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Little Dorrit > Book Two Ch 15 - 18

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message 1: by Peter (last edited Jul 16, 2016 03:39PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Peter Hello everyone

Tristram and his family have left on a Pickwickian holiday and so I am tentatively stepping from the shadows and into the floodlights for a couple of weeks. Rumour has it that Kim will be going in search of a few Christmas decorations as well. In any case, they will both return to wrap up Little Dorrit and lead us into A Tale of Two Cities. In the meantime, let's see what's up with the Dorrit family as we move towards the conclusion of the novel.

I feel a slight uptick in the energy and movement of these chapters. To me, the novel has moved along in an uneven and, at times, ponderous pace. Dickens does seem, however, to be creating a more assertive pace and bringing the separate subplots and events into a closer proximity. I, for one, am relieved.

My format will be to offer some questions and points to consider and reflect upon. Please do not feel obliged to confine yourselves to my focus. Indeed, I look forward to hearing your own ideas.

In our chapters this week we have two marriages. One is the improbable union of the Edmund Sparkler and Fanny Dorrit. Hopefully most marriages are made in heaven. Their wedding was made in Dickens's mind, a much better place for his reading public. The second marriage I see is a metaphorical one between the respective father-in-laws. Their marriage is an economic one. "Then, said Mr. Merdle, 'Allow me, sir. Take my arm! Then, leaning on Mr. Merdle's arm, did Mr. Dorrit descend the staircase, seeing the worshippers on the steps, and feeling that the light of Mr. Meddle shone by reflection in himself. Then, the carriage ride into the City; and the people who looked at them ... ." Let's hear your speculations on how successful or disastrous these marriages will be.

1. Mr. Dorrit claims he has only a "slight transitory knowledge" of a man called Arthur Clennam. This is yet another step in Dorrit's quest to deny and bury his past identity. Along with his worries that the Chief Butler may know something about his past, we see a man who is striving to deny one part of his life in order to create a new role for himself. How far do you think Dorrit is willing to go to create a new persona for himself and what do you think will be the ultimate consequence of his attempted identity rebirth?

2. Mr. Dorrit's visit to the Clennam house is one that beings to knit the various sub-plots together. The Clennam house is dark, eerie, mysterious and somewhat reserved and secretive. This is in direct contrast to the Merdle home that throbs with life, energy and apparent wealth. In what ways and how successful has Dickens been in making a person's home an effective reflection of their personality? It is, of course, interesting to also compare the Marshalsea home of William Dorrit to his present European addresses.

3. This week's chapters offer a way to trace the arc of Mr. Dorrit's world through a look at the symbolism of gifts. Young John Chivery attempts to honour and reflect the past respect that was accorded to Dorrit in the Marshalsea by offering some cigars only to be abused and threatened. Chivery's gift that once was accepted with eagerness by Dorrit is now shunted off to his Courier. Later, in Paris, Dorrit stops by a jeweller and buys gifts for The General. As Dorrit builds castles in the sky of his mind for the gifts he is about to bestow upon The General, so his former cigars are smoked by the Courier. Gifts given and refused. Gifts bought in anticipation. Gifts going up in smoke. To what extent can we as readers anticipate where Dickens is heading with these last chapters of the novel?

4. Pose your own question for us.

Peter


message 2: by Kim (last edited Jul 17, 2016 01:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Peter, here I sit reading your summary very comfortable in my nice big chair. I have gone no where, I have seen no one (no one that doesn't live here in the first place that is), all the original family plans have been switched to a different day later in the month, or next month, or September, I have no idea at the moment. I keep trying to remember the rest of that line "the best laid plans" but it isn't coming to me right now. Anyway, here I am and I got to read your summary much earlier than I thought I would.

In Chapter 15 I almost got to like Fanny, I even like her husband a tiny bit, at least he's not horrible to everyone around him like some other people I know in this novel. When Mr. Dorrit is making his little speech welcoming Sparkler into the family I kept wondering if Sparkler was listening, I picture him looking out the window behind Mr. Dorrit watching the leaves blowing on the trees during it. Here's part of it:

"To Mr Sparkler, when Miss Fanny permitted him to appear, Mr Dorrit said, he would not disguise that the alliance Mr Sparkler did him the honour to propose was highly congenial to his feelings; both as being in unison with the spontaneous affections of his daughter Fanny, and as opening a family connection of a gratifying nature with Mr Merdle, the master spirit of the age."

But the things Fanny said when her father insisted she inform Mrs. General of her upcoming wedding had me laughing:

'Mr Dorrit,' she superadded aloud, 'is ever most obliging; and for
the attention, and I will add distinction, of having this
confidence imparted to me by himself and Miss Dorrit at this early
time, I beg to offer the tribute of my thanks. My thanks, and my
congratulations, are equally the meed of Mr Dorrit and of Miss
Dorrit.'

'To me,' observed Miss Fanny, 'they are excessively gratifying--
inexpressibly so. The relief of finding that you have no objection
to make, Mrs General, quite takes a load off my mind, I am sure.
I hardly know what I should have done,' said Fanny, 'if you had
interposed any objection, Mrs General.'

Mrs General changed her gloves, as to the right glove being
uppermost and the left undermost, with a Prunes and Prism smile.

