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Little Dorrit > Book I Chapters 30 - 32

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Tristram Shandy Dear Pickwickians,

This week’s instalment starts with a wonderfully dark chapter called “The Word of a Gentleman”. As all of us might have guessed, the strange gentleman that frightened poor Affery out of her wits is really Rigaud, who has adopted the name Blandois now. The typical movements of nose and moustache when he laughs easily give him away. Interestingly, Blandois seems to know Flintwinch because at the sight of this gentleman he blurts out, “’Death of my soul! […] How did you get here?’” – even though Flintwinch does not seem ever to have laid eyes on Blandois. This cosmopolitan gentleman introduces himself by saying that they might have heard about his arrival from their partners in Paris and he presents a letter of recommendation which suggests that they allow Blandois to draw about 50 Pounds Sterling from them. When Mrs. Clennam, from her invalid’s chamber, makes herself heard, Blandois takes the opportunity of asking to present himself to the lady and to offer his apologies for this late intrusion as soon as he has refreshed himself in an inn.

Although of a rather distrustful nature, the overbearing grandeur of the stranger seems to impress Mr. Flintwinch to a certain degree:

”Swagger and an air of authorised condescension do so much, that Mr Flintwinch had already begun to think this a highly gentlemanly personage.”

He therefore recommends Blandois a nearby public house, and here we get the final confirmation of Blandois’s being none other than Rigaud:

”The house was kept in a homely manner, and the condescension of Mr Blandois was infinite. It seemed to fill to inconvenience the little bar in which the widow landlady and her two daughters received him; it was much too big for the narrow wainscoted room with a bagatelle-board in it, that was first proposed for his reception; it perfectly swamped the little private holiday sitting-room of the family, which was finally given up to him. Here, in dry clothes and scented linen, with sleeked hair, a great ring on each forefinger and a massive show of watch-chain, Mr Blandois waiting for his dinner, lolling on a window-seat with his knees drawn up, looked (for all the difference in the setting of the jewel) fearfully and wonderfully like a certain Monsieur Rigaud who had once so waited for his breakfast, lying on the stone ledge of the iron grating of a cell in a villainous dungeon at Marseilles.”

I quite liked the clever allusion to the stranger’s way of lolling on a window-seat with his drawn-up knees and think it would even have been cleverer, had the narrator foreborne to make the direct reference to Rigaud. What I also found very impressing was the way the narrator described the stranger’s utter ruthlessness:

”His greed at dinner, too, was closely in keeping with the greed of Monsieur Rigaud at breakfast. His avaricious manner of collecting all the eatables about him, and devouring some with his eyes while devouring others with his jaws, was the same manner. His utter disregard of other people, as shown in his way of tossing the little womanly toys of furniture about, flinging favourite cushions under his boots for a softer rest, and crushing delicate coverings with his big body and his great black head, had the same brute selfishness at the bottom of it. The softly moving hands that were so busy among the dishes had the old wicked facility of the hands that had clung to the bars. And when he could eat no more, and sat sucking his delicate fingers one by one and wiping them on a cloth, there wanted nothing but the substitution of vine-leaves to finish the picture.”

This is a gruesome detail and together with the sinister monologue the stranger indulges in – of how he is going to beat society and will have the better of it – and with his constant references to readiness to please the women, enthusiasm, honesty and other qualities being part of his character, we are finally getting a very realistic picture of a sociopath and a monomaniac. It may well be that the arrival of this person in the Clennam household will introduce the family’s downfall. After his meal, Blandois pays his visit to Mrs. Clennam, who again runs the gamut of her grim piety, and he immediately seems fascinated by the late Mr. Clennam’s watch that is, as always lying in front of Mrs. Clennam. He even examines it more closely and asks her about the initials DNF on the case. Mrs. Clennam says that they mean, Do not forget, and she at once expatiates on her never forgetting her duties. Maybe the motto “Do not forget” is also at the bottom of Mrs. Clennam’s whim of having Amy Dorrit about her, and maybe the fact that Mr. Clennam wanted his wife to have his watch was his way of telling her that she should not forget – and maybe, Clennam is right after all with his assumption that the family have laden some guilt on themselves. But maybe, the letters might also stand for a name, as Blandois supposes. Mrs. Clennam’s pious words to Blandois might hint in that direction:

”’No, sir, I do not forget. To lead a life as monotonous as mine has been during many years, is not the way to forget. To lead a life of self-correction is not the way to forget. To be sensible of having (as we all have, every one of us, all the children of Adam!) offences to expiate and peace to make, does not justify the desire to forget. Therefore I have long dismissed it, and I neither forget nor wish to forget.’”

Blandois’s swaggering manner is only shaken once and giving way to his aggressive and ferine nature – when he finds poor Affery staring at him like a rabbit might stare at the enchanting snake. After the interview is ended, Blandois asks Flintwinch to show him about the house and when his request is granted, Flintwinch soon has the impression that the guest is not so much looking at the rooms – in one of them, however, the portrait of the late Mr. Clennam attracts his attention – as at Mr. Flintwinch. Is Blandois still under the impression of having seen Flintwinch before. And can the following words of Blandois be interpreted as containing a hidden threat?

”’My Cabbage, […] I’ll draw upon you; have no fear. Adieu, my Flintwinch. Receive at parting;’ here he gave him a southern embrace, and kissed him soundly on both cheeks; ‘the word of a gentleman! By a thousand Thunders, you shall see me again!’”

