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Little Dorrit > Little Dorrit book 2 ch. 23-26

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Peter The action is picking up and we are in full flight as we move towards the end of the novel. This week's focus will be on the continued mystery of the Clennam home and its secrets, how the miraculous world of Mr. Murdle becomes a muddle, how the pillars of the novel are becoming weakened by the pressures of past mistakes and secrets and how Arthur Clennam finds himself again in the Marshalsea prison, but under circumstances he had never considered possible.

Chapter XXIII

The mystery of Blandois (or Rigaud or Lagnier) brings Arthur Clennam to his mother's home. Arthur wants to know how Blandois is associated with his mother and Flintwinch
but his mother is caustic and will not say anything. Clennam then figures out a plan to get Affery alone for a talk. Dickens stage manages a delightfully funny scene with Flora, dark passages, candles and mis-interpreted arm actions but Clennam only manages to get a qualified promise from Affery that she may tell him her dream sometime in the future.

To what extent did you find the balancing of Arthur mother's caustic tongue with the humourous candle-lit snuggles with Flora effective in this chapter?


2. Part of Arthur's conversation with his mother centres on jails and criminals. His mother warns him to "[t]ake care how you judge others, then. I say to you, Arthur, for your own good, take care how you judge!" What could his mother possibly be talking about or warning?


Chapter XXIV

Three months have passed since the brothers' Dorrit have passed. The marriage of Edmund Sparkler to Fanny Dorrit seems to be going as Fanny has planned. Pity Edmund. It seems that his sparkle has all splintered and Fanny rules the roost. After a very humourous series of exchanges between these characters, Mr. Merdle makes an unexpected visit and comments three times that "I thought I'd give you a call." Strange. Merdle is always so busy, why does he want to visit the Sparkler's? Apparently, he wants to borrow a penknife. If we look at his conversation with the Sparkler's there seems, between the lines, to be something afoot. What would Sherlock think?

Again in this chapter Dickens blends a section of humour with a section of suspense or mystery. This style seems to create an urgency in the writing. To what extent do you find this twin-style and format an effective stylistic technique for a chapter?

Chapter XXV

Well! There's a fall from great heights. Merdle has been playing fast and loose with other peoples' money. All appears to be lost. He commits suicide in a bath house. Such an act is heightened in two very different ways. Earlier in the chapter Mrs. Merdle is questioned about the rumours that her husband is about to receive even more honour for his financial acumen. In contrast, when Merdle's body is found, there is a great indignity in its description. Merdle's body is found with " a blanket thrown across it" but not enough to hide a body with " an obtuse head, and coarse mean, common features." His figure was "clammy to touch." This description is sensational and frames him as not an icon of wealth but a sordid human who lies beside " an empty laudanum-bottle and a tortoise-shell handled penknife... Separation of jugular vein - death rapid." The end of the chapter provides his epitaph. Merdle "was simply the greatest Forger and the greatest Thief that ever cheated the gallows."

This is a major point in the novel. What links to other events, characters, and situations does this event reflect back upon, and, perhaps, more significantly, foreshadow?

Chapter XXVI

Poor Arthur. In this chapter we learn how much Arthur will suffer because of Merdle. What we also learn is the great honour, dignity and moral - ethical fibre of which he is made. Dickens loops the reader back to our earlier settings in the Marshalsea prison. Arthur is brought here because he cannot meet his financial obligations, and he is placed in the same cell that the Dorrit family originally inhabited. The last words of this chapter "O my Little Dorrit" further serve to remind us that, as readers, we now have our hero in jail, the mystery of his family secret remains unanswered, and Little Dorrit is unaccounted for in the last few chapters.

Did you see any/all of this coming? Where are we going next?

As always, your own observations, analysis and comments are welcome.


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Kim Book II Chapter 23 - Phiz



Flora's Tour of Inspection

Book II Chapter 23

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

"Affery was excusing herself with "Don't ask nothing of me, Arthur!" when Mr. Flintwinch stopped her with "Why not? Affery, what's the matter with you, woman? Why not, jade!" Thus expostulated with, she came unwillingly out of her corner, resigned the toasting-fork into one of her husband's hands, and took the candlestick he offered from the other.

"Go before, you fool!" said Jeremiah. "Are you going up, or down, Mrs. Finching?"