'To preserve your approbation, Mrs General,' said Fanny, returning
the smile with one in which there was no trace of those
ingredients, 'will of course be the highest object of my married
life; to lose it, would of course be perfect wretchedness. I am
sure your great kindness will not object, and I hope papa will not
object, to my correcting a small mistake you have made, however.
The best of us are so liable to mistakes, that even you, Mrs
General, have fallen into a little error. The attention and
distinction you have so impressively mentioned, Mrs General, as
attaching to this confidence, are, I have no doubt, of the most
complimentary and gratifying description; but they don't at all
proceed from me. The merit of having consulted you on the subject
would have been so great in me, that I feel I must not lay claim to
it when it really is not mine. It is wholly papa's. I am deeply
obliged to you for your encouragement and patronage, but it was
papa who asked for it. I have to thank you, Mrs General, for
relieving my breast of a great weight by so handsomely giving your
consent to my engagement, but you have really nothing to thank me
for. I hope you will always approve of my proceedings after I have
left home and that my sister also may long remain the favoured
object of your condescension, Mrs General.'


As for how the marriage between Fanny and Sparkler will be, I really can't decide. Fanny can be quite, well - Fanny like; but Sparkler seems to adore her, so as long as she gets her way most of the time perhaps they will be happy. I wonder what will happen when, or if they have children? Will Fanny finally be less Fanny like and think more of her children than she does of herself? I don't know, it didn't work for Mr. Dorrit. This doesn't sound good for the future though:

"So, the Bride had mounted into her handsome chariot,
incidentally accompanied by the Bridegroom; and after rolling for
a few minutes smoothly over a fair pavement, had begun to jolt
through a Slough of Despond, and through a long, long avenue of
wrack and ruin. Other nuptial carriages are said to have gone the
same road, before and since."



Peter Kim wrote: "Peter, here I sit reading your summary very comfortable in my nice big chair. I have gone no where, I have seen no one (no one that doesn't live here in the first place that is), all the original f..."

Kim. You are right. Talking about the Slough of Despond and a long, long avenue of wrack and ruin is not a good omen. When Dickens adds that "other nuptial carriages are said to have gone the same road" it makes me wonder how much he was reflecting on his own marriage.


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Kim Peter wrote: "it makes me wonder how much he was reflecting on his own marriage."

I wonder when Dickens marriage began falling apart? I've read so many of his letters that began with "My Dearest Kate" and ending with "Your Affectionate Husband" I can't remember when it all changed. I'll have to look it up.


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Kim Thinking of the "marriage" between Mr. Dorrit and Mr. Merdle, I am surprised that Mr. Dorrit loves being connected to Mr. Merdle as much as he seems to, after all the entire world seems to adore Merdle:

"Bright the carriage looked, sleek the horses looked, gleaming the harness looked, luscious and lasting the liveries looked. A rich, responsible turn-out. An equipage for a Merdle. Early people looked after it as it rattled along the streets, and said, with awe in their breath, 'There he goes!'

There he went, until Brook Street stopped him. Then, forth from its magnificent case came the jewel; not lustrous in itself, but quite the contrary.


"Commotion in the office of the hotel. Merdle! The landlord, though a gentleman of a haughty spirit who had just driven a pair of thorough-bred horses into town, turned out to show him up-stairs. The clerks and servants cut him off by back-passages, and were found accidentally hovering in doorways and angles, that they might look upon him. Merdle! O ye sun, moon, and stars, the great man! The rich man, who had in a manner revised the New Testament, and already entered into the kingdom of Heaven. The man who could have any one he chose to dine with him, and who had made the money! As he went up the stairs, people were already posted on the lower stairs, that his shadow might fall upon them when he came down. So were the sick brought out and laid in the track of the Apostle—who had not got into the good society, and had not made the money."

I would think Mr. Dorrit would be extremely offended that the entire world loves Mr. Merdle and when Merdle is nearby the world thinks nothing of him. I wonder if these two men continue the "friendship" or will Mr. Dorrit eventually come to dislike Merdle for getting all the attention?

Also, he is upset when he hears the name Clennam, and goes off the deep end when young John Chivery visits him, I can't imagine how he expects to go through the rest of his life with no one finding out anything about his former time in the prison, and if they do, so what? He's not there anymore and people will think what they will when they find out, there's nothing he can do about it.

And any other marriages he may make, his buying gifts for Mrs. General certainly seems like she will be the next Mrs. Dorrit, but I think he could be married to a statue and be completely happy. The statue would just stand there - or sit I suppose - and listen to him going on and on about himself and never say a word. He should love it, he probably wouldn't even notice his wife was a statue. But the title of the chapter being "A Castle In The Air" just doesn't sound good to me. I would think a castle in the air wouldn't last very long.


Peter Yes. While Mr. Dorrit does enjoy the spotlight being shone on him, whether in or out of jail, whether poor or rich, I think he sees and recognizes that Merdle is a man who can further elevate Dorrit's own self-inflated ego. Thus, Merdle can be, for a time, the sun while Mr. Dorrit remains his satellite. No doubt, with time, and the anticipation of more wealth and prestige, Dorrit plans to be the centre of his own universe.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Ha ha ha, Kim! Mr Dorrit could absolutely be married to a statue and mumble away all day long: I ... ha ...was ... wondering ... ha ... His statuesque (hardly!) wife would comply with his every suggestion; there would be no contradictions: an enviable marriage. He would, as you say, Peter, be the centre of his own universe, as are we all, I think.

I love the idea of his being a satellite to the sun that is Mr Merdle. His basking in Merdle's reflected glory will suffice until he achieves his own. Might a union with Mrs General do the trick? Hardly. He needs a partner who doesn't contradict him in order for him to shake off his prison shackles. Yes Kim. Mrs Statue fits the bill ... :-)


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Kim Book II Chapter 17 - Phiz



Missing and Dreaming

Book II Chapter 17

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

"The question has been asked before," said Mrs. Clennam,"and the answer has been, No. We don't choose to publish our transactions, however unimportant, to all the town. We say, No."

