] The Theme-- If you are to be an intelligent playgoer, the theme of the play will receive your first consideration. It is the theme about which the keen discussion of successful “first nights” of new plays usually centers. It is their themes which hold the attention of the theatrical world on dramatists of the first rank. Determine for yourself what you consider to be the theme of the play, and be prepared to justify your belief by adequate reasons. You might follow Goethe’s example and ask: What did the author try to do? Did he or she do it? Was it worth doing?

20


[c] The Plot-- When you go to a play, you are naturally more interested in the plot than in anything else. If the play is any good at all, you will be asking yourself, “What is going to happen next?” most of the time, and be really eager for each act. At the same time, you should consider whether the events are plausible and whether the people and places are presented convincingly. [d] Dialogue and Characterization-- The playwright’s style is perhaps the last element to notice, for you will be so interested in the play that the author and the style are of secondary interest. However, it is the dialogue through which the plot is developed and the characters portrayed, and professional critics are more interested in the lines than in anything else. The characterization, of course, gives the actors a chance to interpret the play correctly, and you will often find that you have forgotten who is playing the parts in your interest in watching the characters in the play meet and solve their problems. They should express themselves so well through their words and actions that you should not be conscious of either the author or the actors. The people themselves should be very real to you, and you should feel that you are meeting new acquaintances and accepting or rejecting them as the play progresses. Part of the fun of going to a play comes during the intermissions when you can discuss these new-made friends and speculate upon their ultimate actions. It is during the intermissions that you can take time to consider the playwright and the skill with which he or she has given the actors worthwhile lines to say and interesting things to do. Judging the Acting-- It is the acting of the play which arouses the keenest response from the onlookers. The just appraisal of the work of the artists is to be expected as a result of any theatrical training. If actors create living people for us, losing themselves in the artistry of assuming other individualities by utilizing all that is best in their own physical and spiritual equipment, you should appreciate their ability and applaud their success. The star system has led many people to either condemn the work of an actor because of stupid prejudice, or to acclaim wildly any performance of a favorite star, no matter how good or bad the interpretation of a particular role may be. No greater opportunity for helping to create a finer American theatre is available to students than their refusal to let press-agent glorification or scandalous notoriety in place of artistic and sincere interpretation on the part of the actors they acclaim. The Direction-- The most important factor in the ultimate success or failure of a play is the director, and they are the last people to receive their deserved praise or blame from the public. They are personally responsible for every phase of the production: the adaptation of the play, the casting of the parts, the interpretation of the characters, the effectiveness of the staging, the length of the rehearsal period, and the total effect of the production. You will get real enjoyment from noting how directors have developed contrast in casting, costuming and interpretation, how they have worked out interesting stage pictures and emphasized their center of interest, and how they have created the proper atmosphere to bring out the author’s meaning with all their tools-actors, lights, setting, and costumes.

21


The following questions from Katherine Ommanney’s book, The Stage and the School, may help you to view shows intelligently, but don’t let them spoil your enjoyment of the theatre or turn you into a commentator during the performance! Real enthusiasts of the theatre free their imaginations and emotions while seeing a play or a picture, while using their intelligence and discrimination to heighten their appreciation of this great art.

Section A: Theme 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Is the fundamental idea of the play true or false in its concept of life? Is the theme warped by a distorted or limited life experience on the part of the author? Are we better or worse for having seen the play? Is the theme consistent with the setting, plot and characters presented in the play? Do you agree with the author’s philosophy? In your opinion, should the general public be encouraged to see the play?

Section B: Plot 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Is it a clear-cut sequence of events? Does it rise to a gripping climax? Are we held in suspense until the end? Are we as emotionally stirred as the author apparently wants us to be? Are you satisfied as to the final outcome? Are you chiefly interested in the events, the people, or the place?

Section C: Characterization 1. Are the characters true to life? 2. Are they consistent throughout the action of the entire play? 3. Are they in keeping with the social and geographical background of the play? 4. Do they arouse such feelings as sympathy, affection, disgust, admiration, or hatred on the part of the audience? 5. Are their actions in keeping with their motives? 6. Are the situations at the climax and conclusion the result of their inherent natures?

Section D: Style 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Is the dialogue of a nature so as to retain your interest throughout the play? Is it consistent with the characters and the setting? Is it an end in itself or an adequate means of plot advancement and characterization? Does it make us think about the author or the characters themselves? Do we remember lines after the play because of their pithiness or beauty? Is the use of dialect correct in every detail? Would people of the class represented talk in real life as they do in the play? Is the power of expression worthy of the ideas expressed?

Section E: Acting 1. Is the interpretation of any given role correct from the standpoint of the play itself? 2. Does the actor make his or her role a living individuality? 3. Are they artificial or natural in their technique?

22


4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

Are we conscious of their methods of getting effects? Do they grip us emotionally-- that is, do we weep, laugh, suffer, and exult with them? Are their voices pleasing and their presence magnetic? Do they keep in character every moment? Do we think of them as the characters they are depicting or as themselves? Does any actor use the play as a means of self-glorification, or are each of them an intrinsic part of the action at all times? 10. Does each apparently cooperate with the other actors, the director, and the author in interpreting the play by knowing his or her lines, helping to focus attention on the center of interest, and by losing himself or herself in the part?

Section F: Audience Reaction 1. Is the audience attentive or restless during the performance? 2. Is there a definite response of tears, laughter, or applause? 3. Is there an immediate appreciation of clever lines, dramatic situations, and skillful acting? 4. Is the applause spontaneous and whole-hearted, or politely perfunctory? 5. After the performance are people hurrying away, or do they linger to discuss the play? 6. Are they apathetic or animated, bored or buoyant, serious or scoffing? 7. To what types of people does the play seem to appeal?

23


Lionel Bart Born 1 August 1930, in London; died 3 April 1999, in London. British composer, playwright, and lyricist was originally named Lionel Begleiter; [as a young adult, after passing] St. Bartholomew’s hospital ("Barts"), he changed his name to Bart.). He was the youngest of seven surviving children of a Jewish family in the East End of London. His father worked as a tailor in a garden shed in London . . . [after he had] escaped the pogroms in Galicia (then part of the Austrian Empire). When Bart was six a teacher told his parents that he was a musical genius. His parents gave him an old violin, but he did not apply himself and the lessons stopped. At age 16 he obtained a scholarship to St. Martin's School of Art but he was expelled for “mischievousness," and gave up his ambition to be a painter [but] took jobs in silk-screen printing and at commercial art studios. He entered Britain’s National Service in the Royal Air Force [following which] he borrowed £50 and set up a printing business in Hackney with John Gorman who he had met in the RAF. . . [About this time] Bart joined the Communist Party. He arranged a cabaret for the left-leaning International Youth Center [and] in 1952 wrote . . . the annual IYC review with a story about Robin Hood. For the leftist Unity Theatre he wrote lyrics for an agit-prop version of Cinderella. His early work also included writing comedy songs for the Sunday lunchtime BBC radio program the Billy Cotton Band Show. In September 1956 Bart saw Tommy Hicks performing guitar in a Soho coffee bar [and] signed Hicks [nee Steele] to perform in his group the Cavemen, an early rock’ n’ roll/skiffle group. [Bart wrote several hit songs for Steele, and other pop singers (most notably “Livin’ Doll” for Cliff Richards), earning] three Songwriters Guild Ivor Novello Awards in 1957, four in 1959, and two in 1960. In 1960 he was also given the Variety Club Silver Heart for Show Business Personality of the Year. . . . "At times, his life appeared to be a continuous party with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones among his celebrity friends," according to Sophie Goodchild (The Independent, 4 April 1999). However, Tom Valiance noted in The Independent: The Monday Review (5 April 1999), while Bart "epitomized the start of the Sixties in Britain, which he uniquely captured in song and spirit, he was [also] one of the few composers to deal uncondescendingly with the working classes, transposing their life styles and vernacular to the musical stage." Much of Bart’s work was steeped in the English music-hall tradition as well as being diffused with a strong working-class pride, so it surprised no one that he soon graduated into writing songs for full-length stage shows. [In 1959 Bart’s lyrics for his first West End success Lock Up Your Daughters vied for the attention of the same folks who were whistling tunes from his Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’Be, which also premiered in ’59. His] greatest success was the musical Oliver!, which opened in London . . . on 30 June 1960, and received 23 curtain calls. It ran for 2618 performances [there and 774 performances in New York after opening] on Broadway in 1963. The Sunday Times’ Maurice Chittenden later stated that "his lyrics, score and book for Oliver! . . . achieved the seemingly impossible: an internationally successful British musical that paved the way for many modern West End shows with their rock undertones" (4 April 1999). The 1968 film version, directed by Carol Reed, won several Oscars, including Best Picture. . . . 24


The musical Twang!! in 1965 was a flop [that] he tried to prop up with his own money, [selling] the rights to his past and future works, including those of Oliver! to keep himself solvent but he still ended up declaring himself bankrupt in 1972. . . . His old friend John Gorman reappeared to help Bart sort out his life; soon he gained attention again with a new version of “Livin' Doll” with satirical words. In 1986 he received a special Ivor Novello Award for his life's achievement. [In 1989 Bart’s commercial jingle for a British building association not only won him an award but brought him back to the public’s notice, much as the inclusion of his song “Rock with the Caveman” did in the American movie The Flintstones]. Cameron Mackintosh, who owned half the rights to Oliver!, revived the musical at the London Palladium in 1994 in a version rewritten by Bart, for which Mackintosh gave him a share of the production royalties. . . .

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born February 7, 1812, the second child in the family, his sister Fanny being one year older. At the time, the Dickens family was living in Kent, relatively solvent, but by Charles' eleventh year they were forced to move to Cheapside, London. Charles was kept out of school in an effort to save money, although he was not sent to work at this time. He continued to read on his own, and spent hours walking the London streets (and getting lost) when he wasn't reading. However, within a year things were bad enough that his father placed him at a bootblacking factory managed by a family friend. This must have been an act of desperation, for two weeks later his father was jailed in Marshalsea Debtor's prison; the rest of the family, except Charles, followed soon after. (As an adult he rescued his father, mother and other family members from their creditors regularly, with growing bitterness.) Charles continued to work after his family paid their debts and left prison, until his employer received an insulting note from his father and fired him. He then returned to school for three more years until 1827. He then spent some time as an office boy in an attorney's office, learned shorthand, and even became a freelance reporter but drifted until 1830, when he obtained a “reader's ticket” to the British Museum and became a staff reporter for The Mirror of Parliament. His impressions of London and its social scene, and his sharpened writing skills, led him to produce his first sketch of London in l833, published in Monthly Magazine. Subsequent articles were attributed to Boz (Dickens' brother Augustus’ nickname for Charles). Sketches by Boz, the collection of these essays, was published February 7, 1836. Dickens the author was on his way. On April 2,1836, he married Catherine Hogarth. The pair at first set up housekeeping in a conservative fashion, taking only four rooms, but as time passed and children began to arrive with some frequency, Dickens found himself writing more with an eye to supporting his family than depicting London or any creatures of his imagination. Sketches by Boz was followed by The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, which appeared in monthly installments simultaneously. With Pickwick finished and Oliver Twist half done, he began Nicholas Nickleby. Serial publication of The Old Curiosity Shop in Master Humphrey's Clock increased that magazine's sales to a hundred thousand a week. Its first Christmas story, A Christmas Carol, sold 6,000 copies the first day. Over the years Dickens wrote several Yuletide stories, including The Cricket on the Hearth and The Chimes. Increasingly Dickens worked on theatrical projects in the midst and in between 25


literary ones, sometimes writing them but often producing them among his family and circle of friends. When his troupe performed publicly the proceeds went to charity. David Copperfield came in 1849; Dickens was surprised to learn that close friends found it autobiographical. Bleak House, Hard Times, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations came more slowly than earlier books had, and he increased his public readings of A Christmas Carol, Cricket on the Hearth, and excerpts of other works, combining his love of acting with his need to earn money. The public readings began to take over writing, although his health became increasingly delicate during 1868. He began Edwin Drood, although it was interrupted by his heavy reading schedule and his bouts of ill health; doctors counseled him that he was risking paralysis and a stroke. He was forced to stop the readings in March 1870. In June he moved to the Kent countryside, but it did not restore him; he died June 9, 1870, surrounded by his children. Dickens’ Literary Chronology [1830 - Dickens becomes a reporter for The Mirror of Parliament till 1836.] 1833 - Dickens’ first sketch is published in the Monthly Magazine. 1836 - First series of Sketches by Boz published in February. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club published in monthly installments from April through November 1837. The plays The Strange Gentleman (which ran for 70 performances in the fall) and The Village Coquettes (which ran briefly in December) are produced. 1837 - The Strange Gentleman runs again in January. Pickwick Papers published in book form. Oliver Twist published monthly from February through April 1839 in Bentley’s Miscellany, which Dickens is editing (the early chapters are written while he is finishing Pickwick). A one-act comedy, Is She His Wife?, is produced in March. 1838 - Nicholas Nickleby published monthly from April through October 1839 (overlapping with Oliver Twist). 1840 - Begins publishing the literary magazine Master Humphrey’s Clock, which is to feature articles by Dickens and other authors (soon Dickens is the sole contributor). The Old Curiosity Shop published weekly in MHC from April to February 1841. 1841 - Barnaby Rudge printed weekly in MHC from the issue after The Old Curiosity Shop to November. Both novels are also printed in book form. 1842 - American Notes, Dickens’ recollections of his travels through the US and Canada from January through June. 1843 - Martin Chuzzlewit printed monthly beginning from January through July 1844. A Christmas Carol published in early December. 1844 - The Chimes published in December in London although Dickens and family are in Italy. 26