Flora answered, "Down."

"Then go before, and down, you Affery," said Jeremiah. "And do it properly, or I'll come rolling down the banisters, and tumbling over you!"

Affery headed the exploring party; Jeremiah closed it. He had no intention of leaving them. Clennam looking back, and seeing him following three stairs behind, in the coolest and most methodical manner exclaimed in a low voice, "Is there no getting rid of him!" Flora reassured his mind by replying promptly, "Why though not exactly proper Arthur and a thing I couldn't think of before a younger man or a stranger still I don't mind him if you so particularly wish it and provided you'll have the goodness not to take me too tight."

Wanting the heart to explain that this was not at all what he meant, Arthur extended his supporting arm round Flora's figure. "Oh my goodness me,' said she. "You are very obedient indeed really and it's extremely honourable and gentlemanly in you I am sure but still at the same time if you would like to be a little tighter than that I shouldn't consider it intruding."

In this preposterous attitude, unspeakably at variance with his anxious mind, Clennam descended to the basement of the house; finding that wherever it became darker than elsewhere, Flora became heavier, and that when the house was lightest she was too. Returning from the dismal kitchen regions, which were as dreary as they could be, Mistress Affery passed with the light into his father's old room, and then into the old dining-room; always passing on before like a phantom that was not to be overtaken, and neither turning nor answering when he whispered, "Affery! I want to speak to you!"


Commentary:

"Although Little Dorrit does not appear in it, the picture offers a study of some of the novel's principal characters: at the top of the staircase, insulting his wife, Jeremiah Flintwinch, Mrs. Clennam's confidential servant (left); on the landing, the middle-aged, bourgeois couple, quondam sweethearts, Flora Finching and Arthur Clennam (centre); descending from the landing, candle in hand, Affery Flintwinch, Mrs. Clennam's highly anxious maid. The illustration also exemplifies what one might term "The Marriage Plot" of the novel. The illustration appeared as the tinted frontispiece of the Authentic Edition (1901). Certainly James Mahoney's dark wood-engraving of this same "tour" in the 1873 Household Edition leaves much to be desired when one compares it to Phiz's sharply delineated figures in his 1857 steel engraving."



- tinted frontispiece


message 3: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Book II Chapter 24 - Phiz



Mr. Merdle a Borrower

Book II Chapter 24

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

"There was then a long silence; during which, Mrs. Sparkler, lying back on her sofa again, shut her eyes and raised her eyebrows in her former retirement from mundane affairs.

"But, however," said Mr. Merdle, "I am equally detaining you and myself. I thought I'd give you a call, you know."

"Charmed, I am sure," said Fanny.

"So I am off," added Mr. Merdle, getting up. "Could you lend me a penknife?"

It was an odd thing, Fanny smilingly observed, for her who could seldom prevail upon herself even to write a letter, to lend to a man of such vast business as Mr. Merdle.

"Isn't it?" Mr. Merdle acquiesced; "but I want one; and I know you have got several little wedding keepsakes about, with scissors and tweezers and such things in them. You shall have it back to-morrow."

"Edmund," said Mrs. Sparkler, "open (now, very carefully, I beg and beseech, for you are so very awkward) the mother of pearl box on my little table there, and give Mr. Merdle the mother of pearl penknife."

"Thank you," said Mr. Merdle; "but if you have got one with a darker handle, I think I should prefer one with a darker handle."

"Tortoise-shell?"

"Thank you," said Mr. Merdle; "yes. I think I should prefer tortoise-shell."

Edmund accordingly received instructions to open the tortoise-shell box, and give Mr. Merdle the tortoise-shell knife. On his doing so, his wife said to the master-spirit graciously: "I will forgive you, if you ink it."

"I'll undertake not to ink it," said Mr. Merdle.

The illustrious visitor then put out his coat-cuff, and for a moment entombed Mrs. Sparkler's hand: wrist, bracelet, and all. Where his own hand had shrunk to, was not made manifest, but it was as remote from Mrs. Sparkler's sense of touch as if he had been a highly meritorious Chelsea Veteran or Greenwich Pensioner."