"I mean, he took away no money with him, for example," said Mr. Dorrit.

"He took away none of ours, sir, and got none here."

"I suppose," observed Mr. Dorrit, glancing from Mrs. Clennam to Mr. Flintwinch, and from Mr. Flintwinch to Mrs. Clennam, "you have no way of accounting to yourself for this mystery?"

"Why do you suppose so?" rejoined Mrs. Clennam.

Disconcerted by the cold and hard inquiry, Mr. Dorrit was unable to assign any reason for his supposing so.

"I account for it, sir," she pursued after an awkward silence on Mr. Dorrit's part, "by having no doubt that he is travelling somewhere, or hiding somewhere."

"Do you know — ha — why he should hide anywhere?

"No."

It was exactly the same No as before, and put another barrier up. "You asked me if I accounted for the disappearance to myself," Mr. Clennam sternly reminded him, "not if I accounted for it to you. I do not pretend to account for it to you, sir. I understand it to be no more my business to do that, than it is yours to require that."

Mr. Dorrit answered with an apologetic bend of his head. As he stepped back, preparatory to saying he had no more to ask, he could not but observe how gloomily and fixedly she sat with her eyes fastened on the ground, and a certain air upon her of resolute waiting; also, how exactly the self-same expression was reflected in Mr. Flintwinch, standing at a little distance from her chair, with his eyes also on the ground, and his right hand softly rubbing his chin.

At that moment, Mistress Affery (of course, the woman with the apron) dropped the candlestick she held, and cried out, "There! O good Lord! there it is again. Hark, Jeremiah! Now!"

If there were any sound at all, it was so slight that she must have fallen into a confirmed habit of listening for sounds; but Mr. Dorrit believed he did hear a something, like the falling of dry leaves. The woman's terror, for a very short space, seemed to touch the three; and they all listened."


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 focussed on the same aspect of the plot of the fourteenth monthly part, Mr. Dorrit's reception at Mrs. Clennam's during his brief stay in London. Having seen his daughter Fanny married to the simple-minded but well-meaning Edmund Sparkler in Venice, Mr. Dorrit returns with Fanny and his new son-in-law to London to manage business affairs. While Edmund and Mrs. Sparkler settle into Mrs. Merdle's rooms in the London mansion while she is still in Italy, Mr. Dorrit pursues his quest for Rigaud. However, Mrs. Clennam, one of Rigaud's business associates, seems reluctant to release any information to Mr. Dorrit, who is naturally suspicious of the hard-headed businesswoman and her confederate, the devious Jeremiah Flintwinch. In Phiz's realisation of Mr. Dorrit's visit, Mr. Dorrit is the only character whose face we cannot clearly discern, so that he remains a distinctive voice from the text, and we cannot judge whether he has heard and been disturbed by the peculiar noise that Affery (right) has just heard. Particularly telling is the suspicious glance that Mrs. Clennam (left, in front of the fireplace as befits an invalid) bestows upon Mr. Dorrit as he reads her hand-bill about the missing Rigaud. Ironically, Flora Finching has already given Mr. Dorrit a copy of the hand-bill, which serves as his motivation to visit Mrs. Clennam in the first place.

The title of the chapter derives from Rigaud's inexplicable disappearance after visiting Mrs. Clennam's house in London:

"It happened, fortunately for the elucidation of any intelligible result, that Mr. Dorrit had heard or read nothing about the matter. This caused Mrs.Finching, with many apologies for being in great practical difficulties as to finding the way to her pocket among the stripes of her dress at length to produce a police handbill, setting forth that a foreign gentleman of the name of Blandois, last from Venice, had unaccountably disappeared on such a night in such a part of the city of London; that he was known to have entered such a house, at such an hour; that he was stated by the inmates of that house to have left it, about so many minutes before midnight; and that he had never been beheld since. This, with exact particulars of time and locality, and with a good detailed description of the foreign gentleman who had so mysteriously vanished, Mr. Dorrit read at large."



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Kim Book II Chapter 18 - Phiz



Reception of an Old Friend

Book II Chapter 18 - Phiz

Text illustrated:

"The aforesaid grandeur was yet full upon Mr Dorrit when he alighted at his hotel. Helped out by the Courier and some half-dozen of the hotel servants, he was passing through the hall with a serene magnificence, when lo! a sight presented itself that struck him dumb and motionless. John Chivery, in his best clothes, with his tall hat under his arm, his ivory-handled cane genteelly embarrassing his deportment, and a bundle of cigars in his hand!

"Now, young man," said the porter. "This is the gentleman. This young man has persisted in waiting, sir, saying you would be glad to see him."

Mr. Dorrit glared on the young man, choked, and said, in the mildest of tones, "Ah! Young John! It is Young John, I think; is it not?"

"Yes, sir," returned Young John.

"I — ha — thought it was Young john!" said Mr. Dorrit. "The young man may come up,' turning to the attendants, as he passed on: "oh yes, he may come up. Let Young John follow. I will speak to him above."

Young John followed, smiling and much gratified. Mr. Dorrit's rooms were reached. Candles were lighted. The attendants withdrew.

"Now, sir," said Mr. Dorrit, turning round upon him and seizing him by the collar when they were safely alone. "What do you mean by this?"

"The amazement and horror depicted in the unfortunate John's face — for he had rather expected to be embraced next — were of that powerfully expressive nature that Mr Dorrit withdrew his hand and merely glared at him.

"How dare you do this?" said Mr. Dorrit. "How do you presume to come here? How dare you insult me?"

"I insult you, sir?" cried Young John. "Oh!"

