And thus ever, by day and night, under the sun and under the stars, climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains, journeying by land and journeying by sea, coming and going so strangely, to meet and to act and react on one another, move all we restless travellers through the pilgrimage of life.

01 Aug 2004

My chapter by chapter summary of the first half of Charles Dickens' masterpiece: Little Dorrit.
  1. Introduction
  2. Chapter 1 - Sun and Shadow
  3. Chapter 2 - Fellow Travellers
  4. Chapter 3 - Home
  5. Chapter 4 - Mrs Flintwinch has a Dream
  6. Chapter 5 - Family Affairs
  7. Chapter 6 - The Father of the Marshalsea
  8. Chapter 7 - The Child of the Marshalsea
  9. Chapter 8 - The Lock
  10. Chapter 9 - Little Mother
  11. Chapter 10 - Containing the Whole Science of Government
  12. Chapter 11 - Let Loose
  13. Chapter 12 - Bleeding Heart Yard
  14. Chapter 13 - Patriarchal
  15. Chapter 14 - Little Dorrit's Party
  16. Chapter 15 - Mrs Flintwinch has another Dream
  17. Chapter 16 - Nobody's Weakness
  18. Chapter 17 - Nobody's Rival
  19. Chapter 18 - Little Dorrit's Lover
  20. Chapter 19 - The Father of the Marshalsea in Two or Three Relations
  21. Chapter 20 - Moving in Society
  22. Chapter 21 - Mr Merdle's Complaint
  23. Chapter 22 - A Puzzle
  24. Chapter 23 - Machinery in Motion
  25. Chapter 24 - Fortune-Telling
  26. Chapter 25 - Conspirators and Others
  27. Chapter 26 - Nobody's State of Mind
  28. Chapter 27 - Five-and-Twenty
  29. Chapter 28 - Nobody's Disappearance
  30. Chapter 29 - Mrs Flintwinch goes on Dreaming
  31. Chapter 30 - The Word of a Gentleman
  32. Chapter 31 - Spirit
  33. Chapter 32 - More Fortune-Telling
  34. Chapter 33 - Mrs Merdle's Complaint
  35. Chapter 34 - A Shoal of Barnacles
  36. Chapter 35 - What was behind Mr Pancks on Little Dorrit's Hand
  37. Chapter 36 - The Marshalsea becomes an Orphan
Introduction-- 01 Aug 2004

Little Dorrit was published serially from 1855 to 1857 and then in book form in 1857. This was the main subject of my high school AP English class, and being the punk I was back in those days, I never actually read it. (Don't despair - I still got a good grade). Anyway, the book has sat on my shelf for almost 15 years gathering dust. Just recently I was fishing about for something to read and decided to take a break from my usual fare of science fiction and fantasy and delve into some hard core classic literature. I dusted off my copy of Little Dorrit and began to read.

The book is divided into two major sections titled "Poverty" and "Riches". One can assume that the story will follow Little Dorrit from one state to the other. Only time will tell! From the back cover of my copy of the book it reads:

The glitter of wealth and the darkness of the debtor's prison form the boundaries of this masterpiece of Dickens' mature artistry ... all represent a magnificently defiant vision of individual virtue triumphing over a world where hypocrisy and exploitation have become the way of life.

Below I will write a brief synopsis of each chapter as I read it. I do this for several reasons. One, I'm sure that the number of characters and the interweaving of the plot will become dizzying if I don't do something to keep track of it all. And two, I feel like it. If you're reading this, hopefully this will be of some small use to you. If nothing else, I've picked out some poetic quotes that you might memorize and quote to your girlfriend on a date :)

Chapter 1 - Sun and Shadow-- 01 Aug 2004

The book opens with a description of the oppressive heat in Marseilles France. The time frame is 30 years ago. Presumably from when the book was published, which was in 1857. The chapter title obviously refers to the extreme heat and light outside and the deep shadows and cool temperature inside the prison.

We find two men in prison. The first man (John Baptist Cavalletto) seems to be comfortable and content to play the role of servant to the other prisoner. The second man is named Monsieur Rigaud. He receives special treatment from the jailer in the form of a meal which consists of wine, cheese, and "veal and savoury jelly", whereas the first man receives only some old bread. On reflection, perhaps this is a request for a last meal. Rigaud appears flippant about his situation; he "is a cosmopolitan gentleman", who married a wealthy woman. Shortly thereafter, she died under circumstances that pointed to her being murdered at his hand. He denies this of course, and is off to see the President, after which he will either be set free or beheaded.

One thing of note is that the jailer brings a little girl when he comes to feed the prisoners. She seems to have taken a liking to John Baptist Cavalletto. Nothing more is said of her, but I get the impression she will come back later in the story. Perhaps she is Little Dorrit?