Commentary:

"Michael Steig in Dickens and Phiz regards the financier and banker Merdle, his name suggestive of the French for "excrement," as one of the book's "chief embodiments of evil", the other being the wife-murderer and would-be extortionist Rigaud-Blandois, who derive from very different literary traditions: whereas Rigaud is a melodramatic villain, with foreign accent, a nutcracker visage, and predatory intentions expressed in suave but excessive gesticulation, Merdle epitomizes Thomas Carlyle's cash nexus — it is as if he is a mere cipher, nothing in himself, and quite ill-at-ease with himself.

In the text, Merdle is a special kind of grotesque with largely symbolic qualities. He is always "taking himself into custody" (a hint of the criminal nature of his business); he is tyrannized over by the chief butler, suggesting his nouveau riche status as a financial manipulator who has risen to power almost overnight; and his relation to his wife is consistent with the limiting of his identity to the world of finance, for she is purchased as a "bosom" upon which to hang jewels. Even his name, suggesting merde, emblematically conveys the idea of a low, filthy substance, brought into unseemly contact with the highest of the land. Yet Dickens at the same time manages to evoke a degree of pity for Merdle as someone who is basically out of sympathy with the shallow society world in which he has risen so high, someone who doesn't know what to do with his success arid would be more comfortable as a private man. He is not a monster like such earlier characters who epitomize the cash-nexus values of Dickens' society — Pecksniff, Dombey, Heep, or Bounderby.

The Merdle subplot once again demonstrates the shakiness and instability of British society, and Merdle's suicide and financial collapse parallel the fate of Mrs. Clennam and her mansion, which is also her house of business. The timing of the chapter is significant: three months after the deaths of the Dorrit brothers in Italy, and after the marriage of Fanny Dorrit to the obtuse Edmund Sparkler, son of Mrs. Merdle by her first marriage. Self-assured, convinced of her place in London's social hierarchy, Fanny is pregnant. She and her husband receive an unexpected visitor, the somewhat distracted banker, Mr. Merdle, who (oddly enough) asks to borrow a pen-knife without any explanation. Although Dickens's is a portrait of a man on the verge of ruin and suicide, Phiz's interpretation of the financier is unvarnished and totally lacking in caricature, although like Blandois he is a forger and swindler: "He was a reserved man, with a broad, overhanging, watchful head, . . . and a somewhat uneasy expression about his coat-cuffs, as if they were in his confidence, and reasons for being anxious to hide his hands" (I: 21, "Mr. Merdle's Complaint,"). Having previously done much for society but (supposedly) little for himself, he now takes decisive and overt action. Assuming the role of his own physician and psychiatrist, Merdle addresses his undiagnosed "complaint" by slitting his throat in a Turkish bath to escape the opprobrium of the failure of his house-of-cards financial empire in the succeeding chapter.

How much of his mental instability is evident in the intense gaze he directs towards his step-son as Edmund finds him an appropriate penknife from the box of writing materials? And has Phiz embedded emblems that comment upon his "complaint"? The original of Merdle was a financier named John Sadleir (1814-1856), Dickens's near contemporary and a member of Parliament whose multiple, fraudulent schemes collapsed in the insolvency of the Tipperary Bank early in 1856, as Dickens was beginning the novel. Is there anything in this substantial bourgeois (without Sadleir's mutton-chop whiskers) with kid gloves and silk hat that suggests the swindler who sat for the portrait? The Italian scenic painting and ornately framed mirror suggests Fanny's nouveau riche tendency to show off her affluence and sophistication in conspicuous display, and the hermetically-sealed clock merely suggests the lifestyle to which Fanny has aspired. However, the guttering candle between Merdle and Edmund Sparkler may imply his impending suicide. In the final analysis, Phiz's portraits of Merdle fall far short of Dickens's own in Book One, Chapter 21 and Book Two, Chapter 24. Sadlier's self-poisoning at Jack Straw's Castle, a Dickens haunt, on the night of 16 February 1856 hardly evoked popular sympathy, but Dickens allows the reader to penetrate the bland surface in "Mrs. Merdle's Complaint" (Book One, Chapter 33) to hear the plaintiff voice of a desperate husband:

"Pray don't be violent, Mr. Merdle," said Mrs. Merdle.

"Violent?" said Mr, Merdle. "You are enough to make me desperate. You don't know half of what I do to accommodate Society. You don't know anything of the sacrifices I make for it."