It might be noted that the invitation Blandois makes Flintwinch to join him in his inn over a couple of bottles of wine was made with the ulterior motive of worming some information out of Flintwinch, an attempt, nonetheless, that proved futile. The next morning, however, Flintwinch finds that Mr. Blandois has gone. I have a feeling, though, that we have not seen the last of him.


Tristram Shandy Chapter 31 is all about “Spirit” – and with a very remarkable specimen of spirit at that. First of all, we are introduced to yet another new character: Mr. Nandy, who is Mrs. Plornish’s father and who has been living in the workhouse ever since the Plornish family had been in financial difficulties. Dickens begins this chapter in the vain of his Sketches by Boz, i.e. by describing some typical sort of old man that can be seen in the streets of London in certain places, at certain times. We learn, among other things,

”Sometimes, on holidays towards evening, he will be seen to walk with a slightly increased infirmity, and his old eyes will glimmer with a moist and marshy light. Then the little old man is drunk. A very small measure will overset him; he may be bowled off his unsteady legs with a half-pint pot. Some pitying acquaintance—chance acquaintance very often—has warmed up his weakness with a treat of beer, and the consequence will be the lapse of a longer time than usual before he shall pass again. For the little old man is going home to the Workhouse; and on his good behaviour they do not let him out often (though methinks they might, considering the few years he has before him to go out in, under the sun); and on his bad behaviour they shut him up closer than ever in a grove of two score and nineteen more old men, every one of whom smells of all the others.“

And we, once again, realize how much Dickens hated workhouses. The we learn that Mrs. Plornish’s father is one of these little old men and that he is – this might be another one for your collection, Peter – “like a worn-out bird”. Old Mr. Nandy used to be a music-binder (whatever that is) with a passion for singing ditties, but life was not too kind with him, or as Dickens puts it:

He ”had seldom been able to make his way, or to see it or to pay it, or to do anything at all with it but find it no thoroughfare”.

And yet, he is a lucky man because both his daughter and his son-in-law love and admire him, show him around proudly in Bleeding Heart and want to do their utmost to make it possible for him to leave the workhouse one day and start living with them again. In a way, Mr. Nandy is another old, improvident father who can rely on the love of his daughter, just like Mr. Dorrit – but there is one big difference, which makes Mr. Nandy much more endearing to the reader, namely his determination not to exploit the generosity of his family. At the beginning of the chapter, we learn that it is his birthday, and Mr. Plornish and Mr. Nandy are exchanging toasts the following way:

”’John Edward Nandy. Sir. While there's a ounce of wittles or drink of any sort in this present roof, you're fully welcome to your share on it. While there's a handful of fire or a mouthful of bed in this present roof, you're fully welcome to your share on it. If so be as there should be nothing in this present roof, you should be as welcome to your share on it as if it was something, much or little. And this is what I mean and so I don't deceive you, and consequently which is to stand out is to entreat of you, and therefore why not do it?’

To this lucid address, which Mr Plornish always delivered as if he had composed it (as no doubt he had) with enormous labour, Mrs Plornish's father pipingly replied:

‘I thank you kindly, Thomas, and I know your intentions well, which is the same I thank you kindly for. But no, Thomas. Until such times as it's not to take it out of your children's mouths, which take it is, and call it by what name you will it do remain and equally deprive, though may they come, and too soon they can not come, no Thomas, no!'’”


We may be sure that Mr. Dorrit would never have shown this greatness of spirit. But we learn that he considers himself a kind of patron to old Mr. Nandy, and so it seems natural that Amy Dorrit, on visiting the Plornishes, offers Mr. Nandy to take him to the Marshalsea so that he can meet his “patron” there. On their way, Amy meets her sister Fanny, who is absolutely indignant of seeing her walking down the streets arm in arm with a pauper, as she puts it. According to her, Amy proves that she has a penchant for low company and that she seems determined to dishonor the family name. Fanny makes sure to arrive at the prison before Amy and Mr. Nandy in order to prepare her father accordingly for their arrival, and the result is that Mr. Dorrit goes through one of his performances as a wronged father and does his utmost to make Amy feel guilty. Reading this scene made me furious indeed: Old Mr. Nandy, on his birthday, waiting outside in the yard while that feckless scrounger and impostor Dorrit is giving himself airs in his rooms, trampling on his daughter’s self-confidence, with Miss Fanny accompanying him second voice. I must say that I was also furious with Amy herself for taking it all without any sign of rebellion, and I believe that she would have given Mr. Nandy the cold shoulder from this moment on, had not her father suddenly remembered his sympathy with Mr. Nandy and asked him upstairs. Just having receiced a 10-Pound-note from Mr. Clennam, Dorrit happens to be in good spirits and orders some victuals to be brought to his place, and when Mr. Clennam arrives on the scene, they all enjoy a comfortable meal. Of course, Mr. Nandy is not allowed to sit at the table but he is prepared an extra place near the window, and in the course of the meal, Dorrit throws him the occasional condescending question to exercise his right of patron on a man, who – in my opinion – is worth a hundred Mr. Dorrits. He also takes care to make Mr. Nandy appear older, and more decrepit than himself. Eventually, old Mr. Nandy has to go back to the workhouse.