"Yes, sir," returned Mr Dorrit. "Insult me. Your coming here is an affront, an impertinence, an audacity. You are not wanted here. Who sent you here? What — ha — the Devil do you do here?"

"I thought, sir," said Young John, with as pale and shocked a face as ever had been turned to Mr Dorrit's in his life — even in his College life: "I thought, sir, you mightn't object to have the goodness to accept a bundle —"


Commentary:

The chapter title pertains to Mr. Dorrit's contemplation of marrying his daughters' governess, the aristocratic Mrs. General; however, this aspiration proves a mere "castle in the air". During his visit to London, William Dorrit finds it difficult to reconcile his former identity as "The Father of the Marshalsea," an incarcerated debtor, with his new persona, William Dorrit, "a gentleman of property." Indeed, he is terrified that his new society acquaintances should discover the truth about his past — hence, his shock at being confronted in the lobby of his London hotel but a figure from that suppressed past, young John Chivery, son of one of the turnkeys at the debtors' prison. In essence, Mr. Dorrit is leading a double life, and is constantly apprehensive that his past will collide catastrophically with his present. Already in 1857 Dickens must have been vaguely contemplating leading a double life as his marital affairs were reaching an impasse with Catherine, and in August 1857 he would meet Ellen Lawless Ternan on the set of The Frozen Depp at the Manchester Free-trade Hall leading to a secret affair with the seventeen-year-old actress that would last until his death in 1870. Dickens had unwittingly created a man with a dual identity that would tax its owner and contribute to his death; after writing Little Dorrit, Dickens created a number of characters whose pasts or alternate identities undermine their sense of security.

In short, the apparition of his past in the person of young John Chivery, formerly accustomed to bring the Father of the Marshalsea "testimonials" (bundles of cigars like the one he is holding in his right hand in this illustration), momentarily shocks Mr. Dorrit, who struggles to retain his composure until he can have a private interview with the well-meaning young man from his prison days. After accusing him of being part of some plot to unmask him, William Dorrit recognizes that no such duplicitous motives lie behind the visit, and he apologizes. But the damage, psychologically speaking, has been done. In the illustration, without even bothering to remove his hat, Mr. Dorrit collars John Chivery, who is surprised and dismayed at this violent reception by a man whom he regarded as a friend. The violence is quite at odds with the refined furnishings of the hotel-room, particularly the large, gilt-framed mirror over the mantelpiece with a clock beneath pointing to midnight. A refined oil-painting hanging on the wall between the pair (possibly a scene of the lakes in the north of Italy) points to Mr. Dorrit's new persona as "a gentleman from Italy," but the boy from the Marshalsea is a mirror wherein he should see his true self. In the midst of this serious dialogue Dickens injects a characteristically comic touch when, presented with the cigars, Mr. Dorrit rejects his former identity as an idle smoker in the College Yard:

"Damn your bundle, sir!" cried Mr. Dorrit, in irrepressible rage. "I — hum — don't smoke."



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Kim Book II Chapter 17 - Harry Furniss



Mistress Affery's Alarm

Book II Chapter 17

Harry Furniss

Charles Dicken's Library Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

"It was exactly the same No as before, and put another barrier up.

"You asked me if I accounted for the disappearance to myself," Mrs. Clennam sternly reminded him, "not if I accounted for it to you. I do not pretend to account for it to you, sir. I understand it to be no more my business to do that, than it is yours to require that."

Mr Dorrit answered with an apologetic bend of his head. As he stepped back, preparatory to saying he had no more to ask, he could not but observe how gloomily and fixedly she sat with her eyes fastened on the ground, and a certain air upon her of resolute waiting; also, how exactly the self-same expression was reflected in Mr. Flintwinch, standing at a little distance from her chair, with his eyes also on the ground, and his right hand softly rubbing his chin.

At that moment, Mistress Affery (of course, the woman with the apron) dropped the candlestick she held, and cried out, "There! O good Lord! there it is again. Hark, Jeremiah! Now!"

If there were any sound at all, it was so slight that she must have fallen into a confirmed habit of listening for sounds; but Mr. Dorrit believed he did hear a something, like the falling of dry leaves. The woman's terror, for a very short space, seemed to touch the three; and they all listened."


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 plot of the fourteenth monthly part, Mr. Dorrit's reception at Mrs. Clennam's during his brief stay in London. However, each illustrator has realized a slightly different moment in the interview. Having seen his daughter Fanny married to the simple-minded but well-meaning Edmund Sparkler in Venice, Mr. Dorrit returns with Fanny and his new son-in-law to London to manage business affairs. While Edmund and Mrs. Sparkler settle into Mrs. Merdle's rooms in the London mansion while she is still in Italy, Mr. Dorrit pursues his quest for Rigaud. However, Mrs. Clennam, one of Rigaud's business associates, seems reluctant to release any information to Mr. Dorrit, who is naturally suspicious of the hard-headed businesswoman and her confederate, the devious Jeremiah Flintwinch.

To balance his focus (Affery's sudden alarm at the sound to which she alone seems particularly susceptible) against the principals in the dialogue, Mrs. Clennam in her wheel-chair (left) and Mr. Dorrit dangling his glasses on a chain (center), Furniss has arranged of the figures so that Affery, upstage, is the object of the glances of the other three. Aside from the fallen candlestick, Furniss provides little in the way of background detail, although the setting must certainly be Mrs. Clennam's room on the second floor. After encountering the decidedly odd Flora Finching at his hotel, Mr. Dorrit now has to make sense of three further peculiar characters, who seem determined not to aid him in his search for the French confidence man. The focus here is neither of those engaged in the dialogue about Rigaud-Blandois, Mrs. Clennam and Mr. Dorrit; rather, the artist directs readers' attentions to Affery's response to the peculiar noise to which she so viscerally responds."