A benefactor of high society without being an ornament to society, Merdle sacrifices himself after his wife's stinging rebuke that he has no right to mix with it. Significantly, in the Household Edition volume of 1873 James Mahoney does not even bother to offer his own interpretation of that "dull red and yellow face", whereas Harry Furniss offers merely a desiccated, balding man in an oversized topcoat who will now take "the shortest way," a desperate man, a mere shell, who seems to have had the life-force sucked out of him."



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Kim Having seen that Dickens based Merdle on a real person I looked him up:

"John Sadleir (1813 – 17 February 1856) was an Irish financier and politician.

He entered the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1847 as a Member of Parliament for Carlow. Sadleir co-founded the Catholic Defence Association in 1851 and was one of the leading figures in the Independent Irish Party which held the balance of power in the House of Commons when it formed in 1852.

He went on to hold minor office in Lord Aberdeen's coalition government from 1852 through 1854. He resigned his ministerial position in 1854 when he was found guilty of being implicated in a plot to imprison a depositor of the Tipperary Bank because the individual in question had refused to vote for him.

By February 1856 the Tipperary Bank was insolvent, owing to Sadleir's overdraft of £288,000. His own financial affairs were ruinous, and in his efforts to solve his problems he milked the London Bank, ruined a small Newcastle upon Tyne bank, sold forged shares of the Swedish Railway Company, raised money on forged deeds, and spent rents of properties he held in receivership and money entrusted to him as a solicitor. In this way he disposed of more than £1.5 million, mainly in disastrous speculations. Unable to face the consequences, he committed suicide near Jack Straw's Tavern on Hampstead Heath on February 17, 1856 by drinking prussic acid. The Times reported that "[t]he body of Mr J. Sadleir M.P. was found on Sunday morning, February 17 on Hampstead Heath, at a considerable distance from the public road. A large bottle labeled "Oil of Bitter Almonds" and a jug also containing the poison (prussic acid) lay by his side."The body was identified by Edwin James QC MP and Thomas Wakley MP, editor of The Lancet. His brother James Sadleir, also an MP, was found to be deeply implicated in the fraud, having conspired with his younger brother. He was expelled from the House of Commons on February 16, 1857. He fled to the Continent, settling in Zurich and then Geneva. He was murdered there in 1881 while being robbed of his gold watch.

John Sadleir was buried in an unmarked grave in Highgate Cemetery."



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Kim Book II Chapter 24 - Harry Furniss



Mr. Merdle gives the Sparklers a call

Book II Chapter 24

Harry Furniss

Household Edition 1910

Text Illustrated:

"My only anxiety is," said Fanny,"that Mrs. General should not get anything."

"She won't get anything," said Mr. Merdle.

Fanny was delighted to hear him express the opinion. Mr. Merdle, after taking another gaze into the depths of his hat as if he thought he saw something at the bottom, rubbed his hair and slowly appended to his last remark the confirmatory words, "Oh dear no. No. Not she. Not likely."

As the topic seemed exhausted, and Mr Merdle too, Fanny inquired if he were going to take up Mrs. Merdle and the carriage in his way home?

"No," he answered; "I shall go by the shortest way, and leave Mrs. Merdle to —" here he looked all over the palms of both his hands as if he were telling his own fortune — "to take care of herself. I dare say she'll manage to do it."

"Probably," said Fanny.

There was then a long silence; during which, Mrs. Sparkler, lying back on her sofa again, shut her eyes and raised her eyebrows in her former retirement from mundane affairs.

"But, however," said Mr. Merdle, "I am equally detaining you and myself. I thought I'd give you a call, you know."

"Charmed, I am sure," said Fanny.

"So I am off," added Mr. Merdle, getting up. "Could you lend me a penknife?"

It was an odd thing, Fanny smilingly observed, for her who could seldom prevail upon herself even to write a letter, to lend to a man of such vast business as Mr. Merdle.

"Isn't it?" Mr. Merdle acquiesced; "but I want one; and I know you have got several little wedding keepsakes about, with scissors and tweezers and such things in them. You shall have it back to-morrow."

