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Little Dorrit > Book II Chapters 08 - 11

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Tristram Shandy Dear Pickwickians,

Let us now move from morbid old Venice to … morbid old London – it seems that there is now no end to morbidity although there are also some pleasant developments on the rise. In Chapter 8 “The Dowager Mrs. Gowan Is Reminded that ‘It Never Does’”.

And this is how it happens: One day, Mrs. Gowan hires her coach, which is supposed to be regarded as her own private coach, and visits the Meagleses. Her whole behaviour on that occasion is utterly arrogant and condescending; for example, she constantly calls Mr. and Mrs. Meagles “Papa Meagles” and “Mama Meagles”, which happens so often that I would have liked to tear her out of the book and give her a shaking of the kind Mr. Flintwinch administers to poor Affery. Up to now, the wrong kind of people have been shaken in Little Dorrit, but knowing Dickens I trust that this will change ;-) Mrs. Gowan now starts her conversation by referring to her “poor boy” and his “pretty wife”, and the narrator unfortunately has to explain to us in little interpolations why she uses words like these instead of just leaving it to us to figure this out and see through Mrs. Gowan’s maliciousness. The drift of Mrs. Gowan’s talk is that the Meagleses can, of course, count themselves lucky they have made such a catch for her daughter but that they should also be prepared to face the costs an in-law like Mr. Gowan will cause and that they ought not to complain about them. She also implies that it is to be hoped that Pet will make her husband happy.

Mr. Meagles tries to bear all this impertinent talk with a friendly face, but eventually he cannot bear it any more, and he speaks up – politely but firmly saying that it is to be hoped that they will make each other happy. Mrs. Gowan grasps this opportunity of ending the conversation in the following way:

”’It is in vain,’ said Mrs Gowan, ‘for people to attempt to get on together who have such extremely different antecedents; who are jumbled against each other in this accidental, matrimonial sort of way; and who cannot look at the untoward circumstance which has shaken them together in the same light. It never does.’
Mr Meagles was beginning, ‘Permit me to say, ma'am—‘
‘No, don't,’ returned Mrs Gowan. ‘Why should you! It is an ascertained fact. It never does. I will therefore, if you please, go my way, leaving you to yours. I shall at all times be happy to receive my poor fellow's pretty wife, and I shall always make a point of being on the most affectionate terms with her. But as to these terms, semi-family and semi-stranger, semi-goring and semi-boring, they form a state of things quite amusing in its impracticability. I assure you it never does.‘“


Obviously, this worthy mother has planned to cause a breach between herself and the Meagleses from the very start and is quite happy to have brought it about now. To make sure that we notice this, the narrator also implies this at the end of the chapter.

Nevertheless, we must turn back to the beginning of the chapter once more where we learn that Arthur realizes that in his heart of hearts, Daniel Doyce is still dreaming of making the Circumlocution Office accept his invention. Doyce explains the whole thing to Arthur, but we readers still do not learn what this whole invention is actually about. It must be a very good invention, though, because apparently, its introduction into practice could benefit the country a lot. In the light of all this and of Doyce’s dream of seeing his invention finally introduced, Arthur takes it upon himself to run the gauntlet of the Circumlocution Office. After all, he is fresh game to them.

In this context, we also learn another interesting detail about the Circumlocution Office, a detail I have often observed when bureaucrats justify the work they do:

”Here arises a feature of the Circumlocution Office, not previously mentioned in the present record. When that admirable Department got into trouble, and was, by some infuriated members of Parliament whom the smaller Barnacles almost suspected of labouring under diabolic possession, attacked on the merits of no individual case, but as an Institution wholly abominable and Bedlamite; then the noble or right honourable Barnacle who represented it in the House, would smite that member and cleave him asunder, with a statement of the quantity of business (for the prevention of business) done by the Circumlocution Office. Then would that noble or right honourable Barnacle hold in his hand a paper containing a few figures, to which, with the permission of the House, he would entreat its attention. Then would the inferior Barnacles exclaim, obeying orders,'Hear, Hear, Hear!' and 'Read!' Then would the noble or right honourable Barnacle perceive, sir, from this little document, which he thought might carry conviction even to the perversest mind (Derisive laughter and cheering from the Barnacle fry), that within the short compass of the last financial half-year, this much-maligned Department (Cheers) had written and received fifteen thousand letters (Loud cheers), had written twenty-four thousand minutes (Louder cheers), and thirty-two thousand five hundred and seventeen memoranda (Vehement cheering). Nay, an ingenious gentleman connected with the Department, and himself a valuable public servant, had done him the favour to make a curious calculation of the amount of stationery consumed in it during the same period. It formed a part of this same short document; and he derived from it the remarkable fact that the sheets of foolscap paper it had devoted to the public service would pave the footways on both sides of Oxford Street from end to end, and leave nearly a quarter of a mile to spare for the park (Immense cheering and laughter); while of tape—red tape—it had used enough to stretch, in graceful festoons, from Hyde Park Corner to the General Post Office. Then, amidst a burst of official exultation, would the noble or right honourable Barnacle sit down, leaving the mutilated fragments of the Member on the field. No one, after that exemplary demolition of him, would have the hardihood to hint that the more the Circumlocution Office did, the less was done, and that the greatest blessing it could confer on an unhappy public would be to do nothing.”

Apart from this wonderful observation, we also learn a bit about how Clennam feels with regard to Little Dorrit:

”He sadly and sorely missed Little Dorrit. He had been prepared to miss her very much, but not so much. He knew to the full extent only through experience, what a large place in his life was left blank when her familiar little figure went out of it. He felt, too, that he must relinquish the hope of its return, understanding the family character sufficiently well to be assured that he and she were divided by a broad ground of separation. The old interest he had had in her, and her old trusting reliance on him, were tinged with melancholy in his mind: so soon had change stolen over them, and so soon had they glided into the past with other secret tendernesses.
When he received her letter he was greatly moved, but did not the less sensibly feel that she was far divided from him by more than distance. It helped him to a clearer and keener perception of the place assigned him by the family. He saw that he was cherished in her grateful remembrance secretly, and that they resented him with the jail and the rest of its belongings.
Through all these meditations which every day of his life crowded about her, he thought of her otherwise in the old way. She was his innocent friend, his delicate child, his dear Little Dorrit. This very change of circumstances fitted curiously in with the habit, begun on the night when the roses floated away, of considering himself as a much older man than his years really made him. He regarded her from a point of view which in its remoteness, tender as it was, he little thought would have been unspeakable agony to her. He speculated about her future destiny, and about the husband she might have, with an affection for her which would have drained her heart of its dearest drop of hope, and broken it.”


I underlined a passage in this quotation, which might give some food for thought here. Apparently Arthur does not regard Little Dorrit in the same light as she regards him.