Another shadow is thrown on the party by the arrival of Mr. Tip, who chooses to cut Mr. Clennam in a very impolite way, on the grounds that this gentleman has refused to give him a loan and thus acted in a very ungentlemanly way. This triggers another histrionic fit of the Chief-Scrounger, who expatiates on Spirit and who says that Mr. Tip’s behaviour is not Christian since he should have tried Mr. Clennam’s generosity on another occasion instead of insulting him. Nevertheless, Tip and Fanny take their leave in an extremely haughty and ungracious way.

When Dorrit is required downstairs for a festive occasion, where he has to be the president or the master of ceremonies, Mr. Clennam finally has the chance of speaking with Amy in private.


Tristram Shandy Chapter 32 promises us some “More Fortune-Telling” but before we get to that, we have to work ourselves through another conversation between Clennam and Amy (with poor Maggy sitting nearby). I will cut it short, though.

In the course of their conversation, Mr. Clennam says that he has noticed a more withdrawn attitude in Amy and that he would wish for her to remember that he is always there to help and support her. He presents himself in the capacity of someone much older than she, i.e. as a kind of surrogate father. This seems both to soothe and to pain Amy, and unlike Mr. Clennam, the reader will have noticed by now that Amy is in love with him. Hence her question if he is Flora’s lover, which he, of course, denies.

Their conversation is brought to a close when the door opens and an exuberant – partly through spirits – Mr. Pancks pops in, smoking a cigar he is most obviously not used to. He says that he has been downstairs where the festivities are well under way but that he wanted to use this opportunity to pay his respects to Amy. His behaviour intimidates Amy, who does not know what to make of it, but Mr. Clennam seems not to feel any alarm, and so Amy soon calms down. Mr. Pancks begs Mr. Clennam for a word in private downstairs, where a hardly less exuberant (and slightly inebriated) Mr. Rugg is waiting for them. They produce some papers which seem to be of great moment for the Dorrit’s:

”’Stay!’ said Clennam in a whisper. ‘You have made a discovery.’

Mr Pancks answered, with an unction which there is no language to convey, ‘We rather think so.’

‘Does it implicate any one?’

‘How implicate, sir?’

‘In any suppression or wrong dealing of any kind?’

‘Not a bit of it.’

‘Thank God!’ said Clennam to himself. ‘Now show me.’

‘You are to understand’—snorted Pancks, feverishly unfolding papers, and speaking in short high-pressure blasts of sentences, ‘Where's the Pedigree? Where's Schedule number four, Mr Rugg? Oh! all right! Here we are.—You are to understand that we are this very day virtually complete. We shan't be legally for a day or two. Call it at the outside a week. We've been at it night and day for I don't know how long. Mr Rugg, you know how long? Never mind. Don't say. You'll only confuse me. You shall tell her, Mr Clennam. Not till we give you leave. Where's that rough total, Mr Rugg? Oh! Here we are! There sir! That's what you'll have to break to her. That man's your Father of the Marshalsea!‘“


So while we do not know as yet what these papers says and how they will influence the fortunes of the Dorrits, we might safely assume that there will be some major change soon. Unfortunately, in order to know more, we have to wait until the next instalment. Clever Mr. Dickens!


Peter Tristram wrote: "Dear Pickwickians,

This week’s instalment starts with a wonderfully dark chapter called “The Word of a Gentleman”. As all of us might have guessed, the strange gentleman that frightened poor Affer..."


Yes. A delightful and yet horrid person is our dark gentleman. Rigaud, now Blandois, brings much mystery to this chapter. The fascination to the portrait of Mr. Clennam, the watch with the initials DNF, Blandois's comment that "A citizen of the world has no habits" all create questions, but provide no answers. Blandois's comment to Flintwinch's that "I have a strong presentiment that we shall become intimately acquainted" suggest that Flintwinch has met his match.

Blandois disappears from the scene at the end of the chapter. Upon reflection, the reader knows less about what is going on in the story than when the chapter was being read. Good for suspense, but unsettling as we await the mysteries yet to come.


Peter Tristram wrote: "Chapter 31 is all about “Spirit” – and with a very remarkable specimen of spirit at that. First of all, we are introduced to yet another new character: Mr. Nandy, who is Mrs. Plornish’s father and ..."

Tristram

Thank you for your eagle-like eye. Birds seem to be everywhere. Kim may post a Phiz illustration that has a big bird and cage front and centre this week. When I publish (cue the sounds of laughter) my opus on Birds in Dickens you and Kim will receive a major acknowledgement and an autographed copy. For now, don't hold your breath. :-))

I liked your observation of how Mr. Nandy is similar to Mr. Dorrit in that he is old and has a dependence on his children but NOT similar in that Mr. Nandy has pride and dignity and honour. I too am finding Mr. Dorrit to be insufferable, and the same goes for Fanny. While Little Dorrit may be portrayed as too good, her father and her sister (and brother) are major irritants. Dickens masterfully creates parallels and contrasts with his characters and their interrelationships both in family and in society.

I also liked the comment about Mr. Chivery, junior, "having spontaneously composed on the spot an entirely new epitaph for himself." What a great vignette of writing.


Peter Tristram wrote: "Chapter 32 promises us some “More Fortune-Telling” but before we get to that, we have to work ourselves through another conversation between Clennam and Amy (with poor Maggy sitting nearby). I will..."