"Edmund," said Mrs. Sparkler, "open (now, very carefully, I beg and beseech, for you are so very awkward) the mother of pearl box on my little table there, and give Mr. Merdle the mother of pearl penknife."

"Thank you," said Mr. Merdle; "but if you have got one with a darker handle, I think I should prefer one with a darker handle."

"Tortoise-shell?"

"Thank you," said Mr. Merdle; "yes. I think I should prefer tortoise-shell."


Commentary:

"The timing of the chapter is significant: three months after the deaths of the Dorrit brothers in Italy, and after the marriage of Fanny Dorrit to the obtuse Edmund Sparkler, son of Mrs. Merdle by her first marriage. Self-assured, convinced of her place in London's social hierarchy, and utterly indolent in the Furniss illustration, Fanny is pregnant — although the illustrator does not reinforce the text on this point. She and her husband receive an unexpected visitor, the somewhat distracted banker, Mr. Merdle, who (oddly enough) asks to borrow a pen-knife without any explanation. Although Dickens's is a portrait of a man on the verge of ruin and suicide, Phiz's interpretation of the financier is unvarnished and totally lacking in caricature, whereas Furniss depicts the failed "prop" of London high society as merely a desiccated, balding man in an oversized topcoat who will now take "the shortest way," a desperate man, a mere shell, who seems to have had the life-force sucked out of him.

Dickens's descriptions of Merdle are highly explicit, amounting to verbal portraiture: "He was a reserved man, with a broad, overhanging, watchful head, . . . and a somewhat uneasy expression about his coat-cuffs, as if they were in his confidence, and reasons for being anxious to hide his hands" ( "Mr. Merdle's Complaint"). But Furniss has chosen to depict Merdle as an aged wreck rather than a bourgeois in healthy middle-age. And in no respect does Furniss's version of Merdle physically resemble the nattily dressed, middle-aged financier named John Sadleir (1814-1856) upon whom Dickens based his portrait of a corrupt capitalist, but by 1910 the swindler's case had been long out of the popular mind."



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Kim Book II Chapter 23 - James Mahoney



"You can't be afraid of seeing anything in this darkness, Affery."

Book II Chapter 23

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"Affery headed the exploring party; Jeremiah closed it. He had no intention of leaving them. Clennam looking back, and seeing him following three stairs behind, in the coolest and most methodical manner exclaimed in a low voice, "Is there no getting rid of him!" Flora reassured his mind by replying promptly, "Why though not exactly proper Arthur and a thing I couldn't think of before a younger man or a stranger still I don't mind him if you so particularly wish it and provided you'll have the goodness not to take me too tight."

Wanting the heart to explain that this was not at all what he meant, Arthur extended his supporting arm round Flora's figure. "Oh my goodness me,' said she. "You are very obedient indeed really and it's extremely honourable and gentlemanly in you I am sure but still at the same time if you would like to be a little tighter than that I shouldn't consider it intruding."

In this preposterous attitude, unspeakably at variance with his anxious mind, Clennam descended to the basement of the house; finding that wherever it became darker than elsewhere, Flora became heavier, and that when the house was lightest she was too. Returning from the dismal kitchen regions, which were as dreary as they could be, Mistress Affery passed with the light into his father's old room, and then into the old dining-room; always passing on before like a phantom that was not to be overtaken, and neither turning nor answering when he whispered, "Affery! I want to speak to you!"

In the dining-room, a sentimental desire came over Flora to look into the dragon closet which had so often swallowed Arthur in the days of his boyhood — not improbably because, as a very dark closet, it was a likely place to be heavy in. Arthur, fast subsiding into despair, had opened it, when a knock was heard at the outer door.

Mistress Affery, with a suppressed cry, threw her apron over her head.

"What? You want another dose!' said Mr Flintwinch. 'You shall have it, my woman, you shall have a good one! Oh! You shall have a sneezer, you shall have a teaser!"

"In the meantime is anybody going to the door?" said Arthur.

"In the meantime, I am going to the door, sir," returned the old man so savagely, as to render it clear that in a choice of difficulties he felt he must go, though he would have preferred not to go. 'Stay here the while, all! Affery, my woman, move an inch, or speak a word in your foolishness, and I'll treble your dose!"