Tristram Shandy The following chapter is concerned with “Appearance and Disappearance”. First of all, we learn that Mr. and Mrs. Meagles are going to disappear for a while since they feel it better for them to join their daughter and her husband in Italy. Apparently Pet is pregnant, or I gathered as much from Mr. Meagles’s saying “Then again, here's Mother foolishly anxious (and yet naturally too) about Pet's state of health, and that she should not be left to feel lonesome at the present time. It's undeniably a long way off, Arthur, and a strange place for the poor love under all the circumstances.” Another reason for their going is their fear of being misrepresented in society by Mrs. Gowan (although I don’t understand how their going to Italy could change that), and then there are the debts run up by Mr. Gowan that need dealing with.

Arthur, who has become a kind of in-law to the Meagleses, often walks up to their cottage in their absence, and one day, the cook Mrs. Tickit tells him, in a rather roundabout way, that she has seen Tattycoram linger near the house – the Appearance that has given this chapter its name, probably. Clennam is interested in this tale because he thinks that after all, the young girl can be persuaded to return to her old home, but at the same time, he has slight misgivings about Mrs. Tickit not having dreamt it all up. The matter might have hung in the balance for quite a while, if it were not for the novelist’s best friend: Miss Serendipity. This never-tiring damsel puts Clennam at the right place in the right moment:

”He was passing at nightfall along the Strand, and the lamp-lighter was going on before him, under whose hand the street-lamps, blurred by the foggy air, burst out one after another, like so many blazing sunflowers coming into full-blow all at once,—when a stoppage on the pavement, caused by a train of coal-waggons toiling up from the wharves at the river-side, brought him to a stand-still. He had been walking quickly, and going with some current of thought, and the sudden check given to both operations caused him to look freshly about him, as people under such circumstances usually do.
Immediately, he saw in advance—a few people intervening, but still so near to him that he could have touched them by stretching out his arm—Tattycoram and a strange man of a remarkable appearance: a swaggering man, with a high nose, and a black moustache as false in its colour as his eyes were false in their expression, who wore his heavy cloak with the air of a foreigner. His dress and general appearance were those of a man on travel, and he seemed to have very recently joined the girl. In bending down (being much taller than she was), listening to whatever she said to him, he looked over his shoulder with the suspicious glance of one who was not unused to be mistrustful that his footsteps might be dogged. It was then that Clennam saw his face; as his eyes lowered on the people behind him in the aggregate, without particularly resting upon Clennam's face or any other.”


We, of course, immediately know who the mysterious and unprepossessing stranger is. Clennam follows the girl and Blandois for a while, and finally they meet Miss Wade, who now seems to start some bargaining with Blandois, while Tattycoram loiters behind them. From the scratches Clennam can gather from their conversation, it is obvious that Blandois is reporting something to Miss Wade but that he wants some money first. Miss Wade angrily tells him that she has to get this money first, and after a while they separate. Clennam now follows Miss Wade and Tattycoram, who, to his wonderment, wend their way to Mr. Casby’s place and enter.

Clennam, after a while, also knocks at Casby’s door, and he is given a cordial welcome by Flora, who is sitting with Mr. F.’s Aunt, who is eating buttered slices of toast, leaving the crumbs for Flora. They talk about Little Dorrit and Italy for a while, with Mr. F.’s Aunt eying Arthur in a not too friendly way. Eventually, Clennam tells Flora the reason for his making this visit, and Flora agrees to go downstairs and ask her father for an interview. Clennam is left alone with Mr. F.’s Aunt, which provides another opportunity for great comedy, when this worthy old lady wants Clennam to eat the crumbs of her toast, and on finding that he declines this, says wonderful sentences like “He has a proud stomach, this chap!” and “Give him a meal of chaff!”

Finally, Flora returns, and to his relief, Arthur is led into the presence of the Patriarch, who, all in all, is not more forthcoming than his portrait with regard to any valuable information concerning Miss Wade. He just says that from time to time, he has paid Miss Wade some money, but he denies any knowledge of her address. Luckily for Clennam, Mr. Pancks drops in, and when Clennam leaves and waits for a while outside (Mr. Pancks has signaled him to do this), Pancks gives him some more information on Miss Wade. He does not know her address, either, but he is pretty sure that his employer does and could get into contact with her if he were so inclined. He also says this about Miss Wade’s character:

” ‘I expect,’ rejoined that worthy, ‘I know as much about her as she knows about herself. She is somebody's child—anybody's, nobody's. Put her in a room in London here with any six people old enough to be her parents, and her parents may be there for anything she knows. They may be in any house she sees, they may be in any churchyard she passes, she may run against 'em in any street, she may make chance acquaintance of 'em at any time; and never know it. She knows nothing about 'em. She knows nothing about any relative whatever. Never did. Never will.’

‘Mr Casby could enlighten her, perhaps?’

‘May be,’ said Pancks. ‘I expect so, but don't know. He has long had money (not overmuch as I make out) in trust to dole out to her when she can't do without it. Sometimes she's proud and won't touch it for a length of time; sometimes she's so poor that she must have it. She writhes under her life. A woman more angry, passionate, reckless, and revengeful never lived. She came for money to-night. Said she had peculiar occasion for it.’

‘I think,’ observed Clennam musing, ‘I by chance know what occasion—I mean into whose pocket the money is to go.’

‘Indeed?’ said Pancks. ‘If it's a compact, I recommend that party to be exact in it. I wouldn't trust myself to that woman, young and handsome as she is, if I had wronged her; no, not for twice my proprietor's money! Unless,’ Pancks added as a saving clause, ‘I had a lingering illness on me, and wanted to get it over.’”


So Miss Wade is also an orphan like Tattycoram, a woman that does not know who her parents are and is utterly rootless in the world.

Mr. Pancks takes his leave of Arthur with a strange threat, namely that if Mr. Casby goes too far, he will one day cut his hair off.


Tristram Shandy In Chapter 10 we see how “The Dreams of Mrs. Flintwinch Thicken”. One evening, after a longer absence from his mother’s house (due to Circumlocutionary Activities, or Non-Activities), Arthur decides to go and see his mother. When he arrives there, he sees waiting impatiently in front of the door the very man that had the nocturnal interview with Miss Wade. Clennam is very disgusted with the insolent behaviour Mr. Blandois shows in the presence of Flintwinch and later of Mrs. Clennam, and he ventures to utter his feelings.

Now although neither Mr. Flintwinch nor Mrs. Clennam betray any emotion in their faces, it is obvious that they somehow stand in awe of this strange visitor, who clings in a most disrespectful way to Flintwinch’s neck and pours down a torrent of familiarities upon him. Mrs. Clennam never for a moment takes her eyes off Blandois, as though he were some dangerous animal, and at the same time, Flintwinch keeps an eye on Clennam. Instead of taking her son’s side against the impertinent Blandois, Mrs. Clennam rebukes Arthur for insulting their guest, who – as she says – has struck up some sort of friendship with her partner Mr. Flintwinch.