Ah, if there was any doubt that Amy loved Arthur Clennam it has been answered in this chapter. For his part, I think Authur is blind to Amy's feelings. Perhaps it is his recent experience of losing someone he did love, or perhaps it is that Aurthur still sees himself in the role of a protector of Amy rather than as a possible husband of Amy's but whatever the reason it appears that Pancks has given Authur information that is going to change the landscape of the novel.


Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Dear Pickwickians,

This week’s instalment starts with a wonderfully dark chapter called “The Word of a Gentleman”. As all of us might have guessed, the strange gentleman that frig..."


I don't know if it is just me but the constant reference to being a cosmopolitan gentleman almost seems to endow Blandois / Rigaud with a diabolical quality. Do you take those references in the same vein? I am also at a loss as to how he has achieved to obtain that letter of recommendation, and I am asking myself whether it is chance that throws Rigaud into Mrs. Clennam's way or whether Rigaud has planned this meeting.


Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "Thank you for your eagle-like eye."

You are most welcome; I'll keep my hawk's eyes open and am eagerly waiting for that volume of Dickens and Birds :-)


Peter Tristram wrote: "Peter wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Dear Pickwickians,

This week’s instalment starts with a wonderfully dark chapter called “The Word of a Gentleman”. As all of us might have guessed, the strange gentl..."


Diabolical. Yes, absolutely. I think Dickens wants us to see him as a seemingly all-knowing devil. I think there is no question that Rigaud has planned the events.


Tristram Shandy And I'm impatient to see what events exactly this devil has planned.


message 11: by Kim (last edited Jun 07, 2016 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

Mr. Flintwinch has a mild Attack of Irritability

Book I Chapter 30

Phiz

Text Illustrated

"When Mr. and Mrs. Flintwinch panted up to the door of the old house in the twilight, Jeremiah within a second of Affery, the stranger started back. "Death of my soul!" he exclaimed. "Why, how did you get here?"

Mr. Flintwinch, to whom these words were spoken, repaid the stranger's wonder in full. He gazed at him with blank astonishment; he looked over his own shoulder, as expecting to see some one he had not been aware of standing behind him; he gazed at the stranger again, speechlessly, at a loss to know what he meant; he looked to his wife for explanation; receiving none, he pounced upon her, and shook her with such heartiness that he shook her cap off her head, saying between his teeth, with grim raillery, as he did it, "Affery, my woman, you must have a dose, my woman! This is some of your tricks! You have been dreaming again, mistress. What's it about? Who is it? What does it mean! Speak out or be choked! It's the only choice I'll give you."

Supposing Mistress Affery to have any power of election at the moment, her choice was decidedly to be choked; for she answered not a syllable to this adjuration, but, with her bare head wagging violently backwards and forwards, resigned herself to her punishment. The stranger, however, picking up her cap with an air of gallantry, interposed."


Commentary:

"The picture offers an interesting fusion of comic characters and a gloomy architectural setting that equates the Clennam mansion with the Marshalsea. The Punch-and-Judy husband knocks the slight hat off his wife's head while the faintly demonic Blandois lurks in the shadows, waiting to be admitted.

Rigaud-Blandois seems to derive from the folk-fairytale and its later artistic versions (such as Hoffmann's) and thus in the text he gives the impression of representing a more general, nontopical form of evil. Yet to this reader, at any rate, Rigaud is most successful as an artistic creation when he appears most clearly as a diminution of the devil-type, whose demonism is shown as merely a pose convenient to his philosophy of personal power and absolute self-interest. In most of Phiz's portrayals this complexity cannot emerge, and Rigaud is little more than a weakly drawn demon. But in two effective plates Phiz does complement and enhance Dickens' conception of the character. His first appearance in England as Blandois is illustrated in "Mr. Flintwinch has a mild attack of irritability" (Bk. 1, ch. 30). He has just emerged from the shadows, to give poor fearful Affery a terrible start; in this plate, Jeremiah is shaking his wife for her reaction while Blandois looks on. A preliminary drawing indicates that this was almost certainly intended first as a dark plate: it is drawn in charcoal with the kind of heavy tone that Browne rarely if ever employed for anything else; and rather than the close-up of the final version, it is a distant view of the same scene, with the figures very small but in similar positions.

It is possible that Dickens originally intended Browne to concentrate upon the house, and gave Browne directions to this end, but upon having written the chapter found that the characters were more important, and correspondingly gave new directions. In the final version, the demonic aspect of Blandois is played up, both in his black cloak and in the gleam of his eyes and teeth, while the grotesque figures decorating the doorway look down upon the three characters with sinister anticipation. This illustration, even in its final form, could have been a dark plate, for it is literally dark enough; but the particular vein Dickens exploits seems better served by heavy manual shading than by the smoothness of a mechanical tint. The final version complements Dickens' text in the way it sets off against Blandois' gleaming eyes, upcurving moustache, and black cloak the rather horribly comic grotesqueness of Affery and Flintwinch — in other words, it is in a mixed vein which Phiz rarely brings off successfully in Little Dorrit."


Oh, I haven't been able to find this first sketch mentioned in the commentary yet.


message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

The Pensioner Entertainment"

Book I Chapter 31

Phiz

Text Illustrated

"Well, sir, this is Mrs. Plornish’s father."

"Indeed? I am glad to see him."

"You would be more glad if you knew his many good qualities, Mr. Clennam."