1845 - Back in England, Dickens manages and performs in an amateur production of Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour. The Cricket on the Hearth published in December. 1846 - Daily News, edited by Dickens from January 21 to February 9, when he resigned. Pictures from Italy published in May. Dickens begins Dombey and Son in June; it is published monthly from October through April 1848. The Battle of Life (his fourth Christmas book) published in December. 1847 - So-called Cheap Edition of Dickens’ works to date published in both weekly numbers and complete volumes. 1848 - Dickens acts in and directs in amateur theatrical productions from May through July in London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Birmingham, and Glasgow. The Haunted Man (his last Christmas book) published in December. 1849 - David Copperfield published monthly from May through November 1850. The Life of Our Lord written for his children; published 1934. 1850 - Household Words, a weekly, begun in March. Amateur theatricals at Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Home in November. 1851 - More amateur theatricals through August. Collaborate with Mark Lemon on a farce, Mr. Nightingale’s Diary. Begins A Child’s History of England in Household Words (through September 1853). Begins writing Bleak House in November (through September 1853), following the deaths of Dickens’ father and youngest daughter, and many months of his wife in poor health. 1852 - Bleak House published monthly beginning in March. More amateur theatricals. 1853 - First public readings from his novels as a benefit, including readings of an excerpted Christmas Carol, which he continued to read for charitable organizations. 1854 - Hard Times published weekly in Household Words from April through August. 1855 - Little Dorrit writing begun in May; published monthly from December through June 1857. Presents Wilkie Collins’ play The Lighthouse in June. 1856 - Dickens collaborates with Wilkie Collins on the play The Frozen Deep. 1857 - Frozen Deep performed at Dickens’ house in January, and revived for a command performance for Her Majesty in July; August performances in Manchester. 1858 - First public readings to benefit himself April 29; readings in the provinces AugustNovember and in London after December 23. 1859 - Begins the weekly All the Year Round end of April with A Tale of Two Cities; ends Household Words end of May. Tale of Two Cities continues through November 15. Public readings October and at Christmas. 27


1860 - Essays in All the Year Round from January through October. Begins writing Great Expectations in September; begins publishing it in All the Year Round December 1 through August 3, 1861. 1861 - Public reading in provinces October through December; some in December canceled due to Prince Albert’s death. 1862 - More public readings outside London in January; within London March through June. 1863 - Public readings in Paris in January and in London from March through June. Agrees with his publishers to begin a novel early next spring. 1864 - Begins publishing Our Mutual Friend monthly from May through November 1865. Dickens’ health begins to suffer. 1866 - Public reading in England and Scotland from April through June; Dickens agrees to another series of fifty. 1867 - Public readings in England and Ireland from January through May, though Dickens’ health is again poor. The Charles Dickens Edition of his works begun. Collaborates with Wilkie Collins on a five-act dramatization of their Christmas story No Thoroughfare, previously published in All the Year Round. (No Thoroughfare was successfully produced in London and Paris.) American reading tour from December through April 1868 though Dickens’ health goes from bad to worse. 1868 - Takes over editing duties on All the Year Round when the assistant editor’s health fails. New series of public readings in October. 1869 - Readings continue in England, Scotland and Ireland till Dickens exhibits signs of a stroke in April. Begins writing Mystery of Edwin Drood late summer or early fall. 1870 - Series of readings in London mid-January to mid-March. Mystery of Edwin Drood published monthly from April into Oliver asking for more . . . September. Directs play from late May to George Cruikshank, Illustrator, 1846 early June. Suffers a stroke June 8; dies June 9. Buried in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey, June 14. Setting The play takes place in London England in the mid 1800s, often referred to as Victorian England. (Some Background on the State of Children in Victorian England) In 1840 perhaps only twenty percent of the children of London had any schooling, a 28


number which had risen by 1860, when perhaps half of the children between 5 and 15 were in some sort of school, if only a day school or a Sunday school; the others were working. Many of the more fortunate found employment as apprentices to respectable trades (in the building trade workers put in 64 hours a week in summer and 52 in winter) or as general servants—there were over 120,000 domestic servants in London alone at mid-century, who worked 80 hour weeks for one halfpence per hour—but many more were not so lucky. In the iron and coal mines, children, both boys and girls, began work at age 5, and generally died before they were 25. Most prostitutes (and there were thousands in London alone) were between 15 and 22 years of age. (Excerpted from http://landow.stg.brown.edu/Victoria/history/hist8.html David Cody, Associate Professor of English, Hartwick College) Synopsis Oliver Twist, published in 1837 through 1840 by Charles Dickens, follows the travails of an orphan imprecated by the institutions entrusted with his well being through his life on the streets to his reconciliation with his past. Raised in the workhouse and named by a corrupt church beadle, Oliver Twist flees his tormentors, only to fall in with a gang of scoundrels. Among these rascals and hardened criminals are some of Dickens’ most memorable characters: Fagin, the Artful Dodger, and Bill Sykes to name a few. Eventually Oliver crawls out from underneath the underbelly of Victorian England with the assistance of some kindly strangers. In 1960, Lionel Bart adapted Dickens’ indictment of Victorian England’s child welfare system into Oliver!, the less than scathing musical. By omitting some of the plot and writing catchy tunes such as “Food, Glorious Food,” “Consider Yourself,” “It’s a Fine Life,” and “I’d Do Anything,” Bart transformed the novel into family entertainment suited for young children. Although the story’s darker moments have been muted in the musical, the play, as with A Christmas Carol, retains the essence of Dickens’ story telling and contains lessons that are especially well suited for the holiday season. Characters Oliver Twist

a workhouse boy about 13 years old

Mr. Beadle

a pompous man in his fifties

Widow Corney

a sharp-tongue widow in her fifties, the workhouse mistress

Noah Claypole

the undertaker’s pimply apprentice

Mr. Sowerberry

the undertaker

Mrs. Sowerberry

the undertaker’s wife

Charlotte

the Sowerberry’s disreputable daughter

Fagin

the pickpockets’ elderly ringleader 29


The Artful Dodger

a pickpocket, Fagin’s brightest pupil

Bill Sykes

a villain in his prime

Nancy

Sykes’ beaten-down helpmate

Mr. Brownlow

a gentleman of wealth and breeding

Mrs. Bedwin

Mr. Brownlow’s housekeeper

Vocabulary Twist OED: a divided object or part. Thread or cord made by winding together strands of hemp, silk, wool, cotton, etc., that is, yarn; or something like thread, especially the continuation or course of life, a tenuous support on which something depends, a means of tracing one’s way,. A drink consisting of a mixture of two different spirits or other ingredients, ass gin and brandy. Tobacco made into a thick cord. A small loaf made of one or more twisted rolls of dough. A curled piece of lemon or other peel used to flavor a drink. An irregular bend or kink, a tangle. A means of applying coercion, a hold. Cheating, swindling, dishonesty. A hearty appetite. A turning aside, a deviation, a point or place at which a road changes direction; a change of circumstances or fortune. An eccentric inclination or attitude, especially a peculiar mental turn or bent, and intellectual or moral bias, a craze. A corruption of misrepresentation of meaning. An unexpected development of events, especially in a work of fiction. Old slang: to be hanged, as in the modern phrase, to twist in the wind. To twist down, to eat heartily. Bumble OED: a confusion, a jumble. A blunderer, an idler. [in the sense of the name of the beadle in Dickens’ Oliver Twist] A self-important official; bumbledom, stupid officiousness and pomposity, especially by petty officials. Also, hum, buzz, drone (as a bumblebee); ramble on in speaking; move or act ineptly or flounderingly. Grumble at, blame, take to task. beadle OED: a parish officer appointed by the vestry to keep order in church, punish petty offenders, etc.; a minor church official. A messenger or under-officer of justice. “For what you are about to receive/May the Lord make you truly thankful.” Mr. Bumble expresses his opinion that he is much superior to his charges, let alone that the boys don’t deserve anything at all, by altering the common blessing, “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful.” Gruel oatmeal or a similar food boiled in water or milk, especially as part of an invalid’s diet and therefore intended to easily digested. At the workhouse the gruel is so thin that there is little to digest. bill of fare

a menu or listing of foods or dishes available at a restaurant.

“Who will rid us of this canker in our midst?” OED: originally, a cancer; later, a sore or ulcer; also, a corrupting or corrosive influence. 30


Workhouse OED: historically, a house established to provide work for the unemployed poor of a parish; later, an institution in which the destitute of a parish received board and lodging, usually in return for work done. Also, a prison or house of correction for petty offenders in the US. Paupers poor people having no property or means of livelihood; a person dependent on the charity of others; historically, a person who received Poor Law relief; also a beggar.

pounds the basic monetary unit in England (see: British money, below). OED: guinea – a British gold coin with a nominal value of a pound, first struck in 1663 for the African [slave] trade [referring to the West African country], and from 1717 legal tender in Britain with a value fixed at 21 shillings or just over one pound. anti-parochial Well, parochial means anything pertaining to an ecclesiastical parish or local church, though it also means local, provincial; restricted or narrow in scope. Mr. Bumble feels that anyone who does not hold with his own sense of selfimportance is obviously opposed to church-sponsored charity and Christianity in general. In other words, anyone who doesn’t treat Mr. Bumble as he feels he should be treated is bad, in his view. “You little tinker, you” An itinerant peddler or repairer of pots, kettles, etc., one who travels continuously, as a gypsy, so, in some uses, derogatively, a disreputable or abusive person. A clumsy or unskillful worker. A mischievous person, especially a child, or animal; a rascal. Blithesome buxom beauty Bumble is using alliteration to charm the Widow, calling her “cheerful,” “physically pliable, flexible, unresisting; blithe, lively; full of health, vigor and good temper; plump and comely,” and lovely. vittles sustenance.

from victuals, meaning that which is required to maintain life, or food,

coffin-follower a young child hired by an undertaker to follow a funeral procession for a child's funeral. 31


melancholy a state of depression or irritability, once attributed to an excess of black bile in one’s system. undertaker’s mute OED: A person prevented by nature, mutilation or employment from speaking, including a professional attendant or mourner at a funeral. “mourners . . . who’ve been taught to weep in tune” “That’s your funeral” In days gone past, the speaker of this phrase was telling his/her audience, “It’s your problem, not mine”; lyricist Bart is making a pun. buried underneath the sod OED: A square or oblong piece or slice of earth together with the grass growing on it, in this instance, the shape and size of a grave. destitute

suffering from extreme poverty.

dainty

delicate or fine; delicious to the taste.

cheek

to address someone in a rude manner.

unbecoming improper, below the standards. a British coin of very little value, traditionally. 1/4th of a penny.

farthing

Artful Dodger OED: skillful, crafty, deceitful; and: a person who dodges or eludes/avoids with skill or by craft. Also, US, a corn-flour based cake OR a small handbill or circular; Aus., a sandwich or other food including bread OR good, excellent. How green! be. nightcap lodger togs

Charlie Bates can’t get over how innocent and unaware Oliver seems to a drink taken at bedtime, usually alcoholic. a person who occupies a rented room in another's house

clothes; to dress, especially stylishly or in formal wear.

scoundrel

a mean, worthless person, a villain.

prerogative

an exclusive or special right.

Magistrate OED: A civil officer administering the law, a member of the executive government; a person conducting a court of summary jurisdiction, one justice who deals with minor cases and preliminary hearings; a justice of the peace. Wedgwood OED: Highly prized ceramic ware and dishes made by English Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95), his descendants and their company, especially fine stoneware with white cameo designs drawn from classical literature or ancient Greece and Rome on a blue, green or black background. 32


fisticuffs a boxing match or streetfight largely comprised of fighting with one’s fists. The Artful does not want to take on Bill Sykes in such a match, even in jest. “Would you risk the drop?” refers to being dropped through the trap in a gallows, being hanged for a crime. “The crown jewels from the Tower” The famous Tower of London, once a prison, now a museum, is home to displays of the jewels belonging to the royal family as well as crowns that past rulers have used, etc. “the swells have got him (Oliver)” OED: fashionable or stylish persons, a dandy; persons of wealth or good social position; possibly those who are proud, arrogant. avaricious OED: grasping, greedy for wealth, from avarice: greed for gain, cupidity; an eager desire to get or keep something, especially money. Bill Sykes refers to the instrument he uses to break “with me jemmy in my hand” into houses, in the US called a jimmy. “some toff slumming with his valet” Well, toff is slang for a well-dressed or smart person, particularly one of some wealth or social standing; slumming means accepting a lower standard of living or service than one usually receives, especially when one is in disguise or is doing so for fun (not because of reduced financial circumstances); a valet is, of course, a personal manservant to a well-to-do man. Sykes is obviously contemptuous of the rich straying into his territory with the audacity to mock the poor for whom they have no sympathy. “You’re blowed upon, Fagan” OED: to be reproved, discredited, have one’s secrets exposed by another. Fagan and Sykes both worry that Oliver will reveal what he knows about them and they’ll be hunted by the Bow Street Runners. “that man that invented that machine for taking likenesses [of people]” Mrs. Bedwin may be speaking of Dr. Thomas (son of Josiah, see above) Wedgwood’s photography process, which he demonstrated in 1802 (though the image he reproduced faded fairly quickly), or J.N. Niepce’s permanent photograph, a heliograph that produced a transparent image on glass when the chemical compound on it is exposed to light (helio = sun or light). Or she may know that French printer Lemaitre printed some of Niepce’s images on paper that were much sharper than Neipce’s own, or that Neipce has gone into partnership with Louis Daguerre, a scenery painter for the Paris Opera who is fascinated with photography. Within a few years Daguerre’s improved process becomes the standard for photography, known for much of the 19th century as daguerreotype. “So how to win friends and influence people, so how?” This is lyricist Bart again, making a reference to the famous book by self-confidence guru Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which Carnegie promoted to positive ends, not Fagan’s malicious ones. A suite of rooms as would be found in a hotel or “I will own a suite at Claridges” upscale rooming house. Claridges is a very upscale establishment. 33


“earn a bob” OED: at one time it meant a shilling; more recently it come to mean a five-pence piece. rogue OED: an idle vagrant or vagabond; a dishonest or unprincipled person; a rascal. “dear at any price” Mrs. Bumble does not think Mr. Bumble was a bargain but has been costly to her (dear = expensive). “I wasn’t going to blow the gaff”

OED slang: reveal or admit to a plot or secret.