It is obvious, though, that Blandois knows something to Mrs. Clennam’s disadvantage, and that he is enjoying his newly-won position of power, as the following extract might show:

”’The gentleman,’ pursued Mrs Clennam, ‘on a former occasion brought a letter of recommendation to us from highly esteemed and responsible correspondents. I am perfectly unacquainted with the gentleman's object in coming here at present. I am entirely ignorant of it, and cannot be supposed likely to be able to form the remotest guess at its nature;’ her habitual frown became stronger, as she very slowly and weightily emphasised those words; ‘but, when the gentleman proceeds to explain his object, as I shall beg him to have the goodness to do to myself and Flintwinch, when Flintwinch returns, it will prove, no doubt, to be one more or less in the usual way of our business, which it will be both our business and our pleasure to advance. It can be nothing else.’

‘We shall see, madame!’ said the man of business.”


Then, in a very gruff way, she asks her son to leave them alone for they intend to talk business with their guest. Arthur has now no choice but to leave, and outside the door, he finds good old Affery, distraught with fright, and her apron above her head. When he asks her what is going on, she says,

”’Don't ask me anything, Arthur. I've been in a dream for ever so long. Go away!‘“


Tristram Shandy This week’s final chapter gives us “A Letter from Little Dorrit” again, this time from Rome. Amy tells Arthur more about the Gowans, for example about their comparatively miserable lodging. I was wondering how a painter could work in a room that is not sufficiently bright, but then I am not a painter, and maybe many a painter can work in these circumstances.

Here’s an extract from the letter dwelling on Mr. Gowan’s strange relationship to his wife and his in-laws:

”Owing (as I think, if you think so too) to Mr Gowan's unsettled and dissatisfied way, he applies himself to his profession very little. He does nothing steadily or patiently; but equally takes things up and throws them down, and does them, or leaves them undone, without caring about them. When I have heard him talking to Papa during the sittings for the picture, I have sat wondering whether it could be that he has no belief in anybody else, because he has no belief in himself. Is it so? I wonder what you will say when you come to this! I know how you will look, and I can almost hear the voice in which you would tell me on the Iron Bridge.

Mr Gowan goes out a good deal among what is considered the best company here—though he does not look as if he enjoyed it or liked it when he is with it—and she sometimes accompanies him, but lately she has gone out very little. I think I have noticed that they have an inconsistent way of speaking about her, as if she had made some great self-interested success in marrying Mr Gowan, though, at the same time, the very same people, would not have dreamed of taking him for themselves or their daughters. Then he goes into the country besides, to think about making sketches; and in all places where there are visitors, he has a large acquaintance and is very well known. Besides all this, he has a friend who is much in his society both at home and away from home, though he treats this friend very coolly and is very uncertain in his behaviour to him. I am quite sure (because she has told me so), that she does not like this friend. He is so revolting to me, too, that his being away from here, at present, is quite a relief to my mind. How much more to hers!

But what I particularly want you to know, and why I have resolved to tell you so much while I am afraid it may make you a little uncomfortable without occasion, is this. She is so true and so devoted, and knows so completely that all her love and duty are his for ever, that you may be certain she will love him, admire him, praise him, and conceal all his faults, until she dies. I believe she conceals them, and always will conceal them, even from herself. She has given him a heart that can never be taken back; and however much he may try it, he will never wear out its affection. You know the truth of this, as you know everything, far far better than I; but I cannot help telling you what a nature she shows, and that you can never think too well of her.

[…]

Perhaps you have not heard from her father or mother yet, and may not know that she has a baby son. He was born only two days ago, and just a week after they came. It has made them very happy. However, I must tell you, as I am to tell you all, that I fancy they are under a constraint with Mr Gowan, and that they feel as if his mocking way with them was sometimes a slight given to their love for her. It was but yesterday, when I was there, that I saw Mr Meagles change colour, and get up and go out, as if he was afraid that he might say so, unless he prevented himself by that means. Yet I am sure they are both so considerate, good-humoured, and reasonable, that he might spare them. It is hard in him not to think of them a little more.”


We also learn that Amy and Pet have become friends, and that Pet refers to Amy by the name that is so dear to her since Arthur first applied it to her – Little Dorrit.

There are further references about Mr. Gowan’s listlessly working on Mr. Dorrit’s portrait and on Fanny’s doing very well – we can imagine – with her suitor, and the letter ends in a very melancholy way:

”Heaven knows when your poor child will see England again. We are all fond of the life here (except me), and there are no plans for our return. My dear father talks of a visit to London late in this next spring, on some affairs connected with the property, but I have no hope that he will bring me with him.

I have tried to get on a little better under Mrs General's instruction, and I hope I am not quite so dull as I used to be. I have begun to speak and understand, almost easily, the hard languages I told you about. I did not remember, at the moment when I wrote last, that you knew them both; but I remembered it afterwards, and it helped me on. God bless you, dear Mr Clennam. Do not forget

Your ever grateful and affectionate

Little Dorrit”



message 5: by Peter (last edited Jul 03, 2016 04:28PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Tristram wrote: "Dear Pickwickians,

Let us now move from morbid old Venice to … morbid old London – it seems that there is now no end to morbidity although there are also some pleasant developments on the rise. In..."


Well, I'm getting more and more fristrated. Could Mrs. Gowan be even more irritating than Mr. Dorrit? How could this be possible? As Tristram says, this chapter takes us from morbid Venice to morbid London. I had hopes that once we left the rambles of the Dorrit clan in Italy, our ventures in England would be a change.

Arthur's reflections of himself makes him see "himself as an old man." To what extent does he see his own life and its possibilities slipping away? He does not know the underlying truths he seeks about his mother and father and the mystery of their leaning and crumbling house. He sees Amy as "Little Dorrit," a child and himself as an aged man. Is this the reason he does not reveal closer and more intimate feelings for Amy?

I continue to struggle with the pace and the style of this novel. I realize that Dickens must be setting the reader up for some major event, but I am also being bent and made weary by the novel's seeming lack of pace and direction.


message 6: by Peter (last edited Jul 03, 2016 09:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Tristram wrote: "The following chapter is concerned with “Appearance and Disappearance”. First of all, we learn that Mr. and Mrs. Meagles are going to disappear for a while since they feel it better for them to joi..."

Miss Serendipity. Love it Tristram. This is the only character who has a repeated role in all of Dickens's novels, not to mention other wonderful Victorian novels as well.

Arthur's frequent visits to the Meagles' home seem rather pointless. Dare anyone suggest he still pines for Pet, or is it, more simply, a way of Dickens signalling the importance of the Meagles to Arthur and a plot device to see Tattycoram again?

Certainly, the linking of the characters Miss Wade, Tattycoram and Blandois signal something not good, and their dark meeting does move the plot forward nicely. At last!