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Kim Book II Chapter 15 - James Mahoney



"To preserve your approbation, Mrs. General," said Fanny, returning the smile with one in which there was no trace of those ingredients, "will of course be the highest object of my married life; to lose it, would of course be perfect wretchedness".

Book II Chapter 15

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"I trust Miss Dorrit will allow me to offer her my best congratulations."

Here Mrs General stopped, and added internally, for the setting of her face, "Papa, potatoes, poultry, Prunes, and prism."

"Mr. Dorrit," she superadded aloud, "is ever most obliging; and for the attention, and I will add distinction, of having this confidence imparted to me by himself and Miss Dorrit at this early time, I beg to offer the tribute of my thanks. My thanks, and my congratulations, are equally the meed of Mr. Dorrit and of Miss Dorrit."

"To me," observed Miss Fanny, "they are excessively gratifying — inexpressibly so. The relief of finding that you have no objection to make, Mrs. General, quite takes a load off my mind, I am sure. I hardly know what I should have done," said Fanny, "if you had interposed any objection, Mrs General."

Mrs. General changed her gloves, as to the right glove being uppermost and the left undermost, with a Prunes and Prism smile.

"To preserve your approbation, Mrs. General," said Fanny, returning the smile with one in which there was no trace of those ingredients, "will of course be the highest object of my married life; to lose it, would of course be perfect wretchedness. I am sure your great kindness will not object, and I hope papa will not object, to my correcting a small mistake you have made, however. The best of us are so liable to mistakes, that even you, Mrs. General, have fallen into a little error. The attention and distinction you have so impressively mentioned, Mrs. General, as attaching to this confidence, are, I have no doubt, of the most complimentary and gratifying description; but they don't at all proceed from me. The merit of having consulted you on the subject would have been so great in me, that I feel I must not lay claim to it when it really is not mine. It is wholly papa's. I am deeply obliged to you for your encouragement and patronage, but it was papa who asked for it. I have to thank you, Mrs. General, for relieving my breast of a great weight by so handsomely giving your consent to my engagement, but you have really nothing to thank me for. I hope you will always approve of my proceedings after I have left home and that my sister also may long remain the favoured object of your condescension, Mrs. General."


Commentary:

"William Dorrit, having come into a fortune and joined the ranks of the upper middle class, has engaged the "polishing" services of the pretentious Mrs. Hortensia General, widow of an army officer, to educate his daughters and prepare them for their new position in society. Mrs. General is significant among the secondary characters, not merely because she has marital designs upon Mr. Dorrit, but also because the regimentation of the Dorrit sisters is a motivating factor in Fanny's decision to marry Edmund Sparkler, and thereby escape her domination and the possibility that Mrs. General may become her "mother-in-law" (that is, step-mother) rather than merely her governess and chaperone. Mrs. General's "system" of education is making young ladies agreeable and attractive in preparation for upper-middle-class marriages; however, they should never say anything unpleasant or improper, and hold no opinions whatsoever that are contrary to the received wisdom of respectable society. Unfortunately for the authentic and sympathetic Amy, Mrs. General insists on the Dorrit girls' maintaining decorum and cultivating a proper veneer; she does not even acknowledge that she is a paid servant, but assumes the role of a friend of the family and its counselor — hence, in this scene Fanny challenges the notion that she needs Mrs. General's consent or approbation before accepting Edmund Sparkler's marriage proposal.

In the second book, "Riches," Dickens makes Mrs. General the exemplar of a social attitude (propriety) and in these chapters gives her a distinct voice or verbal presence, but offers little in the way of physical features for the inspiration of an illustrator. Later artists such as Mahoney and Eytinge, of course, could reference Phiz's original images of Mrs. General for the Chapman and Hall serialization (in which the earlier illustrator has crammed the widow of the commissariat officer's widow into the lower right corner of The Travellers, one of two illustrations for the eleventh monthly part, October 1856, but has not developed her). Later illustrators had to select a carriage and fashion appropriate to Dickens's descriptions of her manner. The philosophy of "Prunes and Prism" includes never acknowledging anything disagreeable:

"If Miss Amy Dorrit will direct her own attention to, and will accept of my poor assistance in, the formation of a surface, Mr. Dorrit will have no further cause of anxiety. May I take this opportunity of remarking, as an instance in point, that it is scarcely delicate to look at vagrants with the attention which I have seen bestowed upon them by a very dear young friend of mine? They should not be looked at. Nothing disagreeable should ever be looked at. Apart from such a habit standing in the way of that graceful equanimity of surface which is so expressive of good breeding, it hardly seems compatible with refinement of mind. A truly refined mind will seem to be ignorant of the existence of anything that is not perfectly proper, placid, and pleasant." Having delivered this exalted sentiment, Mrs. General made a sweeping obeisance, and retired with an expression of mouth indicative of Prunes and Prism. — Book 2, Chapter 5, "Something Wrong Somewhere".

Mahoney in presenting Mrs. General and Fanny Dorrit as foils perhaps places too much emphasis on Fanny (right), dressed for the sake of visual continuity as she was in her previous appearance, in "Well, Amy dear." Mahoney's Mrs. General here, in contrast to these other images, is nondescript and unimpressive; certainly there is nothing imperious about this slender, middle-aged woman in black tulle and sausage-roll curls, who is a far cry from the impressive middle-aged lady in evening-dress depicted by Harry Furniss in 1910.