"I hope I shall come to know them through knowing him," said Arthur, secretly pitying the bowed and submissive figure.

"It is a holiday with him, and he comes to see his old friends, who are always glad to see him," observed the Father of the Marshalsea. Then he added behind his hand, ("Union, poor old fellow. Out for the day.")

By this time Maggy, quietly assisted by her Little Mother, had spread the board, and the repast was ready. It being hot weather and the prison very close, the window was as wide open as it could be pushed. "If Maggy will spread that newspaper on the window-sill, my dear,' remarked the Father complacently and in a half whisper to Little Dorrit, 'my old pensioner can have his tea there, while we are having ours."

So, with a gulf between him and the good company of about a foot in width, standard measure, Mrs Plornish's father was handsomely regaled. Clennam had never seen anything like his magnanimous protection by that other Father, he of the Marshalsea; and was lost in the contemplation of its many wonders.

The most striking of these was perhaps the relishing manner in which he remarked on the pensioner's infirmities and failings, as if he were a gracious Keeper making a running commentary on the decline of the harmless animal he exhibited.

"Not ready for more ham yet, Nandy? Why, how slow you are! (His last teeth," he explained to the company, "are going, poor old boy.")

At another time, he said, "No shrimps, Nandy?" and on his not instantly replying, observed, ("His hearing is becoming very defective. He'll be deaf directly.")

At another time he asked him, "Do you walk much, Nandy, about the yard within the walls of that place of yours?"

"No, sir; no. I haven't any great liking for that."

"No, to be sure," he assented. "Very natural." Then he privately informed the circle ("Legs going.")

Once he asked the pensioner, in that general clemency which asked him anything to keep him afloat, how old his younger grandchild was?

"John Edward," said the pensioner, slowly laying down his knife and fork to consider. "How old, sir? Let me think now."

The Father of the Marshalsea tapped his forehead ("Memory weak.")


Commentary

"William Dorrit almost holds court with his retainers and the object his charity and patronage, Old Nandy, Mrs. Plornish's father (seated in the window, right). Phiz and Dickens thus pillory the class system, rendering it laughable by exposing the class-conscious William Dorrit's false sense of superiority with the aged music-binder who, like William, fell into debt years before, but chose to commit himself to the Union Workhouse rather than be arrested for debt. Phiz's realization of Old Nandy conveys well his perpetually cheerful nature, as opposed to William Dorrit's puffery and discontent:

Mrs. Plornish's father, — a poor little reedy piping old gentleman, like a worn-out bird; who had been in what he called the music- binding business, and met with great misfortunes, and who had seldom been able to make his way, or to see it or to pay it, or to do anything at all with it but find it no thoroughfare, — had retired of his own accord to the Workhouse which was appointed by law to be the Good Samaritan of his district (without the twopence, which was bad political economy), on the settlement of that execution which had carried Mr Plornish to the Marshalsea College. Previous to his son-in-law's difficulties coming to that head, Old Nandy (he was always so called in his legal Retreat, but he was Old Mr Nandy among the Bleeding Hearts) had sat in a corner of the Plornish fireside, and taken his bite and sup out of the Plornish cupboard. He still hoped to resume that domestic position when Fortune should smile upon his son-in-law; in the meantime, while she preserved an immovable countenance, he was, and resolved to remain, one of these little old men in a grove of little old men with a community of flavour.

But no poverty in him, and no coat on him that never was the mode, and no Old Men's Ward for his dwelling-place, could quench his daughter's admiration.

The other figures in the group study (organized in a three-two-one configuration that draws the eye of the viewer towards the little man in the window seat, right) should by now be familiar enough to the reader as the story reaches its mid-point: in profile, Fanny Dorrit, proud and stiff-backed, drinking tea from a small china cup and saucer (left); the mentally-challenged but good natured Maggy, holding aloft a toasting fork; the serious-minded, mutton-chopped young bachelor Arthur Clennam (centre, back to the viewer); to the right, Little Dorrit, dutifully attending to her father's needs; The magisterial Father of the Marshalsea, patronizing as ever; and in the cramped seat before the barred window, the balding, wizened little Mr. Nandy, with a newspaper spread as his tea-table. The Marshalsea chamber as furnished by the Dorrits has the middle-class touches of a regular parlour, including a high-backed, padded chair for the Pater Familias, a linen tablecloth, a carpet, a sideboard (rear), and several paintings. Thus does Phiz, probably at Dickens's direction, render a minor incident and a secondary character memorable while reinforcing the reader's notions about the principals."



message 13: by Kim (last edited Jun 07, 2016 12:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim This is an illustration for Chapter 30 from James Mahoney:



The stranger, taking advantage of this fitful illumination of his visage, looked intently and wonderingly at him

Book I Chapter 30

James Mahoney

Dickens Little Dorrit Household Edition 1873


Text Illustrated:

"The visitor was standing in the doorway, but turned a little into the gloom of the house as Mr Flintwinch turned, and pursued him with his eyes into the little room, where he groped about for a phosphorus box. When he found it, it was damp, or otherwise out of order; and match after match that he struck into it lighted sufficiently to throw a dull glare about his groping face, and to sprinkle his hands with pale little spots of fire, but not sufficiently to light the candle. The stranger, taking advantage of this fitful illumination of his visage, looked intently and wonderingly at him. Jeremiah, when he at last lighted the candle, knew he had been doing this, by seeing the last shade of a lowering watchfulness clear away from his face, as it broke into the doubtful smile that was a large ingredient in its expression.