Peter Tristram wrote: "In Chapter 10 we see how “The Dreams of Mrs. Flintwinch Thicken”. One evening, after a longer absence from his mother’s house (due to Circumlocutionary Activities, or Non-Activities), Arthur decide..."

The suspense meter is now beginning to twitch. We know Blandois is a nasty piece of business who is quite happy and capable of bringing harm, pain, suffering and death to both humans and animals. Whatever power Flintwinch apparently has in the Clennam home is clearly trumped by Blamdois.

Perhaps Affery is intelligent. When she says "Don't ask me anything, Go away" to Arthur her words may well be not that of a silly downtrodden woman but rather those of a wise seer.


message 8: by Peter (last edited Jul 03, 2016 09:06PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Tristram wrote: "This week’s final chapter gives us “A Letter from Little Dorrit” again, this time from Rome. Amy tells Arthur more about the Gowans, for example about their comparatively miserable lodging. I was w..."

It seems that as the world around Amy shifts, changes, contracts and enlarges, she remains the constant point on the compass. Amy is kind, considerate, loving, thoughtful and, truth be told, a wee bit boring as well.

Dickens's portrayal of Amy puts her clearly in the camp of the innocent, caring female child-adult: Little Nell, Florence Dombey, Esther Summerson and now Amy Dorrit. With the exception of Little Nell, all the other characters were groomed by Dickens to be the companionate wife in their respective novels. Hummm who is the lucky man in Little Dorrit?


message 9: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Peter wrote: "Well, I'm getting more and more fristrated. Could Mrs. Gowan be even more irritating than Mr. Dorrit? How could this be possible?"

You just gave me a wonderful idea, an idea anyway. We have Mrs. Gowan but no Mr. Gowan and Mr. Dorrit but no Mrs. Dorrit, I can see it now - Mrs. Gowan becoming the next Mrs. Dorrit. Goodbye to Mrs. General.

Peter, you find Amy a wee bit boring? Me too. And Arthur Clennam, the hero of our story, I find him more than a wee bit boring, but I'll take him over Mr. Dorrit anytime.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) I have arrived here kicking, screaming and clawing my way forward. I was much helped by Clennam and Little Dorrit. I actually love those two. So what does that say about me? No need to answer!

I find that I have little to say at this moment as I feel the need of a month's recuperation. A trip to Venice or Rome would do for a start. Nope, just leave me in Venice and come back for me in about a year, or never, for that matter.

I do love this book and I hope that Dickens ties up the loose ends in accordance with my desires! :D. I shall hope not to lag behind so
ridiculously again ...


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Kim, the Dorrit-Gowan axis is genius! I'd love to be a fly on the wall on their wedding day. :p


Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "Miss Serendipity. Love it Tristram. This is the only character who has a repeated role in all of Dickens's novels, not to mention other wonderful Victorian novels as well."

I imagine Miss Serendipity as rather footsore and out of breath, because she has to be virtually everywhere whenever a writer is at a loss as to how to connect the different plotlines.

But then, I have sometimes met friends, colleagues etc. by chance during holidays in other countries. Such things do happen after all, but in a novel one does not like to stomach them.


Tristram Shandy Peter wrote: "Hummm who is the lucky man in Little Dorrit?"

As you said above that Amy is a little bit boring (I'd agree, only I'd change that little bit to "a great deal"), whoever her future husband may be, I hope he will have a hobby-horse that carries him outside a lot ;-)


Tristram Shandy Hilary wrote: "So what does that say about me? No need to answer!"

That you are a very patient person with a golden heart! :-)


Tristram Shandy Hilary wrote: "Kim, the Dorrit-Gowan axis is genius! I'd love to be a fly on the wall on their wedding day. :p"

Dickens can be cruel in designing comeuppances for his less prepossessing characters - just think of poor Simon Tappertit - but surely not that cruel!


Tristram Shandy As to the pace of Little Dorrit, it is true that things don't develop very quickly, but I like the atmosphere in this book. The Venice chapters somehow reminded me of that creepy and mysterious movie "Don't Look Now", and then there are the scenes of blistering Marseilles and there is that grim haunted house with Affery, the wise seer (I like that idea), in it. I also like the prison motif that comes up here and there and the strange idea that apparently it is easier to get Little Dorrit out of the prison than it is to get the prison out of Little Dorrit.

And I'm sure that something big is going to happen yet!


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Thank you so much for your kind thought, Tristram. If only I were like that ...

Peter, I'm so glad that you brought my attention back to Tristram's 'Miss Serendipity'.
She has established herself as a character in her own right. I cannot help but see a hapless middle-aged spinster with a broad-brimmed faux fruit-bedecked hat with flat black shoes
one of which is trampled at the heel.

And Tristram, you're so right about the atmosphere. Dickens is wonderful at painting a picture of location, should it only be a garden, that is almost palpable. The canvas that he paints is so vivid to the mind's eye that I find myself utterly convinced by it. The atmosphere lingers long after the last page is turned. I only have to think of the name Marseilles and suddenly it's there; I can almost taste it. Now, it is true that I have been in Marseilles and if truth be told my experience of the place was not one of unalloyed delight. The atmosphere, as portrayed by Dickens, is almost a descriptive journal entry, recording, in wonderful language, my feelings about my brief sojourn there. I realise that when we take into account the fact that Dickens was describing a sweaty, grimy, hole-in-the-ground prison, the comparison is none too flattering. But then the slave trade will
tend to do that to a place ...


message 18: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Book II Chapter 9 - Phiz



Rigour of Mr. F's Aunt

Book II Chapter 9

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

"None of your eyes at me," said Mr F.'s Aunt, shivering with hostility. "Take that."

"That" was the crust of the piece of toast. Clennam accepted the boon with a look of gratitude, and held it in his hand under the pressure of a little embarrassment, which was not relieved when Mr. F.'s Aunt, elevating her voice into a cry of considerable power, exclaimed, "He has a proud stomach, this chap! He's too proud a chap to eat it!" and, coming out of her chair, shook her venerable fist so very close to his nose as to tickle the surface. But for the timely return of Flora, to find him in this difficult situation, further consequences might have ensued. Flora, without the least discomposure or surprise, but congratulating the old lady in an approving manner on being "very lively to-night," handed her back to her chair.

"He has a proud stomach, this chap," said Mr F.'s relation, on being reseated. "Give him a meal of chaff!"

"Oh! I don't think he would like that, aunt," returned Flora.

"Give him a meal of chaff, I tell you," said Mr. F.'s Aunt, glaring round Flora on her enemy. "It’s the only thing for a proud stomach. Let him eat up every morsel. Drat him, give him a meal of chaff!"

Under a general pretence of helping him to this refreshment, Flora got him out on the staircase; Mr. F.'s Aunt even then constantly reiterating, with inexpressible bitterness, that he was "a chap," and had a "proud stomach," and over and over again insisting on that equine provision being made for him which she had already so strongly prescribed.