Chapter 2 - Fellow Travellers-- 01 Aug 2004

Chapter two has no connection to the first, except that it also takes places in Marseilles. It describes a group of about 30 people who are in "quarantine" after arriving in Marseilles. Some mention is made to the plague. (The plague was in the mid 1300's. I don't know why France would still quarantine against it over 400 years later, but perhaps they did?) They are finally being released to continue on their journey.

Before they depart we are introduced to a Mr. Meagles ("a very practical man"), who has "a whimsical good humour upon him all the time". He has a wife, a beautiful daughter named Pet, and a servant for Pet named Tattycoram. We learn that Pet had a twin sister who died very young, and the Meagles adopted Tattycoram to be a playmate and caretaker for Pet. The odd name of Tattycoram is discussed at some length (basically they just didn't like her real name [Harriet Beadle] and wanted to give her a light-hearted name). Over the years it has evolved to Tattycoram.

There is another woman in the group, a handsome young English-woman [Miss Wade], traveling alone, who is withdrawn from the rest. She seems to bear the weight of something. "The shadow ... falling like a gloomy veil across her forehead, accorded very well with the character of her beauty ... Although not an open face, there was no presence in it, 'I am self-contained and self-reliant; your opinion is nothing to me; I have no interest in you, care nothing for you, and see and hear you with indifference'". Pet tries to make conversation with her and is rebuffed (albeit politely). On her way out, Miss Wade sees Tattycoram weeping and cursing her lowly state. When Tatty notices Miss Wade, she immediately apologizes and quickly turns into the perfect young mistress.

Miss Wade makes an interesting remark to Mr. Meagles that is worth quoting: "In our course through life we shall meet the people who are coming to meet us, from many strange places and by many strange roads ... and what it is set to us to do to them, and what it is set to them to do to us, will all be done". I believe there is some foreshadowing here. I also believe that Miss Wade will become a prominent character later in the story. Perhaps, too, we will be treated to a subplot involving Tattycoram and Pet.

And thus ever, by day and night, under the sun and under the stars, climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains, journeying by land and journeying by sea, coming and going so strangely, to meet and to act and react on one another, move all we restless travellers through the pilgrimage of life.
Chapter 3 - Home-- 01 Aug 2004

Like the first chapter, we get a wonderful description of an oppressive atmosphere. In this instance, however, it is a rundown quarter of London England. "In every thoroughfare, up almost every alley, and down almost every turning, some doleful bell was throbbing ... as if the Plague were in the city ... Nothing to see but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to breathe but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to change the brooding mind, or raise it up".

These are the thoughts of a Mr. Arthur Clennam as he makes his way to his home by way of Marseilles. Was he on the boat from the previous chapter? He goes home and is met by an old man who appears to be the butler of the home. He goes up to meet with his mother, who has not left her room in almost 15 years. After a brief and loveless meeting, Arthur is introduced to Affrey and an old woman, both of whom appear to be servants in the house as well. There is also a little girl in the room who is referred to as "Little Dorrit". Explains Mrs. (Affrey) Flintwinch (the wife of Jeremiah): "She's nothing; she's a whim of -- hers [the mother]" Is this the same girl from the prison? What's a little girl doing in the room of Mrs. Clennam?

Mrs. Flintwinch also makes another telling remark: "But there's another sort of girls than that about. Have you forgot your old sweetheart?" Who is she referring to? This will come into play I'm sure. I get the feeling that Arthur is going to be one of the central characters in the story.

One last note: When Arthur visits his mother in her room, he remarks upon a watch the he sent to her when his father died. For a woman who seems to care less about most things, she seems to be keeping this watch close to her; it's on the table along with her bible and a pair of reading glasses. These appear to be the only possessions she cares about. What is the significance of the watch? His dying father insisted that Arthur immediately get it back to his mother.

Chapter 4 - Mrs Flintwinch has a Dream-- 01 Aug 2004

This short chapter describes a so-called dream had by Mrs. Flintwinch. She wakes up in her dream and walks downstairs. Once she arrives at a room downstairs, she is surprised to see her husband, talking to ... her husband. There are two Jeremiah Flintwinch's in her dream. They appeared to be talking about taking a shift and one of them was two hours late. Upon noticing Mrs. Flintwinch, one of her husbands chases her down the hall and beings to violently shake her. It is at this moment that she "wakes up" to the gentle shaking of her husband telling her that she has been sleepwalking again.

I say "so-called" dream, because I don't believe this is a dream at all. She woke up and found out that her husband has a double. Perhaps a twin brother? Who knows. But something doesn't add up. They are obviously up to something. I look forward to seeing how this ties into the main storyline.