Between the two women sparring verbally is the pillar-like figure of William Dorrit, caught between the two in emotional vice. Although the picture does not make his emotions plain, he resents Fanny's placing him in the awkward position of having to support her marriage to Edmund Sparkler, despite his regarding the banker Merdle as a valuable connection. He is framed by the large-scale, ornately framed painting behind him, the only detail that suggests the setting, the family's wainscoted suite in Rome."



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Kim Book II Chapter 17 - James Mahoney



Mr. Dorrit read it through as if he had not previously seen it.

Book II Chapter 17

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"Mrs. Clennam had her books open on her little table. "Oh!" said she abruptly, as she eyed her visitor with a steady look. "You are from Italy, sir, are you. Well?"

Mr. Dorrit was at a loss for any more distinct rejoinder at the moment than "Ha — well?"

"Where is this missing man? Have you come to give us information where he is? I hope you have?"

"So far from it, I — hum — have come to seek information."

"Unfortunately for us, there is none to be got here. Flintwinch, show the gentleman the handbill. Give him several to take away. Hold the light for him to read it."

Mr Flintwinch did as he was directed, and Mr. Dorrit read it through, as if he had not previously seen it; glad enough of the opportunity of collecting his presence of mind, which the air of the house and of the people in it had a little disturbed. While his eyes were on the paper, he felt that the eyes of Mr. Flintwinch and of Mrs. Clennam were on him. He found, when he looked up, that this sensation was not a fanciful one.

"Now you know as much," said Mrs. Clennam, "as we know, sir. Is Mr. Blandois a friend of yours?"

"No — a — hum — an acquaintance," answered Mr. Dorrit.

"You have no commission from him, perhaps?"

"I? Ha. Certainly not."


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 plot of the seventeenth chapter of the second book, Mr. Dorrit's reception at Mrs. Clennam's during his brief stay in London.

. In Mahoney's realization of Mr. Dorrit's visit, the Sixties artist has assimilated the original steel-engraving's figures and redistributed them, and chosen an earlier moment in the interview. As yet, Mistress Affery (right rear) has not taken alarm at another peculiar noise in the walls of the old house. A less cartoon-like Flintwinch than Phiz's has just handed William Dorrit the hand-bill, which Dorrit now peruses by the light of a candle held aloft by Jeremiah. Mrs. Clennam is regarding him, meanwhile, with suspicion as she has been interrupted in her accounting. Of the three principals in the picture, Mr. Dorrit (the focal character, right of center) is the only one whose face we cannot clearly discern, so that he remains little more than a distinctive voice from the accompanying text (which is, in fact, some seven pages later than the plate in the London edition), despite his fashionable attire, balding head, and monocle on a ribbon. Ironically, Mr. Dorrit feels that he has to buy time in order to judge the motives of this canny pair, and thus pretends to be reading the hand-bill for the first time, even though Flora Finching has already given him a copy of the hand-bill, which serves as his motivation to leave his hotel visit Mrs. Clennam in the first place. The picture, then, is a more realistic and less caricature version of Phiz's Missing and Dreaming (originally in Part 15: February 1857), which has a much more comic Flintwinch and the highly apprehensive Affery that the reader has come to know. Nothing, of course, comes of Dorrit's search for Blandois-Rigaud, and is therefore something of a red herring."



Peter Kim wrote: "Book II Chapter 18 - Phiz

Reception of an Old Friend

Book II Chapter 18 - Phiz

Text illustrated:

"The aforesaid grandeur was yet full upon Mr Dorrit when he alighted at his hotel. Helped out by..."


I have just read this commentary and "the penny dropped" in my brain as to how this illustration and its explanation can lead to what I think is a great use of foreshadowing and symbolism. I am constantly amazed how the illustrations help us understand and visualize not only what is going on in the novel, but, in this instance, gives us a peek as to what is coming as well.

Now of course comes my own foreshadowing because I don't want to give any spoilers away, but I am excited about how some events to come in the novel will tie in to this illustration and its commentary.

Stay tuned ... :-)). Hopefully, I won't be too far off the mark.

As always, Kim, you are the best for posting the variety of illustrations we have each week.


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

Kim Things seem to be getting more and more gloomy as the chapters go on. We have the marriage of Fanny and Sparkler who I am hoping for the best but expecting the worst. We have Mr. Dorrit being himself. We've already had the Marshalea, a rather depressing place, the home of Mrs. Clennam, an old brick house, so dingy as to be all but black, also a very depressing place, then there is the Merdle home where the "opposing rows of houses in Harley Street were very grim with one another", just sitting through one of those Society dinners would be depressing, and now I find this from Chapter 16:

'You are very kind,' said Mr Dorrit. 'Truly kind.' By this time the visitor was seated, and was passing his great hand over his exhausted forehead. 'You are well, I hope, Mr Merdle?'

'I am as well as I—yes, I am as well as I usually am,' said Mr Merdle.

'Your occupations must be immense.'

'Tolerably so. But—Oh dear no, there's not much the matter with me,' said Mr Merdle, looking round the room.

'A little dyspeptic?' Mr Dorrit hinted.

'Very likely. But I—Oh, I am well enough,' said Mr Merdle.

There were black traces on his lips where they met, as if a little train of gunpowder had been fired there; and he looked like a man who, if his natural temperament had been quicker, would have been very feverish that morning. This, and his heavy way of passing his hand over his forehead, had prompted Mr Dorrit's solicitous inquiries."


Black traces on his lips that look like gunpowder? My feeling of gloom increases with each chapter.


message 15: by Kim (last edited Jul 19, 2016 07:18PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Peter wrote: "I have just read this commentary and "the penny dropped" ."