"Such an inconvenient staircase and so many corner-stairs Arthur," whispered Flora, "would you object to putting your arm round me under my pelerine?"

With a sense of going down-stairs in a highly-ridiculous manner, Clennam descended in the required attitude, and only released his fair burden at the dining-room door; indeed, even there she was rather difficult to be got rid of, remaining in his embrace to murmur, "Arthur, for mercy's sake, don’t breathe it to papa!"

She accompanied Arthur into the room, where the Patriarch sat alone, with his list shoes on the fender, twirling his thumbs as if he had never left off. The youthful Patriarch, aged ten, looked out of his picture-frame above him with no calmer air than he. Both smooth heads were alike beaming, blundering, and bumpy.

"Mr. Clennam, I am glad to see you. I hope you are well, sir, I hope you are well. Please to sit down, please to sit down."


Commentary:

"This situation in the Patriarchal madhouse is utterly baffling for a reader who merely "drops into" the pages of text involved — in any event, whereas Phiz's pair of illustrations appeared at the front of instalment thirteen (and in the volume very near this comic dialogue), the others are not so well situated that the reader construes the angry blathering of Mr. F.'s Aunt in the context of Chapter 9, in which Arthur Clennam, having followed Miss Wade and Tattycoram to the "Patriarchal mansion" of Mr. Casby (Flora Finching's father), encounters the demented aunt by marriage who fears losing her devoted nurse and companion — in other words, her apparently irrational diatribe against Clennam, underscored in the original Phiz illustration, is clearly motivated and, in its own way, an understandable response to a potential threat, although the reader may not interpret the bizarre behaviour of Mr. F's aunt in such a light upon first reading this scene. However, even the unreflective reader would likely regard the tea-time confrontation as epitomizing so much of the book as normative characters such as Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit (Austenian True Wits) encounter a metropolis teaming with False Wits in a Comedy of Manners translated from the stage to the novel.

The illustrator's description of yet another pallid Dickens hero, Arthur, is all the more effective for his being juxtaposed against such a singularly odd and barely comprehensible a character as Mr. F.'s Aunt, whom the illustrators Eytinge, Phiz, Mahoney, and Furniss have costumed not as in her dotage, but as a perfectly respectable middle class matron of advanced years, complete with oversized hat and large linen napkin. Although none of the illustrations of this scene makes the situation completely clear, Mrs. F.'s Aunt has just thrust a piece of toast into Arthur's hand and is demanding that he finish for her, just as Flora would, were she present. With his nice sense of comic timing, Phiz has an oblivious Flora about to intervene, so that the viewer of the Phiz illustration is compelled to revert to the text to learn how she will handle this extremely awkward situation so that she mollifies her aunt-by-marriage, without driving a potential suitor away. Arthur, apparently a young, respectably dressed bourgeois, reacts with mild shock and surprise to the elderly lady's aggressive behaviour, which is clearly intended to drive the rival for Flora's affections out of the house, never to visit middle-aged Flora again. Critic J. A. Hammerton imposed beneath the Phiz engraving reproduced in The Dickens Picture-Book (1910) the caption "Flora found him in this difficult situation" to alert the reader to Flora's impending dilemma.

Contemporary American illustrator Sol Eytinge, Junior, following Phiz's lead, depicted Flora Finching as vacuous and Mr. F's Aunt as senile, but pliable in the 1867 Diamond Edition wood-engraving Flora and Mr. F's Aunt — a dual character study that, like the 1863 frontispiece by Sir John Gilbert, is based on Phiz's steel-engraving for Part 13 (December 1856) illustration. The social realist James Mahoney in the Household Edition's fifty-eight illustrations does not include this scene, choosing instead to realise Clennam's shadowing Miss Wade and Tattycoram. Mahoney's treatment of Flora in "What nimble fingers you have," said Flora, "but are you sure you are well?". . . "Oh yes, indeed!" Flora put her feet upon the fender, and settled herself for a thorough good romantic disclosure. — Book 1, chap. 24. The illustrator betrays little sympathy for the querulous, old woman in the Furniss illustrations for the twelfth volume of The Charles Dickens Library Edition, Mr. F's Aunt, described as mildly ridiculous in Book One, Chapter 13:

There was a fourth and most original figure in the Patriarchal tent, who also appeared before dinner. This was an amazing little old woman, with a face like a staring wooden doll too cheap for expression, and a stiff yellow wig perched unevenly on the top of her head, as if the child who owned the doll had driven a tack through it anywhere, so that it only got fastened on. Another remarkable thing in this little old woman was, that the same child seemed to have damaged her face in two or three places with some blunt instrument in the nature of a spoon; her countenance, and particularly the tip of her nose, presenting the phenomena of several dints, generally answering to the bowl of that article. A further remarkable thing in this little old woman was, that she had no name but Mr F.'s Aunt.

Awkward, surly, and even demented as Mr. F's Aunt may appear in the work of these 19th c. illustrators, their characterisation of her are consistent both with Dickens's text, although Furniss conveys something more of her imperious nature and self-importance, whereas Phiz is concerned with her tendency towards histrionics. All of these illustrations are studies in dementia, but Phiz's situates the episode dramatically, as if it were on stage, with the commanding aunt pointing vigorously to support her accusation (centre), the stupified straight man, Arthur Clenham (left of the centre), and Flora Finching, blissfully unaware of what has transpired, entering from stage right, as it were, into a fully dressed stage set. The machine-ruled, horizontal lines complement the strong vertical of the three figures, the chairs, and the fireplace. Whereas in most Victorian parlours, the presiding presence in the the family portrait would be a distinguished-looking male, but Phiz has placed a female portrait above the piano, right."



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Kim Book II Chapter 10 - Phiz



Mr. Flintwinch receives the Embrace of Friendship

Book II Chapter 10

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

"The key of the door below was now heard in the lock, and the door was heard to open and close. In due sequence Mr. Flintwinch appeared; on whose entrance the visitor rose from his chair, laughing loud, and folded him in a close embrace.

"How goes it, my cherished friend!" said he. "How goes the world, my Flintwinch? Rose-coloured? So much the better, so much the better! Ah, but you look charming! Ah, but you look young and fresh as the flowers of Spring! Ah, good little boy! Brave child, brave child!"

While heaping these compliments on Mr. Flintwinch, he rolled him about with a hand on each of his shoulders, until the staggerings of that gentleman, who under the circumstances was dryer and more twisted than ever, were like those of a teetotum nearly spent.

"I had a presentiment, last time, that we should be better and more intimately acquainted. Is it coming on you, Flintwinch? Is it yet coming on?"