A Note on British Money According to The Victorian Webpage, “Two things in particular about British money drove foreigners crazy, the first being that twelve pence (or pennies) made up a shilling, but twenty shillings made up a pound. Adding up the cost of several items became quite a chore, as one can imagine, but the British long remained committed to their bizarre monetary system . . . . A second maddening thing involved a peculiar, obviously classedbased pricing scheme in which prices were quoted in guineas, the guinea being a nonexistent denomination worth 21 shillings (or a shilling more than a pound). Items intended for the wealthier classes were listed in guineas. . . . As a rough guess, then, I'd say that for most of the Victorian era, a pound then might buy $100 today.” James E. Keenan, a visitor to the webpage offered the following consideration: With understandable caveats, you say that a pound in the late Victorian period would be about equal to $100 today. My limited research indicates a figure closer to $200, considering that one pound was equal to $5 (or near enough) for the whole period, with a sovereign and a $5 gold piece being very close in gold content. A moderate dinner in a restaurant at the time would cost about $.25, or a shilling, or $10 in modern terms. Not a high price dinner, but more likely than your $5.00 one. Part of the reason for my saying $200 rather than your $100 is that at that time there was no income tax, so we must consider that much more of a person's salary was available for spending. I realize this makes a shilling worth $10 in 2000 terms, but that is not far off in many respects. It would make the famous "penny loaf" about 80 cents, not far off the cost of a loaf of bread today. . . . On the same page there was a sort of Q & A session: Q: I have been curious about the cost of living in Victorian England. What was the pound worth in present day dollars? What were pounds worth compared to dollars at that time? How much did a train to Liverpool cost, and how much did it cost to send a telegram? Here John Burnett's A History of the Cost of Living gave me some answers but left me wanting more. A: Answering such questions becomes complicated for several reasons, the first is that the Victorian period lasted a good long time, during which the UK went from being a largely rural, lightly industrialized country to a heavily industrialized urban nation. Therefore, one often has to phrase a question in the following manner: "What was the cost of living in 1850?" A second complicating factor is that specific goods and services cost far less or far more than they do now, so any comparison inevitably misleads. For example, during 34


the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the post office delivered two or even three times daily, and the system was so efficient that Londoners would arrange social engagements, sending queries and receiving answers within a few hours. A penny postcard, in other words, brought one something very like a personal courier service. Does one then say that a British penny in 1879 is equivalent to $10 or $15, the cost of modern commercial delivery services? A third complicating factor is that unlike the relative closeness of modern economic and social classes, which form a spectrum, large gaps separated those in Victorian England so that moving from one class (or really set of classes) to another required a kind of quantum leap. Thus, as M. W. Flynn has pointed out, doubling a worker's wages would not, as it would now, markedly improve his or her lifestyle, particularly in regard to sanitation and healthiness, because such enormous gaps existed between the costs of housing for the working and middle classes that one would have had to raise the wages enormously to affect the kind of available housing. For those interested in greater detail we offer the prices in the chart below. These are annual prices, and they should be read as pounds/shillings/pence. A senior clerk is roughly equivalent to any white collar worker below middle management; since this includes a maid and washer woman, one would assume this clerk is a bachelor. (See the chart for yourself at www.landow.stg.brown.edu/victorian/victov.html.) Cost of Living for a Senior Clerk (1844) Rent 25/0/0 Taxes 5/0/0 Maid 7/0/0 Coal 5 tons 6/5/0 Candles and Wood 2/0/0 Tea 7/16/6 Sugar 6/14/2 Butter & Eggs 9/12/0 Meat 18/6/0 Fish 2/0/0 Vegetables 5/0/0 Beer 6/10/0 Washing woman 6/13/0 soap and her meals Ironing and mangling 1/0/0 Clothing 23/6/0 Church and charity 3/10/0 Doctor 5/0/0 Misc. 1/8/0 Amusements 1/19/4 Savings 6/0/0 Total ÂŁ150/0/0 Source: Hayward 35


And Who Were the Bow Street Runners? Just a few years before Oliver’s time, in the 1820s, there were no police anywhere in England. Instead there was an ancient system of volunteers within each parish who worked as constables as they could and as they would. But, since they received no pay, their patrols were haphazard at best, and it was well known that at least some of them could fall prey to temptation . . . Further, the justice system was burdened with so many safeguards to ensure that no innocent person would be executed (capital punishment was de rigeur for many crimes) that to actually convict someone of a crime was often considered to difficult for anyone to pursue—until Sir Thomas DeVeil was appointed a magistrate in London. He was not an honest man—it was no secret that he was a fan of graft—but he did like to punish people, and he would go so far as to “follow” a criminal across parish boundaries to do so, unlike DeVeil’s predecessors, who would pursue no further than the parish line. DeVeil did not revolutionize the system, but he did instill a sense among the general public that parish magistrates could affect crime. The revolution in the system came in the late 1700s, with the entry of novelist and playwright Henry Fielding, who had read for the bar but had not taken the examination, and was opposed to corruption and the hypocrisy rife within the law enforcement system. (At the time, too, he needed a little extra money, a more regular income than writing was bringing him.) Selected to replace DeVeil as magistrate of the peace in Bow Street, Fielding advertised and otherwise let the neighborhood know that not only were he and his staff available to hear of crimes committed against them at any hour, but that the incident would be explored. The constables Fielding inherited were no more honest than DeVeil had been, but in time, when Fielding proved that he feared no criminal and would himself pursue them, he began to gain the respect of other men who were willing to learn what evidence Fielding needed to successfully convict criminals. He also was careful to keep his constables’ identities a secret, so no revenge would be directed toward them. Fielding and his constables were so determined that they were able to rid their parish of gangs (and put the fear of Fielding into surrounding gangs). Based on his success Fielding gradually convinced the local government that his constables deserved to be paid enough to thwart any attempts to bribe them (he got a little more money himself), and bit by bit, “outlaws” learned that Fielding’s Bow Street Runners, as they were known, were not to be trifled with. Henry Fielding passed away in 1754, not terribly long after he had put his principles and his men in place, but nonetheless he was able to leave his successor, his half-brother John (who happened to be blind), a department that was so improved and strengthened that John was soon able to establish and implement a squad of men to respond immediately to any reported crime scene, that is, the first true police force.

36


Background to Oliver! and Oliver Twist The World of the Pickpockets From: London’s Underworld In tracing the pickpocket from the beginning of his career, in most cases we must turn our attention to the little ragged boys living by a felon's hearth, or herding with other young criminals in a low lodging-house, or dwelling in the cold and comfortless home of drunken and improvident parents. The great majority of the pickpockets of the metropolis, with few exceptions, have sprung from the dregs of society—from the hearths and homes of London thieves—so that they have no reason to be proud of their lineage. Fifteen or twenty years ago many of those accomplished pickpockets, [now] dressed in the highest style of fashion, and glittering in gold chains, studs, and rings who walk around the Bank of England . . . and our busy thoroughfares were poor ragged boys walking barefooted among the dark and dirty slums and alleys of Westminster and the Seven Dials, or loitering among the thieves' dens of the Borough and Whitechapel. Step by step they have emerged from their rags and squalor to a higher position of physical comfort, and have risen to higher dexterity and accomplishment in their base and ignoble profession. We say there are a few exceptions to the general rule. . . . We blush to say that some have joined the ranks of our London thieves and are living callous in open crime who were trained in the homes of honest and industrious parents, and were surrounded in early life with all those influences which are fitted to elevate and improve the mind. But here our space forbids us to enlarge. . . . They often begin to steal at six or seven years of age, sometimes as early as five years, and commit petty sneaking thefts as well as pick handkerchiefs from gentlemen's pockets. Many of these ragged urchins are taught to steal by their companions; others are taught by trainers of thieves, young men and women, and some middle-aged convicted thieves. They are learned to be expert in this way: a coat is suspended on the wall with a bell attached to it, and the boy attempts to take the handkerchief from the pocket without the bell ringing. Until he is able to do this with proficiency he is not considered well trained. Another way in which they are trained is this: the trainer—if a man—walks up and down the room with a handkerchief in the “tail” his coat, and the ragged boys amuse themselves abstracting it until they learn to do it in an adroit manner. Stealing the handkerchief from the "tail" of a gentleman's coat in the street is generally effected in this way: three or four usually go together. They see an old gentleman passing by. One remains behind, while the other two follow up close beside him, but a little behind. The one walking by himself behind is the “looker-out” to see if there are any police or detectives near, or if anyone passing by or hovering around is taking notice of them. One of the two walking close by the gentleman adroitly picks his pocket, and coils the handkerchief up in his hand so as not to be seen, while the other brings his body close to him, so as not to let his arm be seen by any passerby. If the party feel him taking the handkerchief from his pocket, the thief passes it quickly to his companion, who runs off with it. The looker-out walks quietly on as if nothing had occurred, or sometimes walks up to the gentleman and asks him what is the matter, or pretends to tell him in what direction the thief has run, pointing to a very 37


different direction from the one he has taken. They not only abstract handkerchiefs but also pocketbooks from the tail of gentlemen's coats, or any other article they can lay their fingers on. . . . They not only steal handkerchiefs of various kinds, but also pocket-books from the tails of gentlemen's coats. . . . The next stage commences . . . about fourteen years of age, when the stripling lays aside his rags and dresses in a more decent way, though [still] rather shabby, perhaps in a dark or gray frock-coat, dark or dirty tweed trousers, and a cap with peak, and shoes. At this time many of them go to low neighborhoods, or to those quieter localities where the laboring people reside, and pick the pockets of the wives and daughters of this class of persons; others steal from gentlemen passing along thoroughfares, while a few adroit lads are employed by men to steal from ladies' pockets in the fashionable streets of the metropolis. . . . A lady's pocket is commonly picked by persons walking by her side who insert their hand gently into the pocket of her gown. (A lady generally carries her gold or silver watch in a small pocket in front of her dress, possibly under one of the large flounces. . . .) This is often effected by walking alongside of the lady, or by stopping her in the street, asking the way to a particular place, or inquiring if she is acquainted with such and such a person. When the thief is accomplished, he can abstract the purse from her pocket in a very short space of time, but if he is not so adroit, he will detain her some time longer, asking further questions till he has completed his object. This is often done by a man and a woman in company. . . . In the event of a crowd on any occasion, they are so bold as to steal watches from the vest-pocket. This is done in a different style, and generally in the company of two or three in this manner: one of them folds his arms across his breast in such a way that his right hand is covered with his left arm . . . so that he is thereby able to abstract the watch from the vest-pocket of the gentleman standing by his side. . . . A [police] officer informed us that . . . he observed three persons, a man, a boy, and a woman, whom he suspected to be picking pockets. The man was about twentyeight years of age, rather under the middle size. The woman hovered by his side. She was very good-looking, about twenty-four years of age, dressed in a green colored gown, paisley shawl, and straw bonnet trimmed with red velvet and red flowers. The man was dressed in a black frock-coat, brown trousers, and black hat. The boy, who happened to be his brother, was about fourteen years old, dressed in a brown shooting-coat, corduroy trousers, and black cap with peak. The boy had an engaging countenance, with sharp features and smart manner. The officer observed the man touch the boy on the shoulder and point him toward an old lady. The boy placed himself on her right side, and the man and woman kept behind. The former put his left hand into the pocket of the lady's gown and drew nothing from it, then left her and went about two yards Newgate—the condemned cell , by W. Luker farther; there he placed himself by two other ladies, tried both their packets and left them again. He followed another lady and succeeded in picking her pocket of a small sum of money and a handkerchief. The officer took them all to the police station with the assistance of another detective officer, when they were committed for trial . . . . The man was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude, the boy to two months' hard labor and three months in a reformatory, and the woman was sentenced to two years' imprisonment with hard labor . . . . 38


It appeared, in the course of the evidence at the trial, that this man had previously been four years in penal servitude, and since his return had decoyed his little brother from a situation he held for the purpose of training him to pick pockets, having incited him to rob his employer before leaving service. . . . When they have booty, [pickpockets] generally bring it to some person to dispose of, as suspicion would be aroused if they went to sell or pawn it themselves. In some cases they give it to the trainer of thieves, or they take it to some low receiving house, where wretches encourage them in stealing; sometimes to low coffee-houses, low hairdressers or tailors, who act as middle- men to dispose of the property, generally giving them but a small part of the value. . . . These young thieves seldom commit their depredations in the localities where they are known but prowl in different parts of the metropolis. They are of a wandering character, changing from one district to another, and living in different lodging-houses . . . . At this time many of them cohabit with girls in low lodging-houses, many of whom are older than themselves, and generally of the felon class. . . . The female pickpockets often live with the burglars. . . . When the one is not successful in the one mode of plunder, they often get it in the other, or the women will resort to shoplifting. . . . The women do not resort to prostitution, though they may be of easy virtue with those they fancy. Some of them live with cracksmen [i.e., safe crackers] in high style, and have generally an abundance of cash. Female pickpockets are often the companions of skittlesharps [like modern-day pool sharks, though they are adept at the popular British bowling game], and pursue their mode of livelihood as in the case of those cohabiting with burglars. Their age averages from sixteen to forty-five. . . . In their leisure hours they frequently call at certain beershops and public-houses, kept possibly by some old "pals" or connections of the felon class . . .