'Be so good,' said Jeremiah, closing the house door, and taking a pretty sharp survey of the smiling visitor in his turn, 'as to step into my counting-house.—It's all right, I tell you!' petulantly breaking off to answer the voice up-stairs, still unsatisfied, though Affery was there, speaking in persuasive tones. 'Don't I tell you it's all right? Preserve the woman, has she no reason at all in her!'



message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Another by James Mahoney:



On their arrival at Mr. Blandois's room, a bottle of port wine was ordered by that gallant gentleman; who coiled himself up on the window-seat, while Mr. Flintwinch took a chair opposite to him, with the table between them.

Book I Chapter 30

Dickens Little Dorrit Household Edition 1873

James Mahoney

Text Illustrated:

'Very good, sir,' said Mr Flintwinch. 'Take a chair. To the extent of anything that our House can do—we are in a retired, old-fashioned, steady way of business, sir—we shall be happy to render you our best assistance. I observe, from the date of this, that we could not yet be advised of it. Probably you came over with the delayed mail that brings the advice.'

'That I came over with the delayed mail, sir,' returned Mr Blandois, passing his white hand down his high-hooked nose, 'I know to the cost of my head and stomach: the detestable and intolerable weather having racked them both. You see me in the plight in which I came out of the packet within this half-hour. I ought to have been here hours ago, and then I should not have to apologise—permit me to apologise—for presenting myself so unreasonably, and frightening—no, by-the-bye, you said not frightening; permit me to apologise again—the esteemed lady, Mrs Clennam, in her invalid chamber above stairs.'

Swagger and an air of authorised condescension do so much, that Mr Flintwinch had already begun to think this a highly gentlemanly personage. Not the less unyielding with him on that account, he scraped his chin and said, what could he have the honour of doing for Mr Blandois to-night, out of business hours?

'Faith!' returned that gentleman, shrugging his cloaked shoulders, 'I must change, and eat and drink, and be lodged somewhere. Have the kindness to advise me, a total stranger, where, and money is a matter of perfect indifference until to-morrow. The nearer the place, the better. Next door, if that's all.'



message 15: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim This is also by James Mahoney:



They were within five minutes of their destination, when, at the corner of her own street, they came upon Fanny, in her new bonnet, bound for the same port.

Book I Chapter 31

Dickens Little Dorrit Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"With this filial joke his daughter smartened him up, and gave him a loving hug, and stood at the door with her weak child in her arms, and her strong child tumbling down the steps, looking after her little old father as he toddled away with his arm under Little Dorrit's.

They walked at a slow pace, and Little Dorrit took him by the Iron Bridge and sat him down there for a rest, and they looked over at the water and talked about the shipping, and the old man mentioned what he would do if he had a ship full of gold coming home to him (his plan was to take a noble lodging for the Plornishes and himself at a Tea Gardens, and live there all the rest of their lives, attended on by the waiter), and it was a special birthday of the old man. They were within five minutes of their destination, when, at the corner of her own street, they came upon Fanny in her new bonnet bound for the same port.

'Why, good gracious me, Amy!' cried that young lady starting. 'You never mean it!'

'Mean what, Fanny dear?'

'Well! I could have believed a great deal of you,' returned the young lady with burning indignation, 'but I don't think even I could have believed this, of even you!'

'Fanny!' cried Little Dorrit, wounded and astonished.

'Oh! Don't Fanny me, you mean little thing, don't! The idea of coming along the open streets, in the broad light of day, with a Pauper!' (firing off the last word as if it were a ball from an air-gun).

'O Fanny!'

'I tell you not to Fanny me, for I'll not submit to it! I never knew such a thing. The way in which you are resolved and determined to disgrace us on all occasions, is really infamous. You bad little thing!'

'Does it disgrace anybody,' said Little Dorrit, very gently, 'to take care of this poor old man?'

'Yes, miss,' returned her sister, 'and you ought to know it does. And you do know it does, and you do it because you know it does. The principal pleasure of your life is to remind your family of their misfortunes. And the next great pleasure of your existence is to keep low company. But, however, if you have no sense of decency, I have. You'll please to allow me to go on the other side of the way, unmolested.'



message 16: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim James Mahoney again:



"Dear Little Dorrit, let me lay it down." She yielded to him, and he put it aside! Her hands were then nervously clasping together."

Book I Chapter 32

James Mahoney

Dickens Little Dorrit Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"As Arthur Clennam moved to sit down by the side of Little Dorrit, she trembled so that she had much ado to hold her needle. Clennam gently put his hand upon her work, and said, 'Dear Little Dorrit, let me lay it down.'

She yielded it to him, and he put it aside. Her hands were then nervously clasping together, but he took one of them.

'How seldom I have seen you lately, Little Dorrit!'

'I have been busy, sir.'

'But I heard only to-day,' said Clennam, 'by mere accident, of your having been with those good people close by me. Why not come to me, then?'

'I—I don't know. Or rather, I thought you might be busy too. You generally are now, are you not?'

He saw her trembling little form and her downcast face, and the eyes that drooped the moment they were raised to his—he saw them almost with as much concern as tenderness.

'My child, your manner is so changed!'

The trembling was now quite beyond her control. Softly withdrawing her hand, and laying it in her other hand, she sat before him with her head bent and her whole form trembling.