Commentary:

"The drawing technique is characteristic of Browne's style in the late 1850s and early 1860s at its best, with a concern for composition, a pleasant handling of faces, and something of a sparseness of background details. [Steig, 166-167]

Indeed, the absence of emblematic details and visual commentary on the scene is quite remarkable, although, of course, Phiz here is exploiting the differences in height and body types for comedic effect and thoroughly enjoying the Englishman's discomfiture with the effusive affection of his French acquaintance. As always, Blandois is "insinuating" and horribly familiar, although here at least he is not smoking in the third chapter of the December 1856 (thirteenth monthly) installment — perhaps out of deference to his hostess, a rigid Calvinist.

The other two figures in the scene constitute an audience for Blandois' flamboyant display of affection. To the right, Arthur Clennam (bearing a marked resemblance to his father, whose portrait hangs above the mantelpiece and its vases or urns) judges the pair critically. His gaze does not entirely match his "amazement, suspicion, resentment, and shame" . Her business dealings with both men, however, oblige Mrs. Clennam to view their behavior with tolerance, but clearly she is viewing the affectionate greeting of Blandois without any enthusiasm. The gazes of both aloof mother and disapproving son direct the reader to study Jeremiah Flintwinch's rigid posture and controlled expression, his failure to reciprocate implied by his arms hanging limply at his sides: "reticent and wooden" indeed! Although it is not immediately apparent from the fireplace (left) and chest of drawers (rear), the scene is the invalid Mrs. Clennam's bedroom, as suggested by the canopy and side table (right), on which is a conspicuous detail — a book, probably (given her fundamentalist bent) a Bible.

The Crimean War having just ended with the capture of Sebastopol, the awkward friendship of the phlegmatic Briton, Jeremiah Flintwinch, and his effusive Gallic chum (who bears some resemblance to the Emperor of the French, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, otherwise, Napoleon III) may be a reflection of the uneasy alliance of Great Britain and France. As a Liberal opposed to Russian autocracy and expansionism, Dickens made no bones about being a Francophile in his framed tale in Household Words, for December 1854, "The Tale of Richard Doubledick" in The Seven Poor Travellers, and certainly the fall of the chief Russian port on the Black Sea on 8 September 1855 had vindicated Dickens's championing of the pact that resulted in Czar Alexander II's signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1856."



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Kim Book II Chapter 9 - Sir John Gilbert



Book II Chapter 9

Sir John Gilbert

Frontispiece to the third volume of Dickens's Little Dorrit, in the Sheldon & Co. (New York) Household Edition (1861-71).


Text Illustrated:

"None of your eyes at me," said Mr F.'s Aunt, shivering with hostility. "Take that."

"That" was the crust of the piece of toast. Clennam accepted the boon with a look of gratitude, and held it in his hand under the pressure of a little embarrassment, which was not relieved when Mr. F.'s Aunt, elevating her voice into a cry of considerable power, exclaimed, "He has a proud stomach, this chap! He's too proud a chap to eat it!" and, coming out of her chair, shook her venerable fist so very close to his nose as to tickle the surface. But for the timely return of Flora, to find him in this difficult situation, further consequences might have ensued. Flora, without the least discomposure or surprise, but congratulating the old lady in an approving manner on being "very lively to-night," handed her back to her chair.

"He has a proud stomach, this chap," said Mr F.'s relation, on being reseated. "Give him a meal of chaff!"

"Oh! I don't think he would like that, aunt," returned Flora.

"Give him a meal of chaff, I tell you," said Mr. F.'s Aunt, glaring round Flora on her enemy. "It’s the only thing for a proud stomach. Let him eat up every morsel. Drat him, give him a meal of chaff!"


Commentary:

"Sir John Gilbert provided sporadic relief for the series' principal illustrator, Felix Octavius Carr Darley, typically providing a frontispiece for the third volume in a four-volume set. Here, however, he had to provide the second in the series of four. Although he has provided a lengthy caption, Gilbert gives neither page number nor chapter number:

"He has a proud stomach, this chap! He's too proud a chap to eat it!" and, coming out of her chair, shook her venerable fist so very close to his nose as to tickle the surface.

This situation in the Patriarchal madhouse is utterly baffling for the reader who merely "drops into" the pages of text involved — in any event, Gilbert has provided no such guidance as to chapter or page; the angry blathering of Mr. F.'s Aunt only makes sense in the context of the chapter, in which Arthur Clennam, follows Miss Wade and Tattycoram to the "Patriarchal mansion" of Mr. Casby, Flora Finching's father. Anticipating the prose style of James Joyce in the boundless and unpunctuated monologue of Molly Bloom in Ulysses, Flora's speech knows scant intermission as she seeks to engage the attention of her childhood sweetheart, Arthur Clennam. One wonders what motivated John Gilbert to choose so minor an incident and so peripheral a character as Mr. F's Aunt for the book's third frontispiece. However, in a sense the tea-time confrontation epitomizes so much of the book as normative characters such as Arthur Clennam and Amy Dorrit (Austenian True Wits) encounter a metropolis teaming with False Wits.

Awkward, surly, and even demented as Mr. F's Aunt may appear in this frontispiece by John Gilbert, his characterization of her is consistent with the approach taken by Hablot Knight Browne in the original serial, and preferable to that of Sol Eytinge, Jr., in the Diamond Edition, although Furniss conveys something more of her imperious nature and self-importance."



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Kim Book II Chapter 9 - Harry Furniss



Mrs. F's Aunt

Book II Chapter 9

Harry Furniss

Household Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

"None of your eyes at me," said Mr F.'s Aunt, shivering with hostility. "Take that."

"That" was the crust of the piece of toast. Clennam accepted the boon with a look of gratitude, and held it in his hand under the pressure of a little embarrassment, which was not relieved when Mr. F.'s Aunt, elevating her voice into a cry of considerable power, exclaimed, "He has a proud stomach, this chap! He's too proud a chap to eat it!" and, coming out of her chair, shook her venerable fist so very close to his nose as to tickle the surface. But for the timely return of Flora, to find him in this difficult situation, further consequences might have ensued. Flora, without the least discomposure or surprise, but congratulating the old lady in an approving manner on being "very lively to-night," handed her back to her chair.

"He has a proud stomach, this chap," said Mr F.'s relation, on being reseated. "Give him a meal of chaff!"

"Oh! I don't think he would like that, aunt," returned Flora.

"Give him a meal of chaff, I tell you," said Mr. F.'s Aunt, glaring round Flora on her enemy. "It’s the only thing for a proud stomach. Let him eat up every morsel. Drat him, give him a meal of chaff!"



Commentary:

"Although neither the 1863 frontispiece "He's too proud a chap to eat it. . ." nor Furniss's character study makes the situation at this point completely clear by itself, Mr. F.'s Aunt is about to thrust a piece of toast into Clennam's hand and demand that he consume it. However, the reader has already encountered the scene in the text, and Furniss shows her holding a crust of toast to establish the context, even if he does not depict Clennam or the background. Therefore, the reader is likely to recognize that Mr. F's Aunt is demanding that Clennam finish the crust for her, just as Flora would, were she present."