The moment he was gone, Arthur released Mrs Finching: with some difficulty, by reason of that lady misunderstanding his intentions, and making arrangements with a view to tightening instead of slackening.

"Affery, speak to me now!"

"Don't touch me, Arthur!" she cried, shrinking from him. "Don't come near me. He'll see you. Jeremiah will. Don't."

"He can't see me," returned Arthur, suiting the action to the word, "if I blow the candle out."

"He'll hear you," cried Affery.

"He can't hear me," returned Arthur, suiting the action to the words again, 'if I draw you into this black closet, and speak here.

Why do you hide your face?"

"Because I am afraid of seeing something."

"You can't be afraid of seeing anything in this darkness, Affery."

"Yes I am. Much more than if it was light."

"Why are you afraid?"

Because the house is full of mysteries and secrets; because it's full of whisperings and counseling's; because it's full of noises. There never was such a house for noises. I shall die of 'em, if Jeremiah don't strangle me first. As I expect he will."


Commentary:

"The somewhat misogynistic comedy of the April 1857 Phiz steel-engraving Flora's Tour of Inspection deteriorates rapidly as Arthur blows out Affery's candle to allay her fears about her husband's overhearing their discussion. As in the text, the trio are in the dark — Affery doubly so, as terrified, she has thrown her apron over her face (as is her wont when confronting a stressful situation). Affery's apprehensions seem tantamount to paranoia here as she alludes the noises of the old house and the secrets that it harbors. One can hardly term this dark plate a study of the three characters — Affery, Arthur Clennam, and Flora Finching — since only Flora in her light dress is really discernible."


message 7: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Book II Chapter 24 - James Mahoney



"He couldn't have a better nurse to bring him round," Mr. Sparkler made bold to opine. . . . "For a wonder I can agree with you," returned his wife, languidly turning her eyelids a little in his direction, "and can adopt your words"

Book II Chapter 24

James Mahoney

Household Edition 1873

Text Illustrated:

"Here Fanny stopped to weep, and to say, "Dear, dear, beloved papa! How truly gentlemanly he was! What a contrast to poor uncle!"

"From the effects of that trying time," she pursued, "my good little Mouse will have to be roused. Also, from the effects of this long attendance upon Edward in his illness; an attendance which is not yet over, which may even go on for some time longer, and which in the meanwhile unsettles us all by keeping poor dear papa's affairs from being wound up. Fortunately, however, the papers with his agents here being all sealed up and locked up, as he left them when he providentially came to England, the affairs are in that state of order that they can wait until my brother Edward recovers his health in Sicily, sufficiently to come over, and administer, or execute, or whatever it may be that will have to be done."

"He couldn't have a better nurse to bring him round," Mr. Sparkler made bold to opine.

"For a wonder, I can agree with you," returned his wife, languidly turning her eyelids a little in his direction (she held forth, in general, as if to the drawing-room furniture), "and can adopt your words. He couldn't have a better nurse to bring him round. There are times when my dear child is a little wearing to an active mind; but, as a nurse, she is Perfection. Best of Amys!"

Mr. Sparkler, growing rash on his late success, observed that Edward had had, biggodd, a long bout of it, my dear girl."


Commentary:

"Three months after marriage, the Sparklers find that domesticity is anything but romantic on a hot summer evening in London as Fanny constantly criticizes and belittles Edmund for being more than a bit obtuse. Having married into society, Fanny expects to entertain society and to be invited to social affairs, despite the fact that she is pregnant and in mourning. She is determined to break free of her boring domesticity. Edmund is no conversationalist — but she knew his intellectual limitations before she married him, partly to take revenge for Mrs. Merdle's slighting her. Technically, of course, she is mourning for her father and uncle, but she seems to have little genuine emotion about their sudden deaths in Rome. Her pregnancy is yet another reason why they receive neither callers nor invitations. Edmund ventures to suggest that, once Tip has recovered from a bout of malaria and returned with Amy from Italy, Amy might keep her company. Fanny expresses skepticism about Amy's suitability as a companion in terms of participation in London society: "Darling little thing! Not, however, that Amy would do here alone". Here, Edmund Sparkler asserts that his sister-in-law, although an excellent nurse, would not be suitable in a social role — and his wife thoroughly concurs — apparently such concurrence being highly unusual in their daily conversations. In a moment, a knock at the door will interrupt these deliberations as the banker, Mr. Merdle, the couple's father-in-law, will pay a call and ominously ask to borrow a pen-knife.