Do you want to know what I thought when I read this commentary? First we have this:

"Already in 1857 Dickens must have been vaguely contemplating leading a double life as his marital affairs were reaching an impasse with Catherine, and in August 1857 he would meet Ellen Lawless Ternan on the set of The Frozen Depp at the Manchester Free-trade Hall leading to a secret affair with the seventeen-year-old actress that would last until his death in 1870."

My thought was that the "secret" affair didn't seem to be much of a secret.


Peter Kim wrote: "Peter wrote: "I have just read this commentary and "the penny dropped" ."

Do you want to know what I thought when I read this commentary? First we have this:

"Already in 1857 Dickens must have be..."


My understanding is that the affair Dickens had with Ellen was not secret at all. Dickens wanted to publish in the newspapers that he was leaving his wife. He was talked out of that. Still, Mrs. D. ended up virtually alone since after their separation most of the children went to live with him in Gad's Hill. Meanwhile Dickens didn't exactly slink around for the rest of his life. Ellen was with him on the train during the famous train wreck when he saved both his MS for Our Mutual Friend and other people's lives.

Is that what we would call today an "open secret?"


Hilary (agapoyesoun) It's. certainly a very strange secret, Peter. Oh dear Kim, I know little of his biography and had forgotten that most of the children had gone to
live with CD.. Never mind the fact that this will be talked about for generations to come, but the heartache must have been all-consuming ...


Linda | 712 comments I'm getting back into the novel with this full section. As I mentioned in another thread, I have switched over to the audio book. The narration is excellent, read by Anton Lesser. I'm impressed by the range of voices and personalities, and have found myself chuckling over how Mr. Dorrit actually sounds when expressing all of his "ha's" and "hum's". Also, Lesser does a great job at reading the breathless Flora run-on sentences. :)

Peter wrote: "While Mr. Dorrit does enjoy the spotlight being shone on him, whether in or out of jail, whether poor or rich, I think he sees and recognizes that Merdle is a man who can further elevate Dorrit's own self-inflated ego. Thus, Merdle can be, for a time, the sun while Mr. Dorrit remains his satellite. No doubt, with time, and the anticipation of more wealth and prestige, Dorrit plans to be the centre of his own universe."

I love your analogy here, Peter!

Hilary wrote: "Might a union with Mrs General do the trick? Hardly. He needs a partner who doesn't contradict him in order for him to shake off his prison shackles. Yes Kim. Mrs Statue fits the bill ... :-)"

Ha ha! I love your analysis here, Hilary. I think I'm with you, that Mr. Dorrit needs a Mrs. Statue so that Mr. Dorrit can continue to strive to be "the center of his own universe".

Thank you for the illustrations, as always, Kim.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Thank you, Linda, you're too kind! :-)


message 20: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Hearing what Mr. Dorrit sounds like makes me almost want to listen to the audio book. It would be a first for me. Then again perhaps the sound of his voice would annoy me even more than reading about him does if that's possible.


Linda | 712 comments Well, I have to say that the narrator certainly has patience in his reading of all the "ha's" and "hum's". When I was reading them off the page, I quickly glanced through them. But as a listener now, I have to have patience too. We'll see how long I continue chuckling at them.


Peter Linda wrote: "I'm getting back into the novel with this full section. As I mentioned in another thread, I have switched over to the audio book. The narration is excellent, read by Anton Lesser. I'm impressed by ..."

Thanks for the compliment. Now, if only I could write a 900 page novel like Dickens. :-)


Tristram Shandy Hmmm, I would actually like to hear Flora's sentences read out. I often read Dickens and other superior writers aloud to enjoy them even more, but I found the Flora parts really tricky and I often lost my way through them. Here, Dickens is almost postmodern, although normally, I don't use "postmodern" as a compliment.


message 24: by Bionic Jean (last edited Sep 02, 2016 12:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Anton Lesser actually played Mr Merdle, in the adaptation for television I watched. I can remember him looking totally bemused and fatigued for most of the time, and fiddling with his cuffs a lot.

I also remember not being able to watch when Mr Dorrit has a go at poor John Chivery :( I always well up when Jo goes to visit Pip in his fine house in London too. Putting his hat on the mantelpiece is the last straw - I'm a blubbering wreck inside then!

Tristram - Miriam Margolyes is Flora to a "T" :)


Linda | 712 comments Jean wrote: "Anton Lesser actually played Mr Merdle, in the adaptation for television I watched. I can remember him looking totally bemused and fatigued for most of the time, and fiddling with his cuffs a lot."

Hi Jean! I'm sorry, I should have edited my above post as I later realized (and mentioned in a later thread) that the audio I listened to is actually not Anton Lesser, but instead Simon Vance (using an alias of Robert Whitfield). There is an Anton Lesser narration of Little Dorrit, but it was not the one I listened to.

However, I just started A Tale of Two Cities, and it IS narrated by Anton Lesser. :) So now I have been able to sample each narrator.

I really do need to make time to watch an adaptation to Little Dorrit. But, I say that with each book that I know has been made into a movie and more often than not, do not make the time. I finally read Gone With the Wind for the first time last year, and I still have not seen the movie!!


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Hi Linda - I enjoy serialised dramatisations sometimes, but tend not to like actual movies of Dickens, as I feel that so much has to be missed out that all you get is a taster for the book! But I must confess I have a soft spot for David Lean's old b&w versions of several of his books, even though he has to miss out so many characters and take the books at breakneck speed.