I Was a Teenage Pickpocket From: London’s Underworld The following excerpts are from Henry Mayhew’s study of the Victorian poor; more specifically, they are from interviews he conducted with a young man who had turned to crime because he felt he could not earn a living honestly. While Mayhew’s book came out nearly 20 years after Oliver Twist, Victorians had not yet undertaken improving conditions for the poor, so things had not significantly changed even since Dickens was a boy, in the 1810s. This story comes from a young man who came to London from the country when only about 9 years old, like Oliver, though he had originally lived within an intact family. He left his family because their piety was repulsive to him, and because he believed his father favored the other children over him. ". . . My clothes had been getting shabby and dirty, having no one to look after me. . . . I went to a mean [i.e., poor] lodging-house [where] I met with characters I had never seen before, and heard language that I had not formerly heard. This was about July 1840, and I was about ten years of age the ensuing October. I stopped there about three weeks doing nothing. At the end of that time I was completely destitute. "The landlady took pity on me as a poor country boy who had been well brought up, and kept me for some days longer after my money was done. During these few days I had very little to eat, except what was given me by some of the lodgers when they got their own meals. I often thought at that time of my home in the country, and of what my 39


father and mother might be doing, as I had never written to them since the day I had first left my home. "I sometimes was almost tempted to write to them and let them know the position I was in, as I knew they would gladly send me up money to return home, but my stubborn spirit was not broke then. After being totally destitute for two or three days, I was turned out of doors, a little boy in the great world of London, with no friend to assist me, and perfectly ignorant of the ways and means of getting a living in London.

“I was taken by several poor ragged boys to sleep in the dark arches of the Adelphi [theatre]. I often saw the boys follow the male passengers when . . . boats came to the Adelphi stairs, i.e., the part of the river almost opposite to the Adelphi Theatre. I could not at first make out the meaning of this, but I soon found they generally had one or two handkerchiefs when the passengers left. At this time there was a prison-van [a secure vehicle used to transport convicts] in the Adelphi arches without wheels . . . The boys used to take me with them into the prison-van. There we used to meet a man my companions called 'Larry.' I knew him Children, some homeless, seeking by no other name for the time. He used employment at a hiring fair, London, 1850 to give almost what price he liked for the handkerchiefs. If they refused to give them at the price he named, he would threaten them in several ways. He said he would get the other boys to drive them away, and not allow them to get any more handkerchiefs there. If this did not intimidate them, he would threaten to give them in charge, so that at last they were compelled to take whatever price he liked to give them. “I have seen handkerchiefs I afterwards found out to be of the value of four or five shillings, sold him lumped together at 9d. each. 40


"The boys, during this time, had been very kind to me, sharing what they got with me, but always asking why I did not try my hand, till at last I was ashamed to live any longer upon the food they gave me without doing something for myself. One of the boys attached himself to me more than the others, whom we used to call Joe Muckraw, who was afterwards transported, and is now in a comfortable position in Australia. "Joe said to me that when the next boat came in, if any man came out likely to carry a good handkerchief, he would let me have a chance at it. I recollect when the boat came in that evening . . . . I saw an elderly gentleman step ashore, and a lady with him. They had a little dog, with a string attached to it, that they led along. Before Joe said anything to me, he had 'fanned' the gentleman's pocket, i.e., had felt the pocket and knew there was a handkerchief. He whispered to me, 'Now, Dick, have a try,' and I went to the old gentleman's side, trembling all the time, and Joe standing close to me in the dark, and went with him up the steep hill of the Adelphi. He had just passed an apple-stall there, Joe still following us, encouraging me all the time, while the old gentleman was engaged with the little dog. I took out a green 'kingsman' (handkerchief), next in value to a black silk handkerchief. (They are used a good deal as neckerchiefs by costermongers.) The gentleman did not perceive his loss. We immediately went to the arches and entered the van where Larry was, and Joe said to him, 'There is Dick's first trial, and you must give him a 'ray' for it,' i.e., 1s. 6d.’ After a deal of pressing we got 1s. for it. "After that I gained confidence, and in the course of a few weeks I was considered the cleverest of the little band, never missing one boat coming in, and getting one or two handkerchiefs on each occasion. During the time we knew there were no boats coming we used to waste our money on sweets, and fruits, and went often in the evenings to the Victoria Theatre, and Bower Saloon, and other places. When we came out at twelve, or half-past twelve at night, we went to the arches again, and slept in the prison-van. This was the life I led till January 1841. “During that month several men came to us. I did not know, although I afterwards heard they were brought by ‘Larry' to watch me, as he had been speaking of my cleverness at the 'tail,' i.e., stealing from the tails of gentlemen's coats, and they used to make me presents. It seemed they were not satisfied altogether with me, for they did not tell me what they wanted, nor speak their mind to me. About the middle of the month I was seized by a gentleman, who caught me with his handkerchief in my hand. I was taken to Bow Street police station and got two months in Westminster Bridewell [he was only 10]. "I came out in March, and . . . there was a cab waiting for me with two of the men standing by who had often made me presents and spoken to me in the arches. They asked me if I would go with them, and took me into the cab. I was willing to go anywhere to better myself, and went with them . . . to their own home. One of them had the first floor of a house there, the other had the second. Both were living with women, and I found out shortly afterwards that these men had lately had a boy, but he was transported about that time, though I did not know this then. They gave me plenty to Door to door eat, and one of the women, by name 'Emily,' washed and medicine salesman. cleansed me, and I got new clothes to put on. For three days I was not asked to do anything, but in the meantime they had been talking to me of going with them, and having no more to do with the boys at the Adelphi, or with the 'tail,' but to work at picking ladies' pockets. "I thought it strange at first, but found afterwards that it was more easy [sic] to work on a woman's pocket than upon a man's for this reason: More persons work together, and the boy 41


is well surrounded by companions older than himself, and is shielded from the eyes of the passersby; and, besides, it pays better. “It was on a Saturday, in company with three men, I set out on an excursion from Flower-and-Dean Street . . . . I was clothed in the suit given me when I came out of prison, a beaver-hat, a little surtout-coat and trousers, both of black cloth, and a black silk necktie and collar, dressed as a gentleman's son. We went into a pastrycook's shop in St. Paul's Churchyard about half-past two in the afternoon, and had pastry there, and they were watching the ladies coming into the shop, till at last they followed one out, taking me with them. "As this was my first essay in having anything to do in stealing from a woman, I believe they were nervous themselves, but they had well tutored me during the two or three days I had been out of prison. They had stood against me in the room while Emily walked to and fro, and I had practiced on her pocket by taking out sometimes a lady's clasp purse, termed a ‘portemonnate,' and other articles out of her pocket, and thus I was not quite ignorant of what was expected of me. One walked in front of me, one on my right hand, and the other in the rear, and I had the lady on my left hand. I immediately ‘fanned' her (felt her pocket) as she stopped to look in at a hosier's window, when I took her purse and gave it to one of them, and we immediately went to a house in Giltspur Street. We there examined what was in the purse. I think there was a sovereign, and about 17s.; I cannot speak positively how much. The purse was thrown away, as is the general rule. . . . We went down Newgate Street, into Cheapside, and there we soon got four more purses that afternoon, and went home by five o'clock p.m. I recollect how they praised me afterwards that night at home for my cleverness. “I think we did not go out again till the Tuesday, and that ,and the following day we had a good pull. It amounted to about £19 each. They always take care to allow the boy to see what is in the purse, and to give him his proper share equal with the others, because he is their sole support. If they should lose him they would be unable to do anything till they got another. Out of my share, which was about £19, I bought a silver watch and a gold chain, and about this time I also bought an overcoat, and carried it on my left arm to cover my movements. "A few weeks after this we went to Surrey Gardens, and I got two purses from ladies. In one of them were some French coins and a ring, that was afterwards advertised as either lost or stolen in the garden. We did very well that visit, and were thinking of going again, when I was caught in Fleet Street, and they had no means of getting me away, though they tried all they could to secure my escape. They could not do it without exposing themselves to too much suspicion. I was sentenced to three months' imprisonment in Bridge Street Bridewell, Blackfriars, termed by the thieves the Old Horse. "This was shortly before Christmas 1840. During my imprisonment I did not live on the prison diet, but was kept on good rations supplied to me through the kindness of my comrades out of doors bribing the turnkeys [guards]. I had tea of a morning, bread and butter, and often cold meat. Meat and all kinds of pastry was sent to me from a cook-shop outside, and I was allowed to sit up later than other prisoners. During the time I was in prison for these three months I learned to smoke, as cigars were introduced to me. "When I came out we often used to attend the theatres, and I have often had as many as six or seven ladies' purses in the rear of the boxes during the time they were coming 42 Letter thief (a tactic of the desperately poor )


out. This was the time when the pantomimes were in their full attraction. It’s easier to pick a female's pocket when she has several children with her to attract her attention than if she were there by herself. “We went out once or twice a week, sometimes stopped in a whole week, and sallied out on Sunday. I often got purses coming down the steps at Spitalfields' Church. I believe I have done so hundreds of times. This church was near to us, and easily got at. “We went to Madame Tussaud's, Baker Street, and were pretty lucky there. At this time we hired horses and a trap to go down to Epsom races, but did not take any of the women with us. “I was generally employed working in the streets rather than at places of amusement, etc., and was in dread that my father or some of my friends might come and see me at some of these. "When at the Epsom races, shortly after the termination of the race for the Derby, I was induced, much against my will, to turn my hand upon two ladies as they were stepping into a carriage, and was detected by the ladies. There was immediately an outcry, but I was got away by two of my comrades. The other threw himself in the way, and kept them back; was taken up on suspicion, committed for trial, and got four months' imprisonment. "I kept with the other men, and we got another man in his place. When his time was expired they went down to meet him, and he did not go out for some time afterwards—for nearly a fortnight [two weeks]. After that we went out, and had different degrees of luck, and one of the men was seized with a [mysterious illness], and died at Brompton in the hospital. . . . His chief work had been to guard me and get me out of difficulty when I was detected, as I was the support of the band. "About this time, as nearly as I can recollect, when I was two months over thirteen years of age, I first kept a woman. We had apartments, a front and back room of our own. She was a tall, thin, genteel girl, about fifteen years of age, and very goodlooking. I often ill-used her and beat her. She bore it patiently till I carried it too far, and at last she left me . . . . During the time she was with me—which lasted for nine or ten months—I was very fortunate, and was never without £2O or £30 in my pocket, while she had the same in hers. I was dressed in fashionable style, and had a gold watch and gold guard. “Meantime I had been busy with these men, as usual going to Cheapside, St. Paul's Churchyard, and Fleet Street. In the end of the year 1844 I was taken up for an attempt on a lady in St. Martin's Lane . . . . The conviction was brought against me from the City, and I got six months in Tothill Fields Prison. "This was my first real imprisonment of any length. At first I was a month in Tothill Fields, and afterwards three months in the City Bridewell, Blackfriars, where I had a good deal of indulgence, and did not feel the imprisonment so much. The silent system was strict, and being very willful, I was often under punishment. It had such an effect on me that for the last six weeks of my imprisonment I was in the infirmary. The men came down to meet me when my punishment expired, and I again accompanied them to their house. “During the time I had been in prison they had got another boy, but they said they would willingly turn him away or give him to some other men; but I, being self-willed, said they might keep him. I had another reason for parting with them. When I went to prison I had property worth a good deal of money. On coming out I found they had sold it, and they never gave me value for it. They pretended it was laid out in my defense, which I knew was only a pretext. . . . 43