'My own Little Dorrit,' said Clennam, compassionately."



Peter Kim

As always, you are the best. Thank you.

While I can't foresee a time when I would ever find much fault, or any, in Phiz's illustrations, those of Mahoney are finding their way into second place in my enjoyment.

Mahoney's technique in his illustrations is crisper in definition and contrast, and his figures seem to be less brooding in their appearance than Browne. I imagine this is because there was a time difference between Mahoney and Browne and, of course, Mahoney had the distinct benefit of viewing Browne's illustrations as the original parts of LD were being published in their serial form.


Peter Tristram wrote: "And I'm impatient to see what events exactly this devil has planned."

I am impatient as well not only to see what Blandois has up his sleeve but to see what Dickens has planned for the second section of the novel.

I am finding LD to be dragging, seemingly lacking a central focus and unable to grasp my full attention. By this point in a Dickens novel I am usually fully engaged, befuddled and, like Oliver, wanting more. Candidly, this novel is making me work to like it.

It has been years and years since I last read it, so the good news is I am open to being surprised and delighted. But I am still waiting ...


message 19: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim An illustration by Harry Furniss:



Little Dorritt disgraces her family

Book I Chapter 31

Harry Furniss

Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens Library Edition, 1910

Text Illustrated:

"There, Father!" cried Mrs. Plornish. "Ain't you a gay young man to be going for a walk along with Miss Dorrit! Let me tie your neck-handkerchief into a regular good bow, for you're a regular beau yourself, Father, if ever there was one."

With this filial joke his daughter smartened him up, and gave him a loving hug, and stood at the door with her weak child in her arms, and her strong child tumbling down the steps, looking after her little old father as he toddled away with his arm under Little Dorrit's.

They walked at a slow pace, and Little Dorrit took him by the Iron Bridge and sat him down there for a rest, and they looked over at the water and talked about the shipping, and the old man mentioned what he would do if he had a ship full of gold coming home to him (his plan was to take a noble lodging for the Plornishes and himself at a Tea Gardens, and live there all the rest of their lives, attended on by the waiter), and it was a special birthday of the old man. They were within five minutes of their destination, when, at the corner of her own street, they came upon Fanny in her new bonnet bound for the same port.

"Why, good gracious me, Amy!" cried that young lady starting. "You never mean it!"

"Mean what, Fanny dear?"

"Well! I could have believed a great deal of you," returned the young lady with burning indignation, "but I don't think even I could have believed this, of even you!"

"Fanny!" cried Little Dorrit, wounded and astonished.

"Oh! Don't Fanny me, you mean little thing, don't! The idea of coming along the open streets, in the broad light of day, with a Pauper!" (firing off the last word as if it were a ball from an air-gun).

"O Fanny!

I tell you not to Fanny me, for I'll not submit to it! I never knew such a thing. The way in which you are resolved and determined to disgrace us, on all occasions, is really infamous. You bad little thing!"

Does it disgrace anybody," said Little Dorrit, very gently, to take care of this poor old man?"

"Yes, miss," returned her sister, "and you ought to know it does. And you do know it does, and you do it because you know it does. The principal pleasure of your life is to remind your family of their misfortunes. And the next great pleasure of your existence is to keep low company. But, however, if you have no sense of decency, I have. You'll please to allow me to go on the other side of the way, unmolested."

With this, she bounced across to the opposite pavement. The old disgrace, who had been deferentially bowing a pace or two off (for Little Dorrit had let his arm go in her wonder, when Fanny began), and who had been hustled and cursed by impatient passengers for stopping the way, rejoined his companion, rather giddy, and said, "I hope nothing's wrong with your honoured father, Miss? I hope there's nothing the matter in the honoured family?"

"No, no," returned Little Dorrit. "No, thank you. Give me your arm again, Mr. Nandy. We shall soon be there now."


Commentary:

"Harry Furniss's fin-de-siécle re-interpretation of the James Mahoney composite Household Edition woodblock engraving in which the pretentious, class-conscious Fanny Dorrit accuses her sister, Amy, of having "lowered" herself by having been seen in public with a mere "Pauper," Old Nandy, Mrs. Plornish's aged father. The Furniss illustration captures the hypocrisy of the younger Dorrit sister, whose character is reflected in the indignant glance of a tradesman immediately behind Old Nandy (center). Furniss reinterprets in a highly animated fashion not one of the original Phiz serial steel-engravings, but James Mahoney's Household Edition composite woodblock engraving They were within five minutes of their destination (1873). Furniss's focusing on the contrasting behaviors of the siblings effectively exemplifies the irony of the chapter title.

Although the decade of the story's action is usually given as the 1830s, since the scene in Marseilles with which the story begins is set "thirty years ago" (i. e., 1826), Harry Furniss imbeds a sign advertising Jenny Lind's forthcoming concert at the Exeter Hall, London, implying that this scene in Little Dorrit occurs when the Swedish opera-singer made her long-delayed English debut in May of 1847, before the cream of Victorian society, and went on to sing before Queen Victoria herself. Everywhere Lind went, crowds of people pressed inward, hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous 27-year-old operatic vocalist. The crowds in the London street in Furniss's illustration convey a sense of the vital energy of the world beyond the gates and walls of the Marshalsea. In the foreground, the snobbish Fanny Dorrit hypocritically chastises her sister, Amy, for being seen in the company of an occupant of a work house when her own father is incarcerated for debt in the Marshalsea.