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Kim Book II Chapter 10 - Harry Furniss



The Plotters

Book II Chapter 10

Harry Furniss

Charles Dickens Library Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

"The key of the door below was now heard in the lock, and the door was heard to open and close. In due sequence Mr. Flintwinch appeared; on whose entrance the visitor rose from his chair, laughing loud, and folded him in a close embrace.

"How goes it, my cherished friend!" said he. "How goes the world, my Flintwinch? Rose-coloured? So much the better, so much the better! Ah, but you look charming! Ah, but you look young and fresh as the flowers of Spring! Ah, good little boy! Brave child, brave child!"

While heaping these compliments on Mr. Flintwinch, he rolled him about with a hand on each of his shoulders, until the staggerings of that gentleman, who under the circumstances was dryer and more twisted than ever, were like those of a teetotum nearly spent.

"I had a presentiment, last time, that we should be better and more intimately acquainted. Is it coming on you, Flintwinch? Is it yet coming on?"


Commentary:

"The chief illustrators of the book in the nineteenth century, Phiz and James Mahoney, and the first great Dickens illustrator of the twentieth, Harry Furniss have all focused on the same aspect of the relationship between the French swindler and murderer, Rigaud (alias "Blandois"), and the crusty keeper of Mrs. Clennam's personal and business secrets, Jeremiah Flintwinch. Whereas Phiz and Mahoney, like Furniss, exploit to the situation for its character comedy as they use it to advance the plot, Furniss is simply interested in the contrast between the stone-faced Englishman and the flamboyant, satanic Frenchman, emphasizing the difference in their height and in their faces."


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Kim Book II Chapter 9 - James Mahoney



"He stopped at the corner, seeming to look back expectantly up the street as if he had made an appointment with some one to meet him there; but he kept a careful eye on the three. When they came together, the man took off his hat and made Miss Wade a bow."

Book II Chapter 9

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"At any hour later than sunset, and not least at that hour when most of the people who have anything to eat at home are going home to eat it, and when most of those who have nothing have hardly yet slunk out to beg or steal, it was a deserted place and looked on a deserted scene.

Such was the hour when Clennam stopped at the corner, observing the girl and the strange man as they went down the street. The man's footsteps were so noisy on the echoing stones that he was unwilling to add the sound of his own. But when they had passed the turning and were in the darkness of the dark corner leading to the terrace, he made after them with such indifferent appearance of being a casual passenger on his way, as he could assume.

When he rounded the dark corner, they were walking along the terrace towards a figure which was coming towards them. If he had seen it by itself, under such conditions of gas-lamp, mist, and distance, he might not have known it at first sight, but with the figure of the girl to prompt him, he at once recognised Miss Wade.

He stopped at the corner, seeming to look back expectantly up the street as if he had made an appointment with some one to meet him there; but he kept a careful eye on the three. When they came together, the man took off his hat, and made Miss Wade a bow. The girl appeared to say a few words as though she presented him, or accounted for his being late, or early, or what not; and then fell a pace or so behind, by herself. Miss Wade and the man then began to walk up and down; the man having the appearance of being extremely courteous and complimentary in manner; Miss Wade having the appearance of being extremely haughty."


Commentary:

"There is no comparable moment in the original Phiz illustrations. Back in London after the Italian sojourn, Mahoney takes readers to the Strand, somewhat defamiliarised after dark, where Miss Wade and Tattycoram rendezvous with an obsequiously charming stranger, whom the observer, Arthur Clennam, encounters a few days later at his mother's house. There, the foreigner (Blandois) is no longer charming, but insolent in the scene illustrated by Phiz for the sequence of chapters (II: 8 through II: 11) which make up serial installment 13 (December 1856). The reader, of course, wonders about the identities of the four figures in the scene, and, once he or she has encountered the textual passage seven pages later, about whatever commerce can exist between the aloof and anti-male Miss Wade and the devious Frenchman, who is evidently acting as Miss Wade's private investigator. Again, Mahoney underscores the curious conjunctions of disparate characters that occur in the second book.

The physical setting would have been one familiar not only to Londoners but also to readers of David Copperfield as David and his Aunt Betsey Trotwood occupied rooms in the Adelphi, overlooking the Thames, after her financial reversals. Having heard from Mrs. Tickit, the housekeeper for the Meagles while they are away on the Continent, that Harriet (nicknamed "Tattycoram") had been at Twickenham recently, Arthur Clennam is nevertheless surprised to encounter her at a distance talking to a foreign gentleman in a cape in the Strand, which parallels the river between Somerset House and Charing Cross, a distance of about three-quarters of a mile. He then trails the pair to the Adelphi Terrace, eleven attached townhouses designed in late neoclassical style by the Adams Brothers (1768-72), the vaulted terrace having wharves beneath, as suggested by the commercial river traffic in Mahoney's illustration. Blandois then has a conversation with the taller of the two women (right rear), undoubtedly Miss Wade, whom Clennam (left foreground in a business suit) recognizes from the action of Book One, Chapter 8. The atmosphere of mist and the distant gas-lamp under which the trio meet suggests the clandestine nature of the rendezvous, which the reader sees from Clennam's perspective."



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Kim Book II Chapter 10 - James Mahoney



"Pray tell me, Affery," said Arthur, "who is this gentleman?"

Book II Chapter 10

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"It's true! Him again, dear Mrs. Flintwinch," cried the stranger. "Open the door, and let me take my dear friend Jeremiah to my arms! Open the door, and let me hasten myself to embrace my Flintwinch!"

"He's not at home," cried Affery.

"Fetch him!' cried the stranger. "Fetch my Flintwinch! Tell him that it is his old Blandois, who comes from arriving in England; tell him that it is his little boy who is here, his cabbage, his well-beloved! Open the door, beautiful Mrs. Flintwinch, and in the meantime let me to pass upstairs, to present my compliments — homage of Blandois — to my lady! My lady lives always? It is well. Open then!"

To Arthur's increased surprise, Mistress Affery, stretching her eyes wide at himself, as if in warning that this was not a gentleman for him to interfere with, drew back the chain, and opened the door. The stranger, without ceremony, walked into the hall, leaving Arthur to follow him.

"Despatch then! Achieve then! Bring my Flintwinch! Announce me to my lady!" cried the stranger, clanking about the stone floor.

"Pray tell me, Affery," said Arthur aloud and sternly, as he surveyed him from head to foot with indignation; "who is this gentleman?"

"Pray tell me, Affery," the stranger repeated in his turn, 'who — ha, ha, ha! — who is this gentleman?"