“I had a little money, and at a public-house I met with two men living down Gravel Lane . . . . I went down there, and commenced working with two of them on ladies' pockets, but in a different part of the town. We went to Whitechapel and the Commercial Road; but had not worked six weeks with them before I was taken up again, and was tried at Old Arbour Square, and got three months' imprisonment at Coldbath Fields. If I thought Tothill Fields was bad, I found the other worse. "When I got out I had no one to meet me, and thought I would work by myself. It was about this time I commenced to steal gentlemen's watches. . . . “For six or seven years, when engaged in picking pockets, I earned a good deal of money. Our house expenses many weeks would average from £4 to £5, living on the best fare, and besides, we end to theatres and places of amusement . . . . “The London pickpockets are acquainted generally with each other, and help their comrades in difficulty. They frequently meet with many of he burglars. A great number of the women of pickpockets and burglars are shoplifters, as they require to support themselves when their men are in prison. "A woman would be considered useless to a man if she could not . . . keep him for a few days after he comes out, which she does by shoplifting, and picking Female pickpocket on an omnibus pockets in omnibuses . . . . "I have associated a good deal with the pickpockets over London, in different districts. You cannot easily calculate their weekly income, as it is so precarious, perhaps one day getting £20 or £30, and another day being totally unsuccessful. They are in general very superstitious, and if anything crosses them, they will do nothing. If they see a person they have formerly robbed, they expect bad luck, and will not attempt anything. “They are very generous in helping each other when they get into difficulty, or trouble, but have no [aid] societies, as they could not be kept up. Many of them may be in prison five or six months of the year; some may get a long penal servitude, or transportation; or they may have the steel taken out of them, and give up this restless, criminal mode of life. . . . “I believe a large number of the thieves of London come from the provinces, and from the large towns, such as Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester, and Liverpool; from Birmingham especially, more than any other town in England. . . .” Who were “the poor”? From: W.J. Reader’s Life in Victorian England Speaking very broadly it might be said, for a start, that they would include all unskilled men without a regular trade. There were poor tradesmen as well, particularly in trades that were being killed by the factories, such as hand-loom weaving, but in general a man with a trade had “a living in his hands” and some security against destitution. Not so th be dock worker, the factory hand, the general laborer, or the laborers working for craftsmen such 44 A knife grinder.


as bricklayers, forever on the edge of a trade without a hope of getting into it. Then there were those who lived by all those unorganized, casual employments which Henry Mayhew investigated so thoroughly in London in the middle of the century, and whom he called “all that large class who live by either selling, showing, or doing something through the country.” In London itself he distinguished six “distinct genera” of streetfolk—street-sellers, street-buyers, street-finders, street-performers, street-artisans or working peddlers and street-laborers—and each of these again he divided minutely. They had one thing in common—their poverty—which forced them to find a living in the most unlikely and unprofitable ways, and they shaded off by imperceptible and (by themselves) unperceived degrees from honesty into crime, for it was from amongst the very poor that the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the prisons came. And some of the worst Victorian poverty was amongst the immigrant Irish, who came in right at the bottom of the labor market to jobs which not even the poorest English, if they could help it, would take on. No skill could protect a man from sickness, old age or premature death. Any of these could bring a workman or his widow and children to poverty, and they often did. The proper thing to do, of course, was to save in prosperity against the day of adversity, but even the wages of a skilled man in full work allowed little enough margin, and not even the most grinding thrift could meet the strain of chronic illness, of bringing up fatherless children, of prolonged senility. A benevolent employer might come to the help of an old servant. There might be local charities, if an old man, an old woman or an orphan child could get a nomination. There were institutions like the training ship Exmouth, Dr. Barnardo's Homes, and the Waifs' and Strays' Society which struggled with the flood of neglected children. But in general those who could not look after themselves, from whatever cause, formed a great part of “the poor” and they had small hope of rescue except into the workhouse. “What security has the working man?” asked [Friedrich] Engels in 1844. “He knows that, though he may have the means of living today, it is very uncertain whether he shall tomorrow.” Great numbers, certainly, were unemployed or under-employed, though the numbers varied with the state of trade and it is impossible to get accurate figures. Sir John Clapham suggested that they might run from 4 % of the working population in a good year like 1850 to 9-5 % in a bad year like 1886. In particular occupations the figures might from time to time run much higher. . . . And the kind of crisis which could produce unemployment on a large scale—something which no workman, however prudent, could do much to protect himself against—happened quite frequently; so much so that the trade cycle was accepted as a law of nature. If depression was prolonged, it was one of the main causes of poverty. The industries of the town of Wednesbury were depressed from the mid-Seventies right up to 1914 and the workhouse in that town got so full, from time to time, that paupers had to be boarded out. Some were said to have died of starvation. . . . Sometimes a soup kitchen would be opened by public subscription [Mrs. Beeton in early editions of her famous housekeeping book included recipes for soup for the poor at a cost of about 1½ pence a gallon]. Sometimes boots would be given to poor children who could not otherwise go to school. Sometimes meals would be distributed to the aged. Apart from total unemployment, under-employment was always a risk, particularly to outworkers and small masters who might often suffer from it even when employment generally was good. For factory hands and miners it might take the form of short-time working, so that what was just about a living wage on full time would fall short. Many jobs, especially unskilled ones, were seasonal and could never bring in regular money. Many men, in fact, can never have known what steady employment was. They would spend long hours idly about the street, and one of Charles Booth's 45


collaborators . . . gives a telling description: “A noticeable thing in poor streets is the mark left on the exterior of the houses. All along the front, about on a level with the hips, there is a broad dirty mark, showing where the men and lads are in the constant habit of standing, leaning a bit forward, as they smoke their pipes, and watch whatever may be going on in the street, while above and below the mortar is picked or kicked from between the bricks.” Many of the Victorian poor were people who had no hope of ever doing more than picking up a few days' or a few weeks' money here and there, existing in the intervals as best they could, like the London dock workers. And so they jolted down an uneven road of poverty to old age in the workhouse, if they lived so long. Town life cannot be healthy without sanitation. In overcrowded courts, alleys and back streets there was practically none. Privies were usually insufficient and were shared between households, and adequate drainage came slowly and late. Filthy conditions persisted and the Royal Commission on Housing, in the Eighties, produced a report which reads quite as disgustingly as anything Chadwick had written forty or more years before. Of one London parish the Commissioners said: “It seems to be no uncommon thing for the waterclosets to be stopped and overflowing for months,” and: “in some parts of London they are used as sleeping places by the homeless poor. . . . In Bristol privies actually exist in living rooms: and elsewhere in the provinces there are instances where no closet accommodation at all is attached to the dwellings of the laboring classes.” To the household refuse and human filth there was often added the filth of animals, for many families, following in less suitable surroundings the old cottagers' tradition, kept pigs or fowls in the backyard. Water supplies were as bad as sanitation. The main pipes ran usually under the principal streets so that households in the poorer districts had to depend on water from tanks or standpipes some way off. A man living in Bath about 1840 could get no good water nearer than a quarter of a mile. “It is as valuable as strong beer,” he said. “We can't use it for cooking, or anything of that sort, but only for drinking and tea.” “Then where do you get water for cooking and washing?” “Why, from the river. But it is muddy, and often stinks bad, because all the filth is carried there.” ''Do you then prefer to cook your victuals in water which is muddy and stinks to walking a quarter of a mile to fetch it from the pump?” “We can't help ourselves, you know. We couldn't go all that way for it.” If people would not “go all that way” for water to cook with, how much less willingly would they fetch water for washing, especially in the dark of a winter morning before they went to the mill or after they came back, twelve, fourteen or sixteen hours later, or in rain, sleet or snow. “The minor comforts of cleanliness,” wrote Edwin Chadwick in 1842—and what he said would have held true much later—“are of course foregone, to avoid the immediate and greater discomforts of having to fetch water.” A Lancashire collier, about the same date, said he never washed his body; he let his shirt rub the dirt off, though he added, “I wash my neck and ears and face, of course.” The 46


sense of smell was stunned, and observers remarked how little the working class seemed to be discommoded by the mixture of stenches in which they had to live. In the lower depths of Victorian towns anything like good housekeeping was impossible. The houses, to start with, were much too full. With large families, with houses divided between households, it was not uncommon to find seven or eight people sleeping in one room, and many families had only two or three rooms or fewer for all purposes. Then dirt would drop from the soot-laden sky and be carried in on people, and all the while there would be far too little money. Not that many of the women had much idea what good housekeeping was. They had not been in service in good households like country girls. Instead they had mostly been trying to earn a few pence to help their parents' struggles, so that they had had no chance to learn how to be a housewife even if there had been anyone to teach them. In particular their extravagance in buying and using food was often deplored by middleclass commentators. They admitted, however, that it was to some extent unavoidable because the working-class woman, living from day to day on a tiny uncertain income, had to buy in very small quantities from hucksters as poor as or poorer than herself. They sought to protect themselves against bad debts by outrageous prices for inferior and adulterated goods. . . . In Manchester [in the 1850s], mill hands and their families were said to be living mostly on bad tea, oatmeal and potatoes, with meat (including bacon) not more than three times a week at the most. Something very similar was reported by Charles Booth, in the Nineties, as the diet of the poorest in London, though by then margarine and jam were both mentioned as well as bread. . . . In the poorer quarters of Victorian towns it must have been extremely difficult to lead anything like a “healthy life” as the phrase is understood today. The great spectacular outbreaks of cholera were not brought under control before the Eighties, and there were plenty of other epidemic diseases. . . . At all times bad water supplies, filth and overcrowding might produce typhoid, typhus and “fever” generally, besides tuberculosis, diphtheria and other infectious maladies. Then there were Workhouse dormitory. rickets and other diseases of malnutrition, and in general the stunted physique and pale of the town poor were continually remarked on throughout the century. Things were certainly better when Booth wrote [in the Eighties], but in the poorer districts there might still have been a good deal of truth in Southwood Smith’s words, written in 1844: “The poorer classes . . . are exposed to causes of disease and death which are peculiar to them; the operation of these peculiar causes is stead, unceasing, sure; and the result I the same as if twenty or thirty thousand of these people were annually taken out of the wretched dwellings and put to death, the actual fact being that they are allowed to remain in them and die.” . . . The upbringing of children in the households of the Victorian poor was bound to be a sketchy affair. Father would be working probably twelve hours a day or more if he was fully employed, and if he was not it was unlikely that he would take much responsibility for what he would regard as his wife's job. Mother herself, if she could, would almost certainly try to get some kind of paid work to help out the tiny household income. If she did that, she too would probably be out of the house most of the day (though she might get one of the miserably paid domestic occupations like sewing or 47


matchbox making). The smaller children would have to be looked after by the larger, of their own or another family, though in later years the new Board schools provided a useful child- minding service . . . Children not at school—or at work—spent their time in the streets, but infants too small for that were too often drugged with Godfrey's Cordial or some other concoction of opium and treacle [molasses]. By these preparations, as the report on the state of large towns put it in 1844, “great numbers of infants perish, either suddenly, from an overdose, or, as more commonly happens, slowly, painfully, and insidiously.” Great numbers of infants perished anyhow, whether from that cause or some other, and their death cannot always have been unwelcome. Both boys and girls went young to work, because of the overwhelming necessity to get every possible penny into the household. Until the State took matters seriously in hand from 1870 onward, schooling was likely to be sketchy in the extreme, for among the poor those parents would be altogether exceptional who would not grudge the time and the few pence a week that would have to be spent on it. As late as 1880, according to the Census Report of 1881, something like twenty per cent of the population could not sign their names, and in 1850 the figure had been forty per cent. Only about half the children aged five to fifteen were then at school. The employment of children in the textile industries and in the mines was regulated by law during the Forties, after shocking revelations by the Children's Employment Commission, and the regulations were enforced by inspection. But there were still plenty of trades unregulated altogether and another Children's Employment Commission, sitting in the Sixties, found, for instance, 11,000 children and young persons [working for potters] employed “under conditions which undermine their health and constitution.” What that meant, amongst other things, was that small boys between six and ten years old were carrying molds from the potters to the “stoves” (small rooms at a temperature of 120 degrees or so) for about 11½ hours a day nominally, but in fact for as much as 14, 15 or 16 hours, and they were getting perhaps as much as half a crown (12 ½ pence) a week for it. Other trades that were investigated were match-making, with its hideous possibilities of jaw disease caused by phosphorus, paper staining and chimney sweeping. As to the last, there had been a great scandal about climbing chimney sweeps in the Thirties, and in the middle of Queen Victoria's reign the comfortable classes were inclined to think that matters had been put right by an Act of 1840. On the contrary, the Commissioners of the Sixties re- ported that “the evil is decidedly on the increase.” The job meant climbing up long, twisting, soot-covered flues, and the brutality requited to get a boy to do it was sickening. . . . A Nottingham master sweep called Ruff [reported that] “the flesh must be hardened. This is done by rubbing it, chiefly on the elbows and knees, with the strongest brine, close by a hot fire. You must stand over them with a cane, or coax them with the promise of a halfpenny, &c., if they will stand a few more rubs. At first they will come back from their work with their arms and knees streaming with blood, and the knees looking as if the caps had been pulled off; then they must be rubbed with brine again.” . . . [These are] the sort of conditions under which many people I the new industrial towns, and these not the very poorest, had to live. It has to be borne in mind that life for the working man had always been hard, often wretched, and 19th century wretchedness may not have been so bad as that of former centuries. At any rate, it attracted much more attention and much more was done about it. But it remains true that it made for a brutal, barbarous existence which was the despair of the middle-class moralist [the Mr. Bumbles and Widow Corneys] and the dread of the “comfortable” working class [the Noah Claypoles and the Sowerberrys] who had raised themselves above it. 48


It was a world which the accepted Victorian scale of values and ideas of right behavior hardly penetrated. Thrift meant nothing to people so poor that they could live only for the day. “Self-help” [one of the most popular Victorian fads, since it included moral improvement] and individual ambition were alike a mockery to people so weighed down by circumstances over which they had no control. How could conventional morality make any sense to people sleeping seven or eight to a room? In fact, there was a good deal of prostitution, the marriage bond was fairly loose, and illegitimate children were easily accepted into their mothers’ families. . . . The law was a doubtful protection, the property of the rich a more or less legitimate targeted, and the police potential oppressors. In any case, life in jail might be more comfortable and would certainly be healthier than life outside. So far as the poor man felt himself to have any friends, they were of his own kind and his strength lay in united action with them, though the unskilled laborers only slowly recognized how great that united strength might be. But commentators from Engels in the Forties to Charles Booth half a century later remarked on the helpfulness of the poor to each other, in spite of the general brutality of their way of life and of much of the conduct. “It is only the poor that really give,” said a non-conformist minister to one of Booth’s investigators. “Personal help and timely relief are the key notes of the charity of the poor. They know exactly the wants of one another and give when needed.” So much for the brisk and tight-lipped charity of the middle classes, seeking always to distinguish the “deserving poor” from the rest. And a Catholic priest agreed . . . “To each other,” he said, “their goodness is wonderful.” . . .