Mahoney's illustration depicts Edmund as virtually unchanged, with his monocle still implying his limited intellectual capacity and high society background. On the other hand, Fanny is looking more and more like her mother-in-law, Mrs. Merdle, and less and less like the tall, slender dancer who watched her uncle practicing his clarinet in Book One, Chapter 20: They spoke no more, all the way back to the lodging where Fanny and her uncle lived. . . . A rather mournful Italian landscape in oils above Fanny sets a sombre mood for the conversation, and serves as a reminder of the deaths of William and Frederick Dorrit in Rome. Having matured suddenly into a respectable matron, Fanny finds the company of her husband as interesting as the houseplant beside which Mahoney has positioned him. The imperial posture of Mrs. Sparkler recalls a portrait of Mrs. Merdle in the original engravings by Phiz, Society Expresses its Views on a Question of Marriage (September 1856). In short, in taking on Edmund, Mahoney seems to be implying that she has replaced his mother as a controlling consciousness and severe judge."



Peter Kim wrote: "Book II Chapter 23 - Phiz

Flora's Tour of Inspection

Book II Chapter 23

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

"Affery was excusing herself with "Don't ask nothing of me, Arthur!" when Mr. Flintwinch stopped ..."


Well, I have to say this scene was one of my favourites. Flora's clinging to Arthur as they go downstairs with the candle, the dialogue between them and the humourous physicality all bundle together to make this passage a joy to read.

I have never seen a TV adaption, movie or mini-series of Little Dorrit. Has anyone? If so, how funny is the section?


Peter Kim wrote: "Book II Chapter 24 - Phiz

Mr. Merdle a Borrower

Book II Chapter 24

Phiz

Text Illustrated:

"There was then a long silence; during which, Mrs. Sparkler, lying back on her sofa again, shut her ey..."


It was interesting to read the comment about "the cash-nexus values of Dickens' society." When I consider the other names in the commentary such as Dombey, Heep, Pecksniff and Bounderby it makes sense to add Merdle. Merdle seems to be the smoothest of the villains and his death is certainly squalid. As Dickens moves through his novels are we seeing the motif of greed being shifted towards characters who are more smooth, more socially established and thus more evil and dangerous?


Peter As always, thank you Kim. ;-)


Hilary (agapoyesoun) No, I've never seen Little Dorrit, Peter. I wonder if one exists. Btw, I haven't reached this part yet, so I'm taking a little peep ahead as I want to be in with a chance of finishing it with you.

I have read snippets only and so far I don't remember any of it.

I'm still struggling with poor concentration. Bring out the violins. :D I have an appointment with my consultant tomorrow, so I hope that something constructive comes out of that.

Anyhow, I must forge ahead. This ought not to
be a chore as I


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

Kim Peter wrote: "I have never seen a TV adaption, movie or mini-series of Little Dorrit. Has anyone? If so, how funny is the section? "

Not me, although I think I may have one. One Christmas someone bought me a set of five or six Dickens movies but I've never watched any of them, I'd rather read the books over and over again.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) ... love Dickens! Onward and Upward!


Linda | 712 comments I've read (or listened, rather) up through chapter 26 today, and came to check out the summaries here as I thought I might have missed some critical information having listened to the audio instead of reading the book.

I felt a sense of foreboding when Mr. Merdle asked for the penknife, and specifically for one with a darker handle. I thought the narration was done well to convey a sense that something was weighing heavily on Mr. Merdle's mind, so it came as no shock to find out of his suicide. However, I was astonished to find Arthur Clennam being sent off to prison. From what I gather, he is taking on all the blame himself so as not to soil Daniel Doyce's name, but I do not understand what exactly happened? If this is in connection to Mr. Merdle's demise, how can Arthur be to blame because of Mr. Merdle's dirty dealings? Perhaps it will be explained in future chapters.

As to a Little Dorrit movie, I keep seeing one pop up in my online searches (there are several, but one in particular keeps catching my eye). It is a TV mini-series adaptation from 2008 with 14 episodes. It has Matthew Macfadyen playing Arthur Clennam and Claire Foy (I don't recognize that actor) playing Little Dorrit. I generally like the longer TV adaptions to books like this rather than the book getting chopped down into a two hour movie.