Commentary:

"The chief illustrators of the book in the nineteenth century, Phiz (Hablot Knight Browne) and James Mahoney, and the first great Dickens illustrator of the twentieth, Harry Furniss, have all focussed on the same aspect of the relationship between the French swindler and murderer, Rigaud (alias "Blandois" and "Lagnier"), and the crusty keeper of Mrs. Clennam's personal and business secrets, Jeremiah Flintwinch. Whereas Phiz and Furniss exploit to the situation for its character comedy, Mahoney is more interested in using the nocturnal scene to advance the reader's construction of the plot. Whereas Furniss is simply interested in presenting the contrast between the short, stone-faced Englishman and the flamboyant, satanic Frenchman, emphasizing the difference in their height and in their faces, Mahoney (Furniss's immediate source) offers a highly realistic and rather bland interpretation of the Gallic scoundrel but renders Affery (center) a caricature. The reader is left to judge, based on Dickens's relating his suspicions of and antipathy for the caped figure calling so late, what the expression on Arthur's face must be."


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Kim Book II Chapter 11 - James Mahoney



"There is a curtain, more dirt-coloured than red, which divides it, and the part behind the curtain makes the private sitting-room. When I first saw her there she was alone, and her work had fallen out of her hand, and she was looking up at the sky shining through the tops of the windows."

Book II Chapter 11

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"Well, it is a rather bare lodging up a rather dark common staircase, and it is nearly all a large dull room, where Mr. Gowan paints. The windows are blocked up where any one could look out, and the walls have been all drawn over with chalk and charcoal by others who have lived there before — oh, — I should think, for years!

There is a curtain more dust-coloured than red, which divides it, and the part behind the curtain makes the private sitting-room.

When I first saw her there she was alone, and her work had fallen out of her hand, and she was looking up at the sky shining through the tops of the windows. Pray do not be uneasy when I tell you, but it was not quite so airy, nor so bright, nor so cheerful, nor so happy and youthful altogether as I should have liked it to be.

On account of Mr. Gowan's painting Papa's picture (which I am not quite convinced I should have known from the likeness if I had not seen him doing it), I have had more opportunities of being with her since then than I might have had without this fortunate chance. She is very much alone. Very much alone indeed."



Commentary:

"Little Dorrit's letter to Arthur Clennam reveals her character in her own words rather than those of the narrator. Her modesty and her tendency not to take her recent good fortune for granted are obvious as she describes in a letter intended for Arthur Clennam back in London the artist's studio that Henry Gowan has rented in Venice, apparently without any regard for the sensibilities and comfort of his young bride, Pet Meagles. This is the same studio in which Phiz in the original serial had set the conflict between the painter and his mastiff, Lion, whom he punishes brutally for dog's threatening to attack the model, Blandois, in Instinct Stronger than Training in Book 2, Chapter 6, "Something Right Somewhere" (November 1856: Part Twelve). There is no illustration for Book 2, Chapter 11, in the original serial.

In the Mahoney illustration, Little Dorrit looks behind the curtain she mentions in the letter and discovers Mrs. Gowan as a virtual prisoner without even the minimal view of the world that Little Dorrit enjoyed in her Marshalsea garret. In order to break her spirit and exert his control over his young wife, Henry Gowan has taken an artist's studio in an out-of-the-way spot; nevertheless, Pet receives a visit from her new friend, the English heiress Amy Dorrit (left in the illustration). There is no romance, no exotic backdrop for Henry Gowan's painting, but surely that is Mahoney's point: the self-centered artist has failed to provide any mental or emotional stimulation for his wife, who might as well be a prisoner in the Marshalsea as a rich foreign tourist in Venice."



Peter Kim

What a treasure of illustrations to consider! I'm going to take a deep breath, read through the commentaries slowly and enjoy the illustrations. After Browne, James Mahoney has become my favourite illustrator. I'll add my comments later today.

Charles Dickens in Context. This book has an excellent chapter on 19C illustrators in relation to Dickens. I will point out, with humility, that the authors are professors here at the University of Victoria.


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Kim Thanks Peter, be careful when reading other commentaries though, one thing I've learned is that it's a good thing I've read all the Dickens novels before, commentators don't seem to consider that we haven't read the entire book yet and often give away the plot. I think reading the commentaries and cutting out the parts that would be spoilers takes longer than getting the illustrations in the first place.


Peter The illustrations of H.K. Browne have always been favourites of mine. With the opportunity to view them each week and read the commentaries I have been immersed in a world that goes beyond the printed page. Sometimes, the commentary will point out an object, a picture or a seemingly harmless bit of flotsam or jetsam and make remarkable, if not slightly far-fetched assumptions. Initially, I shrugged and carried on. Now, I pay much closer attention. Browne especially seems to be both an illustrator and a story teller. His illustrations evoke emotion, they contain their own narrative and they are not haphazardly thrust into the story but are placed there, for the most part, only after a collaboration with Dickens and a look back to the earlier illustrations that have informed and demonstrated the earlier narrative.

The fact that Browne was working on other projects makes the feat of preparing the engravings on very strict timeline even more remarkable.


Peter Kim wrote: "Book II Chapter 11 - James Mahoney

"There is a curtain, more dirt-coloured than red, which divides it, and the part behind the curtain makes the private sitting-room. When I first saw her there sh..."


I have decided to highlight my favourite illustration(s) of the week. A sort of "top of the heap" list.

Book II ch 9

First, I like the commentary. I really like the illustration. The fact that Clennam is facing away from the viewer invites us to look over his shoulder and peer down the bridge at the secretive meeting with him. I am impressed that Mahoney has created Clennam in a pose where his legs are crossed. It is almost as if he is watching a movie or a play with a somewhat detached casualness.

As we look into the tableau with Arthur we see the meeting down the street. Notice that Blandois's face is in complete shadow. This forms a stark contrast to Tattycoram and Miss. Wade's faces which shine white from the lamp. Great atmosphere, mystery and intrigue.

Who could not be moved by Ch 11 of Book II? As Amy Dorrit peeks into the room we see Pet at a desk, blind drawn across the window, writing. As mentioned in the commentary, Amy is now rich and free from her earlier confinement in the Marshalsea
while Pet is confined by her own act of marriage and choice of husband. There is great pathos in this illustration.

So there are this week's Peter's picks. I praise the work of H.K. Browne and then go and select as my favourites two illustrations by James Mahoney. Typical Canadian. :-))


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Unfortunately, as I'm using my mobile phone, I am only seeing part illustrations; sometimes none. In Gilbert's illustration of the gentleman at the end of the table, whom I can only assume to be Clennam, his coat is remarkably detailed. It is so Intricate and resembles herring-bone from what I can make out. Even the flares at the sides of the coat are so masterfully crafted. To me it looks entirely tangible. I must look at these on another technological creation to get the full benefit of these pictures.

Thank you, Kim, for all of the work you put into
this. It really has changed my appreciation
of illustrations for the better.


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Kim - thank you so much - there are some of the best illustrations yet for this novel here, I think :)


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