The other imbedded clue as to the date of the scene is the presence of a"Peeler" or "Bobby" in the background, just behind Little Dorrit. Sir Robert Peel's founding of the force in September 1829 is consistent (or nearly so) with Dickens's dating of the action. Of the other artistic interpretations of Old Nandy, surely those of Phiz and Sol Eytinge, Junior, offer a more accurate assessment of the cheerful senior than Furniss's portrait of a sour curmudgeon."


Once again an illustration filled with things in the background that I cannot see, I'll have to take the commentator's word for it.


Tristram Shandy Like Peter, I would say that Mahoney's illustrations are second best to Phiz's - although they are completely different in style. They are more realistic to me, whereas in Phiz, I especially like the grotesqueness, the exuberance in detail and a certain sprawlingness. In short, they are typically Dickensian to me, but that may well be because I am most used to them.


Mary Lou | 392 comments Peter wrote: "While I can't foresee a time when I would ever find much fault, or any, in Phiz's illustrations, those of Mahoney are finding their way into second pla..."

I like Mahoney, too. I enjoy Phiz's characterizations, but find the overall effect of his drawings to be a bit overwhelming and, when they're not enlarged, it's sometimes hard for me to make out the detail. Mahoney's, on the other hand, are more distinct and less busy. They're just easier on the eyes, while still in keeping with the images I have in my mind.


Tristram Shandy Phiz's illustrations are not very enjoyable on an e-reader for the very reasons you mentioned, Mary Lou. Luckily, I have all the major Dickens novels in a rather luxurious edition - unluckily, in German -, and here I can enjoy the wealth in detail given by Phiz. Since I started reading Dickens in German when I was 16 or so, Phiz is the Dickens illustrator for me.


message 23: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "Phiz's illustrations are not very enjoyable on an e-reader for the very reasons you mentioned, Mary Lou. Luckily, I have all the major Dickens novels in a rather luxurious edition - unluckily, in G..."

Now I have to go try to find "A Christmas Carol" in German just to see what it looks like.


Tristram Shandy Hmm, Kim, I don't really know if it would be worth your while to hunt down a German copy of A Christmas Carol because, after all, you know the text by heart, anyway, don't you?

Apart from that, Dickens is an author who does not translate very well - most of the dialects and idiosyncrasies of language, and some of the humour, too, are tricky to save into the target language. I noticed that when I started reading Dickens in English, and as soon as I felt confident enough to go through Dickens - I think my first English Dickens was Great Expectations -, I never wanted to go back to any translated Dickens.

One of the reasons I became an English (and not a French) teacher was the incredible richness of English-speaking literature. I cannot even say that my own native literature fascinates me that much (and certainly not French literature, with the exception of Zola and Hugo). You could simply spend half your life reading all the Victorian authors - and then there is so much more to be discovered. By the way, it is partly through Peter's Collins reviews that I have given Wilkie another try and was surprised in a positive way.


Peter Tristram

It was interesting to read your comments on reading a book in translation. I have always wondered to what extent the nuances of a language cannot be captured accurately in a translation. Your thoughts align with what others have told me.

My wife is from Portugal and will often try to put an idea/concept/feeling into English only to finally comment that what she wants to say can't be accurately translated because no equivalent group of words will portray what she wants to say.

I'm glad to read you are giving Collins another try. Some of his recent books that I have read are not exactly top shelf material, but they are interesting. I have recently picked up some Trollope. Now, he is a very fascinating author and has a very perceptive insight into human behaviour.

No one needs to leave the Victorians to find a lifetime of various styles and stories. :-))


message 26: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Tristram wrote: "Hmm, Kim, I don't really know if it would be worth your while to hunt down a German copy of A Christmas Carol because, after all, you know the text by heart, anyway, don't you?

Apart from that, Di..."


I just wanted to see if lines like "Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that." were actually sentences or just one big word.


Mary Lou | 392 comments Kim wrote: "I just wanted to see if lines like "Marley was dead to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that." were actually sentences or just one big word. "

>>snort<<
:-p


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Tristram wrote: "Hmm, Kim, I don't really know if it would be worth your while to hunt down a German copy of A Christmas Carol because, after all, you know the text by heart, anyway, don't you?

Ap..."


Okay, here goes:

"Marley war tot, damit wollen wir anfangen. Kein Zweifel kann darüber bestehen."

Hmmm, 13 words in English, 12 words in German. Usually, believe it or not, I have the impression that German needs more words to express a thought than English. Saying that, the translation is a bit inadequate because "kein Zweifel" would be "no doubt"; here it says "no doubt whatever", which should be "nicht der leiseste Zweifel", which would leave us with 14 German words.


Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "My wife is from Portugal and will often try to put an idea/concept/feeling into English only to finally comment that what she wants to say can't be accurately translated because no equivalent group of words will portray what she wants to say."

My wife is from Argentina but from a German-speaking family, which makes her fluent in both Spanish and German. She normally speaks Spanish with her family but often uses German words in between, and when I ask her why is that, she answers that sometimes the Spanish language has a very roundabout way and uses paraphrases, where German has one word.

She also says that German is a language where you can say nice things to people, e.g. wishing them well, without sounding over the top, which often, to her feeling, happens in Spanish.


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