A charitable organization’s soup kitchen, 1850s

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

The Cry of the Children This poem, by one of England’s most famous 19th century poets, reflects Browning’s anguish over the kind of lives poor urban children were leading in Victorian England, sentiments that Dickens himself obviously shared. Soon after “The Cry of the Children” was published it became the cry of the liberal Victorian reformers. (The Medea quote is included as a reference to the anguish Medea felt when she realized that her husband’s new marriage, which she was powerless to halt, was a threat to her children’s very lives.) 49


"Theu theu, ti prosderkesthe mommasin, tekna;" [Alas, alas, why do you gaze at me with your eyes, my children?] --Medea. Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers, Ere the sorrow comes with years ? They are leaning their young heads against their mothers, -And that cannot stop their tears. The young lambs are bleating in the meadows ; The young birds are chirping in the nest ; The young fawns are playing with the shadows ; The young flowers are blowing toward the west-But the young, young children, O my brothers, They are weeping bitterly ! They are weeping in the playtime of the others, In the country of the free. Do you question the young children in the sorrow, Why their tears are falling so ? The old man may weep for his to-morrow Which is lost in Long Ago -The old tree is leafless in the forest -The old year is ending in the frost -The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest -The old hope is hardest to be lost : But the young, young children, O my brothers, Do you ask them why they stand Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers, In our happy Fatherland ? They look up with their pale and sunken faces, And their looks are sad to see, For the man's grief abhorrent, draws and presses Down the cheeks of infancy -"Your old earth," they say, "is very dreary;" "Our young feet," they say, "are very weak !" Few paces have we taken, yet are weary-Our grave-rest is very far to seek ! Ask the old why they weep, and not the children, For the outside earth is cold -And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering, And the graves are for the old !" "True," say the children, "it may happen That we die before our time ! Little Alice died last year her grave is shapen Like a snowball, in the rime. We looked into the pit prepared to take her -50


Was no room for any work in the close clay : From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her, Crying, 'Get up, little Alice ! it is day.' If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower, With your ear down, little Alice never cries ; Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her, For the smile has time for growing in her eyes ,-And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in The shroud, by the kirk*-chime !* It is good when it happens," say the children, "That we die before our time !"

Intersection sweepers, hoping for coins from drivers for clearing streets of refuse

Alas, the wretched children ! they are seeking Death in life, as best to have ! They are binding up their hearts away from breaking, With a cerement from the grave. Go out, children, from the mine and from the city -Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do -Pluck you handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them through ! But they answer, "Are your cowslips of the meadows Like our weeds a’near the mine ? Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows, From your pleasures fair and fine! "For oh," say the children, "we are weary, And we cannot run or leap -If we cared for any meadows, it were merely To drop down in them and sleep. Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping -We fall upon our faces, trying to go ; And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping, The reddest flower would look as pale as snow. For, all day, we drag our burden tiring, Through the coal-dark, underground -Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron In the factories, round and round. "For all day, the wheels are droning, turning, -Their wind comes in our faces, -Till our hearts turn, -- our heads, with pulses burning, And the walls turn in their places Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling -Turns the long light that droppeth down the wall, -Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceilingAll are turning, all the day, and we with all ! -And all day, the iron wheels are droning ; And sometimes we could pray,

*

Scots, Old English: Church.

51


'O ye wheels,' (breaking out in a mad moaning) 'Stop ! be silent for to-day ! ' " Ay ! be silent ! Let them hear each other breathing For a moment, mouth to mouth -Let them touch each other's hands, in a fresh wreathing Of their tender human youth ! Let them feel that this cold metallic motion Is not all the life God fashions or reveals -Let them prove their inward souls against the notion That they live in you, or under you, O wheels ! -Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward, As if Fate in each were stark ; And the children's souls, which God is calling sunward, Spin on blindly in the dark. Now tell the poor young children, O my brothers, To look up to Him and pray -So the blessed One, who blesseth all the others, Will bless them another day. They answer, " Who is God that He should hear us, While the rushing of the iron wheels is stirred ? When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us Pass by, hearing not, or answer not a word ! And we hear not (for the wheels in their resounding) Strangers speaking at the door : Is it likely God, with angels singing round Him, Hears our weeping any more ? . . . "But, no !" say the children, weeping faster, " He is speechless as a stone ; And they tell us, of His image is the master Who commands us to work on. “Go to ! " say the children,--"up in Heaven, Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find ! Do not mock us ; grief has made us unbelieving -We look up for God, but tears have made us blind." Do ye hear the children weeping and disproving, O my brothers, what ye preach ? For God's possible is taught by His world's loving -And the children doubt of each. And well may the children weep before you ; They are weary ere they run ; They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory Which is brighter than the sun : They know the grief of man, without its wisdom ; They sink in the despair, without its calm -52


Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom, -Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm, -Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly No dear remembrance keep,-Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly : Let them weep ! let them weep ! They look up, with their pale and sunken faces, And their look is dread to see, For they think you see their angels in their places, With eyes meant for Deity ;-"How long," they say, "how long, O cruel nation, Will you stand, to move the world, on a child's heart, -Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation, And tread onward to your throne amid the mart ? Our blood splashes upward, O our tyrants, And your purple shows your path ; But the child's sob curseth deeper in the silence Than the strong man in his wrath ! Boy Charles Roams London From: The Making of Charles Dickens In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only a small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small. Great Expectations Apart from David Copperfield, [says Dickens scholar Christopher Hibbert] who is made to go through the same experiences, the most obvious parallel to Charles Dickens the boy worker is Oliver Twist, the son of a gentleman who becomes the workhouse orphan, “a poor houseless, wandering boy, without a friend to help him, or a roof to shelter his head.” [As is well known, Charles Dickens grew up in a large, struggling family not unlike Bob Cratchit’s, (although it has always been clear that, unlike Cratchit, John Dickens’ problem was not earning but overspending his money). Many of Charles’ experiences first appear in Oliver Twist, his second full-length novel, though most critics and scholars agree that the material appears more polished when Dickens subsequently included it in David Copperfield. Although Charles received some schooling, when the Dickens family grew more quickly than did Mr. Dickens’ salary the boy was removed from school to help watch the younger children and make more and more visits to local pawnshops. When not needed for these duties Charles often walked London’s streets, through public and private avenues, in well-to-do and poor neighborhoods, a practice he continued as an adult, particularly when he felt the need for inspiration. Rather like his characters, Dickens later recalled that] [when I wandered about the worst sections of London as a child] I understood little or nothing of what was bad in it then, and it had no depraving influence on me. I have wondered since how long it would take, 53


by means of such association, to corrupt a child nurtured as I had been, and innocent as I was. . . . [One evening] it was late when I got out into the streets, and there was no moon, and there were no stars, and the rain fell heavily. . . . I felt unspeakably forlorn; and now, for the first time, my little bed and the dear familiar faces came before me, and touched my heart. By daylight I had never thought of the [worry] at home. I had never thought of my mother. . . . [Lost and unsure how to return home] I found a watchman in his box. . . . He had a dreadful cough, and was obliged to lean against a wall, whenever it came on. We got at last to the watch-house, a warm and drowsy sort of place embellished with great coats . . . . When a paralytic messenger had been sent to make inquiries about me, I fell asleep by the fire, and awoke no more until my eyes opened on my father's face. . . . They used to say I was an odd child, and I suppose I was. . . [This episode did not deter Charles from continuing to explore London, from the awe-inspiring vistas through the horrifying sections of it.] From the end of Bayham Street you could see the City in those days with the dome of St Paul's looming through the smoke, a sight, so Dickens said, that served him “for hours of vague reflection afterwards’; and he walked towards it 'like a child in a dream, inspire d by a might 'faith in the marvellousness of everything. Up courts and down courts—in and out of yards and little squares—peeping into counting-house passages and running away, peering into Austin Friars, South Sea House and India House, staring at the men munching biscuits as they read the posters advertising the sailing of ships on Royal Exchange, watching the cooks in their white caps at work in the basement kitchen of the Mansion House until one of them caught sight of him at the grated window and called out through his black whiskers, “Cut away, you sir!” [On other excursions Charles visited Limehouse, the neighborhood of] his godfather, Christopher Huffam, a well-to-do gentleman in service to His Majesty's Navy whom the convivial and socially pretentious John Dickens had met in the course of his duties. Behind Huffam's comfortable house a jumble of warehouses, shipwrights' sheds, dockers' tenements, marine stores, rag-and-bottle shops, sailors' cabins, ship-breakers' yards and ferry houses stretched in confused array down to the waterfront by Ropemakers' Fields. And it was here, walking along the creaking timber jetties and wharves, standing on the dry docks between the warrens of ramshackle buildings, watching the oyster-boats and tenders, the lighters and colliers, the diving bells and windmill sails, that Charles was first gripped by that fascination with the London river that was to inspire so much of his work [especially the final chapters of Oliver Twist]. With the smell of rotting hempen hawsers in his nostrils, and in his ears the never-ending sound of engines pumping in leaky ships, capstans clanking as they wound in dripping A dockside scene like those in Oliver Twist cables, dogs barking as they raced up and down the black lines of the couriers, steamships beating the 54


water with their paddles, his mind was filled with wonder and curiosity. Below him in the mud and slime were stranded boats and old hulks half knocked to pieces, rusty anchors, broken baskets and dregs of coal . . .; and here at low tide the mud-larks scavenged for bits of iron and coal and copper nails. They were either very old or very young, these mud-larks, for none but the weak or crippled would undertake such filthy work for so poor a return. Many were about Charles's age, some much younger. They went down into the mud carrying old hats and rusty kettles, wearing a collection of rags stiff as boards, often cutting their bare feet on fragments of glass buried in the ooze. . . . Frightened as well as fascinated by the scenes and denizens of the waterfront at Limehouse, Charles confessed himself to be even more alarmed by the glimpses of London, strange in its grooms and flaring lights' that he caught through the window of the coach that took him home. Some of these sights were reassuring enough—“the noisy, bustling, crowded A mud-lark streets, now displaying long double rows of brightlyburning lamps, dotted here and there with the chemists' glaring lights, and illuminated besides with the brilliant flood that streamed from the windows of the shops,” the muffinboy ringing his way down the streets, the beer-man going his rounds with a lantern in front of his tray, the sudden flare of light over a kidney-pie stand, a chimney-sweep with ribbons in his top hat, the swaying lamp of a waterman illuminating the big brass plate on his chest. But then, after the coach had rattled down Commercial Road and Leadenhall Street, up Cornhill, along Cheapside and Newgate Street, it turned into the swarming slums of St. Giles and Seven Dials where “wild visions of wickedness, want and beggary” arose in his anxious mind. In his first book, Sketches by Boz, and again in Oliver Twist, he was to paint an appallingly vivid picture of this district whose squalor was to remain almost unchanged from the days when Hogarth set the scene of his Gin Lane there in 1751 until in 1864 Dickens took Marcus Stone, the illustrator of Our Mutual Friend, there and showed him the taxidermist and bone articulator who had inspired the character of Mr. Venus. Of an evening this rookery was crowded with laborers in their working clothes, still covered in brick dust and whitewash, arguing with each other round the street posts, with drunken Irishwomen fighting to the shouts of encouragement from pot-boys, with half-naked children playing in the open drains or sitting in the gutter stupefied by a tot of the “The Real Knock Me Down” which had been handed out to them from the garish interior of a nearby gin-shop. It was packed with “dirty men, filthy women, squalid children, fluttering shuttlecocks, noisy battledores, reeking pipes, bad fruit, more than doubtful oysters, attenuated cats, depressed dogs,” secondhand clothes shops, pawnbrokers' shops, shops full of birds and rabbits and old iron and kitchen stuff and mangles and advertisements for penny theatres, and with crumbling houses in which every room had a separate tenant and every tenant a family. In one small wretched hovel, whose broken windows were patched with rags and paper, there might be found a sweetmeat manufacturer in the cellar, a barber and a red-herring vendor in the front 55