Oh, and I agree Peter. I loved the scene with Flora on Arthur's arm as well. And it gave me another opportunity to hear the narrator's rendition of Flora's fluttery speech. :)

Now as Hilary said - Onward and Upward!


Peter Linda wrote: "I've read (or listened, rather) up through chapter 26 today, and came to check out the summaries here as I thought I might have missed some critical information having listened to the audio instead..."

Hi Linda

A question about listening to the novel. Does the reader/narrator put much emphasis into the character's speech with inflections as to their mood? For example, when your listened to the Merdle scene you mentioned you felt a sense of foreboding. Was this conveyed at all by the manner in which the passage was read?

I have never listened to a Dickens novel so I'm curious. When I think to the TV versions of A Christmas Carol the voices certainly play a major part in painting the image of the character so I imagine it would be as much, or more so, in an audio version.


Tristram Shandy Linda,

I think Clennam takes all the blame on himself because he was responsible for the financial side of the enterprise whereas Doyce concentrated on the practical side. And he decided to invest the company's means in Mr. Merdle's business transactions - prompted to do so by Pancks - without discussing things with Doyce, who was absent. That's why he feels responsible for having wasted the company's money. Maybe he thinks that he should have considered twice, or three times, before taking such a step - according to the old proverb, Look before you leap!


Linda | 712 comments Peter wrote: "Does the reader/narrator put much emphasis into the character's speech with inflections as to their mood? For example, when your listened to the Merdle scene you mentioned you felt a sense of foreboding. Was this conveyed at all by the manner in which the passage was read?"

Yes, there are definitely emotions and hints of their moods added in with the characters' manner of speaking in the audio book, Peter. I actually wondered about this part, if I would have had the same sense that something was wrong with Mr. Merdle if I had read the passage instead of listened to it. I would like to go back and read the passage and see if I would have picked up on it like I did when I listened to the same passage.


Linda | 712 comments Tristram wrote: "Linda,

I think Clennam takes all the blame on himself because he was responsible for the financial side of the enterprise whereas Doyce concentrated on the practical side. And he decided to invest..."


Thank you, Tristram! I did gather that much about Clennam being responsible for the financial side, but I missed that he was specifically prompted by Pancks to invest in Mr. Merdle's business. I wonder how many times he would have had to "look" before considering it a safe investment, though. Would he have been able to figure out that Mr. Merdle was a forger and thief on his own?


message 19: by Bionic Jean (last edited Sep 08, 2016 01:28PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Linda - Yes, I have that adaptation you mention, and also an earlier one in which Derek Jacobi played Arthur Clennam in a very understated way, and Alec Guiness was brilliant as the swaggering over-gentil Mr Dorrit. I preferred him to Tom Courtenay in the part.

Both were dramatised over several weeks in several parts.

In the more recent one other names you might recognise are Andy Serkiss (Gollum!) as Rigaud/ Blandois, Freeman Agyeman (one of Doctor Who's assistants once) as Tattycoram/Harriet, Bill Patterson as Mr. Meagles and the wonderful Miriam Margolyes as Flora Finching. I'm not sure whether they dramatised the part where she is holding on to Arthur Clennam as they tour the house or not, Hilary - but every scene she was in was a treat :)

Edited - sorry it was Linda who mentioned it - now corrected!


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Oh I love Miriam Mergolyes, Jean! I have never seen her be anything but good. She has that memorable, quirky look that helps her to stand out, I think. She's such an eccentric with such a smashing personality. I can imagine that she would make an excellent Flora.


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Oops *Margolyes ...


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) Sue Johnston was Affery, Maxine Peake was Miss Wade and Eddie Marsan (Mr Norrell in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell) as Pancks.

In the earlier one Eleanor Bron played Mrs Merdle beautifully... I wish I could put together a new dramatisation by mixing actors from the two together! LOL


Hilary (agapoyesoun) Haha, Jean. I LOVE Sue Johnston. That's a fine set of actors! :)


Bionic Jean (bionicjean) She was excellent - so dithery! I see her in my mind's eye all the time I'm reading about Affery :)


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