Thanks for explaining about the narrators :)


Tristram Shandy I think the problem with TV or cinema adaptations of Dickens's novels is that his characters are generally larger than life, except Little Nell - the name already gives a subtle hint at her lack of greatness - and that readers-turned-viewers will inevitably expect too much of the characters on the screen. Who could be Micawberish or Heepy enough to match the originals in the book? Still, the BBC productions are often very enjoyable.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) I must keep an eye out for a 'Little Dorrit' dramatisation. Like Kim, I'm a serialised drama person. I definitely should love to see this. :)


Linda | 712 comments Jean wrote: "Hi Linda - I enjoy serialised dramatisations sometimes, but tend not to like actual movies of Dickens, as I feel that so much has to be missed out that all you get is a taster for the book!"

I totally agree, Jean! I love finding a long series and then enjoying the ride. The movies are too short to be anything like the books.

I just got my family into watching the BBC series of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, I really enjoyed that book and the series was just released on Netflix. Perhaps after that I'll get them to watch Little Dorrit with me. :)


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Sorry, the serialised drama comment was meant for Jean! Oops! :)


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Oh thanks, Linda, for the series recommendation. I must search Netflix for that. We have so many series waiting for us, though I have not been along for the ride on most occasions. My husband and younger daughter watch them late at night. I can't do late any more. I never thought I'd see the day! :O


Linda | 712 comments Oh, me too Hilary. I can't stay up late at all, and when I do have free time, I try and fill it with reading and not TV. But, I'm trying to fit in some of these "must-see" shows, like JS&MN, which I've been anxiously awaiting! We've only watched the first two episodes so far, and there are 8 total.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Hi Linda,
I've actually only heard fleetingly of JS&MN. I'm guessing that it's good! :-)

I'm glad to come across an 'early bird'. Our immediate family, not including the youngest, are late birds! Our youngest, a 20 year old boy, has transformed into an early bird. Unfortunately, I taught my husband to sit up really late when we first got married. Now I am picking up the pieces of a misspent youth! :D. My younger daughter and husband, who are now watching the series 'Homeland', tend to look at me askance when I whisk myself off to bed on the same day that I got up. Heaven forbid! What a novel thought! "Are you going to bed?" says my daughter, which really means "Suely you're not going to bed?!"


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Posted too soon!! Anyhow, just to say that I watch the clock and work out whether or not it is too early to go to bed! Quite the opposite way of thinking. :)


Hilary (agapoyesoun) * and MY husband She is 22 and would horrified at any suggestion that she might be married! :-)


Hilary (agapoyesoun) *surely


Linda | 712 comments Hilary wrote: "tend to look at me askance when I whisk myself off to bed on the same day that I got up. Heaven forbid! What a novel thought! "Are you going to bed?" says my daughter, which really means "Suely you're not going to bed?!" "

Oh, too funny Hilary! Well, when I announce that I'm "going to bed", it is under the assumption that I am going to read for an hour or two or more before turning out the light. So it is not uncommon for me to get all cozy in bed early on in the evening, or even right when I come home from work in the winter months since it's dark already, it must mean "bedtime", right? :)


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) When we watched the dramatisation of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (which Chris has been on at me for years to read!) I was struck by the actor who played Mr Norrell, as I'd only ever seen him as the little puffing engine, Mr Pancks :D


Hilary (agapoyesoun) So glad to meet someone after my own heart, Linda! It's one reason that I do welcome the winter: scrambling into bed to defrost those icy cold feet, if the shower or bath hasn't quite worked its magic.

In my childhood, coming up to Hallowe'en, our kitchen was always filled with the warm aromas of apple pies and soda apple. A roaring fire welcomed us home with a large basket of turf on the hearth. Basins of warm water (today it would be foot spas) and towels for those of us
who had walked home in the snow, were filled and towels provided. Still today, I love to have real fires with turf and all the scents of Hallowe'en and then rolling into Christmas with mulled wine and its accompanying smells of cinnamon and spice and candles wafting around their vanilla along with various oil diffusers AND roast chestnuts and ... Oh Kim, you have influenced me!!


Oh, so you've seen Strange and Norell too, Jean!
I really must get to see it, especially if two of you have seen it! :-). I take it that it's good!:)


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) It is exceptionally good Hilary :)


message 41: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Hilary wrote: "So glad to meet someone after my own heart, Linda! It's one reason that I do welcome the winter: scrambling into bed to defrost those icy cold feet, if the shower or bath hasn't quite worked its ma..."

Winter (and Fall) is:

Cool temperatures
blankets to snuggle under
colored leaves
chestnuts - roasting or otherwise
big warm sweaters
or sweat shirts
fires in the fireplace
sitting in front of the fire with a cup of tea, or hot chocolate
pumpkins to carve
pumpkin pie
apple pie
apple cider
turkey
family gathering together
family carol singing
soft, peaceful, beautiful, snow
long nights (not a bit of migraine inducing sunlight)
candles
and...........................

Christmas.

Summer.................
heat,
sweat
bugs,
dirt.


Linda | 712 comments I loved it as well. I thought it had a slow start but once I was immersed in the world I couldn't put the book down. :)


Linda | 712 comments Oh, that's great Kim! My favorite is #8: the bit between Christmas and New Year. :)


Peter Hilary wrote: "So glad to meet someone after my own heart, Linda! It's one reason that I do welcome the winter: scrambling into bed to defrost those icy cold feet, if the shower or bath hasn't quite worked its ma..."

I have never experienced a turf fire. Does it give off an aroma, does it make sounds like a dry wood fire does, is the flame a constant or flickering one, and, oh yes, could I drop by for some mulled wine and nibbles, please?


Tristram Shandy Kim wrote: "Summer.................
heat,
sweat
bugs,
dirt. "


Aah, Kim, I do love your chapter recaps. But the concision and brilliancy with which you summarize Summer here beats it all. We have one of the hottest days in the year so far, and I subscribe to every word of it!


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