parlor and a cobbler in the back, a bird fancier on the first floor, three families on the second, starvation in the attics. Irishmen in the passage, a “musician” in the front kitchen and a charwoman and five hungry children in the back one—filth everywhere—a gutter before the house and a drain behind—clothes drying and slops emptying from the windows; girls of fourteen or fifteen with matted hair walking about barefoot. . . . Scenes similar to this one in Seven Dials could be witnessed in several of London's other dreadful slums throughout most of Dickens' life . . . . There was Saffron Hill near Smithfield Market, where, in an upstairs back room near Field Lane, Oliver Twist is introduced to the sausage-toasting Fagin—and “a dirtier or more wretched place” Oliver had never seen. There were the slums of Whitechapel, Rotherhithe, Houndsditch and Bethnal Green, Southwark and Spitalfields, where, as in St. Giles, whole courts were inhabited by gangs of criminals, their women and their children; where holes were cut through walls and ceilings, into cellars and out of roofs so that a man wanted by the police might soon escape; Whole rows of coats have started from where brothels, lodging-houses, rat-pits and skittletheir pegs, and shoes suddenly found grounds were entirely given over to the custom of feet to fit them. criminals. There were also those numerous areas, George Cruikshank less specifically criminal, where the poverty was abject and infamous. . . . And, worst of all, there was Jacob's Island, beyond Dockhead in Southwark, “the filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London, wholly unknown, even by name to the great mass of its inhabitants.” Jacob's Island was a noisome warren of decaying houses whose walls were crumbling down, whose doors were falling into the narrow streets, whose rotting floors were supported on piles driven into the stagnant marsh beneath, whose windows, windows no more, looked forlornly down upon every “repulsive lineament of poverty, every loathsome indication of filth, rot, and garbage” that lined the banks of Folly Ditch. It was here that the cholera epidemic that swept across London in 1832 began, and where, in 1848, cholera started again. Yet twelve years after Oliver Twist was published,. . . “it was publicly declared in London by an amazing Alderman (Sir Peter Laurie, satirized as Alderman Cute in The Chimes) that Jacob's Island did not exist, and never had existed. Jacob's Island continues to exist (like an ill-bred place as it is).” A lodging house built over a sewer. Stark and disturbing as is Dickens's description of this rookery, however, it seems almost discreet by comparison with Henry Mayhew's account of it in one of that series of articles from which developed London Labor and the London Poor, the first two volumes of which were published in 1851. Mayhew wrote of the disgusting graveyard smell of the place which made you feel sick 56


as soon as you crossed the bridge, the heavy bubbles rising up in the slimy, greeny black water choked with rotting weeds and fish-heads, the swollen carcasses of dead animals ready to burst with the gases of putrefaction and the red effluent from the leatherdressers; he described what Dickens, with his care for the susceptibilities of his public, would never have felt able to do, the dark streaks of filth down the walls where the drains discharged themselves into the ditch, the open, doorless privies. . . . [In time Mr. Dickens’ financial straits reached such a crisis point that a position was found for Charles, then about 10 years old, at Warren’s blacking factory, which was managed by an acquaintance of his father. While working at that age was not unheard of, Charles felt ashamed and even a little betrayed by his parents, feelings that were intensified once John Dickens was sentenced to Marshalsea, a debtor’s prison, where he was accompanied by the rest of his family but Fanny, who was at music school on scholarship, and Charles, who was placed in a boarding house {despite the fact that it ate into his earnings}. At Warren’s] Charles was instructed in his warehouse duties by the young, kind Bob Fagin whose name is borrowed for the old shriveled Jewish villain. And this choice of name is significant. It may well be, as John Bayley has suggested, that Charles felt about Bob Fagin's benevolent and protective interferences on his behalf as Oliver feels about the other Fagin whose affection he wants and needs and yet dreads as the greatest threat to his moral existence. No wonder Fagin the criminal is such an ambivalent figure when the real Fagin's kindness had, so to speak, threatened to inure Dickens to the hopeless routine of the wage-slave. So passionate was the young Dickens' desire for the station in life to which he felt entitled and so terrifying his sense that it was being denied him, that he must have hated the real Fagin for the virtue which he could not bear to accept or recognize in that nightmare world, because it might help to subdue him into it. The real Fagin's kindness becomes the criminal Fagin's villainy. While writing Oliver Twist, Dickens became so absorbed in his work that it was as though he were actually experiencing the events he was describing; he began to suffer a recurrence of the feverish spasms of his boyhood illness. Twice he fell ill during the writing of David Copperfield, the first time when he was about to begin his description of David in the warehouse. Throughout his life, indeed, he was subject, in times of stress, to these agonizing spasms of renal or intestinal colic, that “unspeakable pain in the side.” [While employed at Warren’s] sometimes he would go to look wistfully at the toy bazaar in Soho Square or to the “toy shop in Fleet Street to see the giants of Saint Dunstan's strike upon the bells,” or to the fascinating tea-tray shop on the corner of Bedford Street and King Street and stare at the scenes painted on the trays. On other mornings he would walk down to the back streets of the Adelphi and look into the Warren’s Blacking factory Adelphi arches, or sit on a bench soutside the waterside tavern, the “Fox-under-the-Hill,” to watch the halfpenny steamboats chugging up and down the river between Salisbury Stairs and London Bridge, or he would go down to Scotland Yard to see the coal-heavers fill their wagons from the barges moored at the wharf, and, if he were lucky, he would catch sight of them dancing in their leather gaiters and aprons and coaches' hats, mugs of 57


Barclay's best in one hand and long-stemmed pipes in the other, in the courtyard of the inn. The inn he frequented mostly himself was the Swan in Hungerford Stairs, a “miserable old public-house,” though the best he could afford. For after breakfast of “a penny cottage loaf and a pennyworth of milk,” or a piece of the cheap pastry (cheap because it was stale) sold at the confectioners' shops he passed of a morning in Tottenham Court Road, he had to be contented with a saveloy sausage or a bit of bread and cheese for his dinner; and it was only when he had been given some money by his godfather that he could afford to go to one of those pudding-shops and eating houses so common in the area of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields that it was known as Porridge Island. Once he plucked up courage to go into Johnson's a-la-mode beef-shop in Clare Court, with his own bread wrapped up in paper to look like a book, and to order a plateful of larded beef; and once he went into the Red Lion in Parliament Street and ordered a twopenny glass of the landlord's “very best—the VERY best-ale.” But more often he was reduced to staring in a dismal reverie at the signs on the plate-glass doors of the coffeeshops in St. Martin's Lane. . . . [Perhaps the most devastating event of this part of Charles’ life came after his father and family had been released from prison {Mr. Dickens inherited a small sum from his mother}. Charles was, of course, reunited with his family, but continued to work at Warren’s until his father, happening to pass by the factory, saw his son working before a large display window, obviously to attract the attention of passers-by. Acquaintance or no, John Dickens immediately removed Charles from the factory, letting the manager know how shocked he was that thy boy should so exploited.] At home his mother was not at all pleased by what had happened. More realistic in such matters than her husband, she realized how foolish it was to quarrel with one of the few people who had done something to help the family in the time of their distress. Besides, who could tell how long her husband would be kept on at the Navy Pay Office, having been in prison for mismanaging his own financial affairs? And, in the meantime, Charles' weekly wage (recently increased to seven shillings a week) was very useful. She went to see [the manager], settled the differences between him and her husband, and persuaded him to take Charles back. This seemed to her son an unforgivable betrayal. “I know how these things have worked together to make me what I am,” he confessed. “But I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget, I never can forget that my mother was warm for my being sent back.” His father, however, shocked by what he had seen in Warren's Bedford Street window, and determined that his family should be seen to have regained their former gentility, decided that Charles should not be sent back, but should go instead to school again, whether he could afford it or not . . . So the blacking warehouse episode was over. His parents never again referred to it; and in later life his wife and his children knew nothing of it until after he was dead. Perhaps even then they would not have done so had not Charles Wentworth Dilke mentioned to John Forster [one of Dickens’ closest friends] that he had once seen Dickens as a child working in a warehouse near the Strand. Forster told Dickens this, how Dilke had gone into the place with his father, given Charles half-a-crown and received in acknowledgment a low bow. Dickens listened in silence while Forster repeated the story and remained silent “for several minutes.” Forster felt that he had “unintentionally touched a painful place in his memory,” and after the long silence was broken, they spoke of other things. Some time later, however, Dickens told his friend the full story of [his family’s] imprisonment in the Marshalsea, [a debtor’s prison,] and of his time at Warren's, and gave him a written account of it. 58


In this written account Dickens said, “I have no idea how long it lasted; whether for a year or much more or less”; in fact it lasted for less than six months. But since, while he was at Warren’s, overwhelmed by a sense of deprivation, degradation, loneliness and despair, with no idea when, if ever, he would be released from his bondage, it seemed to the child interminable. And although released in fact, he was never to be released in spirit. No advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no support, from any one that I can call to mind, so help me God. . . . I know that I lounged about in the streets, insufficiently and unsatisfactorily fed. I know that, but for the mercy of God, I might easily have been, for any care that was taken of me, a little robber or a little vagabond . . . . It is wonderful to me, [he said], how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age. It is wonderful to me that, even after my descent into the poor little drudge I had been since we came to London, no one had compassion enough on me—a child of singular abilities, quick, eager, delicate, and soon hurt, bodily or mentally—to suggest that something might have been spared, as certainly it might have been, to place me at any common school. . . . My father and mother were quite satisfied. They could hardly have been more so, if I had been twenty years of age, distinguished at a grammar-school, and going to Cambridge. . . . As he himself knew, the weeks of misery in the blacking warehouse had helped to make him what he was; but, at the same time, he dreaded the thought of having to have any further physical contact with the place of his degradation. For years he could never bring himself to go near Hungerford Stairs, and rather than pass the warehouse in Chandos Street he would make a wide detour. Walking bark from Southwark across Blackfriars Bridge to Camden Town, by way of the streets he passed along when returning to his room after a visit to his father in the Marshalsea, made him cry even after his eldest child could speak; and to avoid the smell of the cement which was used on the blacking corks, he would cross to the other side of the Strand whenever he drew near to Robert Warren's factory. A Victorian soup kitchen Indeed, the whole of the London scene as presented in his novels, particularly in the later novels, is a gloomy, decaying, vaguely menacing one, crisscrossed by “cold, wet, shelterless, midnight streets.” London seemed to him, when he first came to know it, as it seemed at first sight to David Copperfield, “an amazing place . . . fuller [sic] of wonders and wickedness than all the cities of the earth.” But the London he describes—and describes with so much more imagination and emotion than the scenes of the countryside where he had been happy—is far less full of wonders than of wickedness and corruption. The real London, smoky, dirty, and ill-lit, is marvelously, romantically transformed. Yet Dickens' London, at once strange and familiar, seems pervaded by an underlying despondency. . . . 59


[To Dickens expert Christopher Hibbert] it is not merely that superficial references to boot-blacking, to Warren's, to debtors and to prisons occur repeatedly throughout his work; it is not only that, as most noticeably in Little Dorrit, modern society is seen as a prison like the Marshalsea, and in terms of imprisonment like his life at Warren's; it is not only that his books are filled with ill-treated victims of society who, though adult, seem like children, nor only that they do not contain a single example of a completely happy, self-fulfilled child; it is that the very spirit of his imagined world reflects the atmosphere and the experience of these days. Most of Dickens' heroes begin their lives cut off from other people, insecure, obliged to make their way in a strange, discordant, threatening world, endeavoring to become accepted by it and a part of it, trying to understand themselves, and, in the meantime, sharing the sense of deprivation which makes Paul Dombey live with “an aching void in his young heart, and all outside so cold, and bare, and strange.� . . . The child that died [when Charles left Warren’s] was reborn in all the unhappy children of Dickens's books, from Oliver Twist to crippled little Miss Jenny Wren. Instead of remaining [imprisoned] in mere self-pity, Dickens opened the floodgates of his sympathy for all the neglected, unloved, and misused, all the innocent and suffering victims of society, all the prisoners of injustice and pain. Their cause became his cause, for in his deepest heart he and they and the sorrowing child he had been were one.

60


Questions for After Reading the Novel/Script 1. Oliver Twist is told by an omniscient third-person narrator. Discuss with your teacher the difference between that type of narration and a story narrated in the third-person limited point of view. Can you cite a novel that you’ve read for school that has a third-person limited narrator? How do these two different points of view affect the language used by an author? Why do you think Dickens uses an omniscient narrator? 2. Oliver Twist was serialized in a monthly magazine over a long period of time. Dickens reportedly developed the plot as he went along, basically from installment to installment. It wasn’t published as a novel until the entire story had been completed in this fashion. How do you think this method of writing impacted the story? Where in the novel do you see evidence of this piecemeal approach to the story telling? 3. By following the travails of Oliver, we become aware of lifestyles that existed in Victorian England. What are some of your impressions of life in England during the mid 1800s? Explain how Dickens reinforces your opinion by citing examples from the novel. 4. Oliver is unusual in that he doesn’t succumb to the degradation and the temptations that befall the other orphans in Oliver Twist. What is it in Oliver’s personality that enables him to rise above his dire circumstances? 5. Dickens examines the seedier side of life in London in Oliver Twist. Which character did you find the most abhorrent? Explain why and cite examples from the novel. 6. While Fagin is both devious and threatening, he also exudes a superficial charm that attracts his minions to him. Moreover, there are moments when he appears nurturing in his own twisted way. Does Fagin have any redeemable qualities? Are there moments in the novel when he seems more humane than evil? Cite examples from the novel to support your answer. 7. Dickens is a master of choosing names that reflect the characters in his novel. Even the names of the lesser characters are revealing. Chooses some of the characters in Oliver Twist, including some of the minor characters, and explain how their names reflect their personalities. 8. Nancy’s relationship with Sykes is a very complex one. Do you think she genuinely loves Sykes. If it isn’t love, how would you describe her feelings toward him. Can you cite similar relationships in novels you have read or movies you’ve seen? 9. What are some of the institutions, i.e., government agencies, religious organizations, legal professions, the medical community, etc., that Dickens describes in Oliver Twist? What is the tone Dickens uses to describe these organizations? How does this tone reflect the narrator’s opinion? Chooses paragraphs from the novel where Dickens satirizes institutions or their representatives.

61


Post-Performance Questions 1. Give some examples of the comic portrayals of the characters in Oliver!. Which characters did you find the most enjoyable? In the case of the more fiendish characters, how does comedy make them less threatening? There are certain types of comedy, such as slapstick, satire, and black comedy. Define these. Which type is most frequently employed in Oliver! 2. Robert Moss, the director of Oliver!, has conceived of a minimal set for this production, hence one that isn’t naturalistic. How does this minimalist set assist in addressing the themes of the play? Think in terms of movement and images. Why would a director choose a set that is representational rather than creating a set that contains every detail? 3. Many of the musical numbers in Oliver! are well known. What are some of the songs you had heard before? Had you seen them performed before? Does the music and singing enhance the story? Explain your answer. 4. An adaptation of a novel for film or the theatre usually involves some editing of the storyline. Why do you think this is so? What are some of the major differences between the novel Oliver Twist and the musical and film Oliver!? 5. What scenes did you find most compelling in Syracuse Stage’s production of Oliver! Think about the choreography, lighting, and sound design in these scenes. How did these artistic elements enhance the scene? 6. Were there any characters in our production that were portrayed in a way that differed from the novel and your imagination? Which characters seemed most similar to the way you had imagined them? 7. How frightening is Sykes? Were you surprised by his relationship with Nancy? Were you surprised by his murdering her? Does putting this brutish thug in a musical lessen the impact of his terror? 8. Often the character we relate to the most in a play is the protagonist--the person who the events affect the most or who the story revolves around. In this case, the protagonist is the eponymous Oliver. After seeing Oliver’s story come to life on stage, how much do you empathize with his plight? 9. Think of all the artistic choices and design elements that are part of a theatrical production. Discuss how each of these elements help to reveal the time and setting of Oliver! 10. There are many characters in this play. In some instances, the director chose to double the roles some actors played. How did this doubling up of roles affect your understanding of the play? Did you find it confusing? clever? Explain your answer.

62


For Further Discussions 1. Research Charles Dickens’ life. How are Oliver and Dickens’ childhood similar? How is Oliver’s childhood typical or atypical of a Victorian child’s upbringing? 2. If Oliver was an orphan today, how would his situation differ from what it was like in England in the 1800s? Are there factors that haven’t changed? What is the plight of an orphan in this country who never gets adopted? 3. In Oliver Twist, Fagin is repeatedly called “The Jew” and referred to in derogatory terms (references that are omitted in the musical Oliver!). Look at other accomplished literary works that contain racism, such as Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice or Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain) Huckleberry Finn. Discuss the nature of the racist remarks in these and other texts. Are they representative of the authors’ beliefs? Are they indicative of the times? Put into the context of the story, are the authors’ intentions or remarks something other than what appears on the surface? 4. Dickens was a master of revealing the hypocrisy of people and institutions in Victorian England. Victorian society might have viewed Fagin and Sykes as criminals, but some of the characters in Oliver Twist who held legitimate jobs were just as criminal. Discuss the behavior of Mr. Bumble and Widow Corney. Could an argument be made that their behavior was even more insidious than that of the street scoundrels? 5. How did transforming Oliver Twist into a musical impact the story? Did the tone of the story change? Are all the characters that were in the novel in the musical? Is the plot of the story the same? 6. If you were to update Fagin’s gang of petty thieves, how would they appear? Describe their dress, the way they would speak, the items they would wear, and how they might live. 7. Choose a theme from Oliver Twist that had the most resonance for you. Cite examples of where this theme is prevalent in the novel. Explain why you found the theme to be poignant. 8. Many contemporary American novels address issues of the underprivileged or disenfranchised. Often these novels are written from those who have experienced these conditions firsthand, which often means they are minority authors. Review some of the novels or plays you have read and compare them to Oliver Twist. How are they similar or dissimilar? Are the literary styles different from Dickens’ style? Did the contemporary stories have more of an impact on you? 9. The word “Dickensian” pertains to Charles Dickens’ style: something that is marked by conditions or features resembling those described by him. Consider Oliver! and another Dickens’ story that is often performed during the holidays, A Christmas Carroll. What are some of the Dickensian features in both of these stories?

63


Writing Assignments 1. Bring in some theater reviews/critiques from the different publications you read at home. Discuss the information that is included in the reviews. Using the better examples as a model, review Syracuse Stage’s production of Oliver! for your school newspaper. 2. In the “For Further Discussion” section you were asked to discuss the literary elements that make a story Dickensian. Based on what you understand of this term, try writing a short story set in the present that contains some of these elements. Use a writing style, plot, and/or characters that are similar to that of a Dickens’ story. 3. Try your hand at literary adaptation. Using the short story that you wrote, or switching stories with your classmates, adapt the story for the theater; in other words, write a short play. Just as Lionel Bright did when he adapted Oliver Twist for the stage, you’ll have to decide how much of the short story you include in your adaptation. 4. Companies often co-opt music or songs to sell their products in a commercial. Kraft Food Company ran a commercial where children sang “Cheese, glorious, cheese!” to the tune of “Food, Glorious, Food!” in an effort to sell, yes, you guessed it, cheese. Write a commercial including the lyrics to a song sung to one of the other tunes in Oliver!. 5. Create a time line for the period known as Victorian England. Starting in 1830s and ending in the early 1900s, include all the historically important dates throughout Queen Victoria’s life. 6. The limerick is a funny five-line story told in verse that has a particular pattern of rhyme and rhythm. It is a form of light verse that was popularized by Edward Lear with the publication of his Book of Nonsense in 1846 (although the limerick has much earlier origins). The first English verse in limerick-like form is the jingle "Hickory, Dickory, Dock," which in print dates back to 1744. Limericks enjoyed great popularity during the 1800's (Victorian England) and early 1900's. (paraphrased from: http://www.castlemoyle.com/lear/learte.htm) An example of a limerick: There was an old man of Madrid, Who ate sixty-five eggs for a quid. When they asked, “Are you faint?” He replied, “No, I ain’t, But I don’t feel as good as I did.” Choose a character from Oliver! and write a limerick about him or her. 7. Using Nancy’s song “As Long as He Needs Me” as a source for her feelings, write a monologue for Nancy where she tells Bill Sykes how she feels about him. 64


Arts Activities-Visual Arts and Acting & Improv 1. Choose your favorite scene from the novel and turn it into a musical number. Write the lyrics to a song and devise a melody. Determine which characters you want to participate in the musical number. Remember that a song in a musical is usually written to capture a moment of intensity or heightened drama. Review some of the existing songs in Oliver!. Stylistically, your song should be similar to the existing ones. 2. Using the song you wrote, stage a musical number. One student should act as the musical director and one as the choreographer. Perform the song for those students in your class who aren’t in the musical number. See if they can determine which scene you are portraying. 3. Oliver! takes place in several locations: on the street, in the workhouse, Sowerberry’s funeral shop, the London Bridge, etc. A designer must be economical when designing a set, often using certain pieces to serve more than one function. If there are too many set changes, the play might become clunky. In addition, there is a limited amount of money for sets. Keeping these factors in mind, design a set for Oliver!. Either draw your design or build a miniature set model. 4. The characters in Oliver! run the spectrum of British society, and as such their diction differs considerably--from the criminals to the government functionaries to the ladies and gentlemen who are parodied by Nancy and the Artful Dodger in “I’d Do Anything.” How does their speech differ? Cite some examples of their pronunciations and word choice. See how accurate you can be in imitating their speech. 5. Dickens is famous for his character descriptions. Choose a character from the novel Oliver Twist and based on Dickens’s description of him/her either: a) draw a portrait of the character--include Dickens’ character description on the portrait. b) draw a costume sketch for that character. Explain your wardrobe choices. 6. Discuss the roles of the different artists involved in a theatre production, especially actors and directors. Divide the class into groups and have each group choose a brief scene from Oliver! to stage. One student in each group will cast and direct the scene. Allow the students to have class time to rehearse their scenes. Have each group talk about what their rehearsal process entailed and the collaborative effort that went into the scene. 7. As part of a lesson plan on etymology, divide the class into groups and have each group develop several slang words. Each slang word should be rooted in some interpretation or derivation of existing usage. Have each group perform a scene where the slang words are used. The rest of the class should try to determine the meaning of the slang words based on the context of the scene.

65


Quotations from the Play Use the following quotations to discuss specific events from A Streetcar Named Desire in context, or to discuss the universal ideas expressed by the quotations. You might use the quotations as a springboard to role-playing, or as the first line of letters, poems, and short stories; or you may choose to use them as titles for pictures, paintings, other visual images or music. Mr. Bumble:

“Mrs. Corney, these here paupers in this here parish don’t appreciate me. Anti-parochial they are, ma’am, anti-parochial.”

Mr.Sowerberry:

“There’s an expression of melancholy on his face, which is very interesting. He could make a delightful coffin-follower.”

Mr. Sowrberry:

“Why, you’re quite the literary character, Mr. Bumble.”

Mr. Bumble:

“You’ve overfed him, madam. You’ve raised an artificial spirit in the boy unbecoming of his station in life. If you’d kept him on gruel, madam, this would never have happened.”

Fagin:

“He’s going to be a regular little Bill Sykes!”

Fagin:

“This is my little pleasure—a cup of coffee and a quick count of valuables. Who else is going to look after me in my old age?”

Fagin:

“Too much gin can be a dangerous thing for a pure young girl.”

Officer Fang:

“Now, young gallows, I know you; it won’t do. Will you stand upon your legs, you young devil?”

Artful Dodger:

“Why, the swells have got him and that’s all about it.”

Sykes:

“You’re blowed upon, Fagin!”

Oliver:

“Heaven is a long way off, and they are too happy there to come down to the bedside of a poor boy.”

Mrs. Bedwin:

“Painters make ladies out prettier than they are, or they wouldn’t get any custom, child. That man that invented the machine for taking likenesses might have known that would never succeed: it’s a deal too honest.”

Mr. Bumble:

“I said the word, madam. The prerogative of a man . . . is to command.”

Mr. Bumble:

“If the Law supposes that, then the Law is a Ass. If that’s the eye of the Law, then the Law is a Bachelor, and the worst I wish the Law is that his eye may be opened by experience, by experience.”

Nancy:

“Spare my life for the love of Heaven, as I spared yours.” 66


MORE BACKGROUND TO COME RE: DICKENS’ LIFE Sources Consulted Ackroyd, Peter. Dickens. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1990. Bentley, Nicholas. The Victorian Scene: A Picture Book of the Period, 1837-1901. London: George Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1968. Crowther, M. A. The Workhouse System, 1834-1929: The History of an English Social Institution. Athens, Ga: The Univ. of Georgia Press, 1981. Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1941. Edsall, Nicholas, C. The Anti-Poor Law Movement, 1834-44. Totowa, NJ: Manchester Univ. Press, 1971. Elizabeth Barrett Browning poetry. 12 July 2001. University of Toronto library. Accessed 13 July 2001. www.library.utoronto.ca/utel/rp/poems/brwnlz1c.html {OR} Kauvar, Gerald B. and Sorenson, Gerald C., eds. The Victorian Mind. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1969. Hibbert, Christopher. The English: A Social History, 1066-1945. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1987. Mayhew, Henry. London’s Underworld: Being Selections from “Those That Will Not Work,” the Fourth Volume of “London Labor and the London Poor.” Peter Quennell, ed. London: William Kimber & Co., Ltd., 1950. Pringle, Patrick. Hue and Cry: The Story of Henry and John Fielding and Their Bow Street Runners. London: William Morrow and Co. n.d. Tomlin, E.W.F. Charles Dickens, 1812-1870: A Centennial Volume. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969. The Victorian Webpage. George P. Landow. nd. Brown University. 13 July 2001. www.landow.stg.brown.edu/victorian/victov.html

67

Oliver!  

Oliver! - Curriculum and Study Guide

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you