Chapter 5 - Family Affairs-- 01 Aug 2004

Finally we get down to business. In this chapter, Arthur confronts his mother and asks her if his father had conducted any shady business dealings in his past. He seems to suspect that there were, from the way his father was acting as he died. When asked this, Mrs. Clennam has an almost violent reaction and tells Arthur there were no shady business dealings and that if he ever suggested anything like it again he would be disowned -- "He had struck fire out of her, and was surprised". Right after he makes a telling remark, saying "I have seen so little happiness come of money; it has brought within my knowledge so little peace to this house, or to any one belonging to it, that it is worth less to me than to another. It can buy me nothing that will not be a reproach and misery to me, if I am haunted by a suspicion that it darkened my father's last hours ...".

She calls Jeremiah, and Arthur confesses that he has no interest in the family business and turns over his half in it to his mother, who promptly gives it to Jeremiah, "whose eyes glistened as if they saw money...". Before this, however, Arthur makes another reference to the watch. "I saw his face when he gave the watch into my keeping, and struggled to express that he sent it as a token you would understand...". What token? I feel this watch has some large part to play in this story.

The chapter then takes a completely different turn and focuses on Little Dorrit. She is a hired servant, who comes promptly at 8 in the morning, and leaves promptly at 8 in the evening. She appears to do some type of needlework. She always eats alone (going to great lengths at times to ensure her dining privacy), and "what became of Little Dorrit between the two eights was a mystery". I think she takes her meals alone so that she can sneak the food ... perhaps to give someone else. Perhaps the man in the prison from the first chapter? She interests Arthur, and "at last he resolved to watch Little Dorrit and know more of her story".

Chapter 6 - The Father of the Marshalsea-- 01 Aug 2004

Dickens gives another detailed description of a completely dreary place: The Marshalsea debtors prison. We find out about Little Dorrit's father. "He was a shy, retiring man; well-looking, through in an effiminate style; with a mild voice, curling hair, and irresolute hands..." He had had a business deal, invested some money, and somehow lost everything. Unfortunately, he was unable to explain anything about the business deal and thus ended in the debtors prison. "To question him in detail, and endeavour to reconcile his answers; to closet him with accountants and sharp practitioners, learned in the wiles of insolvency and bankruptcy; was only to put the case out at compound interest and incomprehensibility".

This man finds that life inside the prison is much simpler than life outside. He very quickly looses all interest in trying to put his financial affairs in order, and thus becomes a permanent attachment of the prison. At the time, his wife was pregnant and gave birth to a daughter (Little Dorrit, i.e. Amy). Over time, as people came and went, the father of Little Dorrit became known as "the Father of the Marshalsea". "He grew to be proud of the title ... All newcomers were presented to him. He was punctilious [marked by precise accordance with details] in the exaction of this ceremony". After a time, the newcomers would get their affairs in order, and would generally pay a small tribute to the Father on their way out. Although he came to expect this, he downplayed anyone who tried to give him money publicly and insisted that they need not bother (though of course, he said it in such a way as to get them to quietly pay him later). An interesting method to use in the panhandling profession.

Chapter 7 - The Child of the Marshalsea-- 01 Aug 2004

Now we switch gears and focus on Little Dorrit. She grew up in the Marshalsea prison. She realized, at a very young age, that her father had no ambition. Nor, in fact, did anyone in her family. Thus she took great responsibility upon herself to get an education and begin providing for the family. "She ... was the head of the fallen family; and bore, in her own heart, its anxieties and shames". "At thirteen, she could read and keep accounts ... she had been, by snatches of a few weeks at a time, to an evening school". Growing up in such an environment, it's no wonder that she has a very reserved demeanor. But we learn that she is also extremely diligent, strong, and driven. She has learned to cope with setbacks and even ridicule, "No matter through what mistakes and discouragements, what ridicule (not unkindly meant, but deeploy felt)".

Another interesting fact that may or may not play into the storyline at a later date is that the turnkey (i.e. the man who ran the prison) became her godfather. He took her around to see the new prisoners (remember chapter 1?), and spent a great deal of time with her. He passed away when she was 16 and was planning to leave his inheritance to her, but never quite got around to it, as he was unable to find a way to ensure that no one else could ever lay hold on her inheritance.

She found her sister a job outside the prison as a dancer. She has also tried on numerous occasions to help out her brother. Unfortunately, he is bound and determined to take after his father, and soon ends up an unwilling resident of the prison. Undeterred, Little Dorrit continues on.

As the chapter concludes, she is making her way back to the prison after working for Mrs. Clennam for the day. She is weaving this way and that, attempting to make sure she isn't pursued. Little does she know that a very determined Arthur is following her in an attempt to learn more about Amy.

Chapter 8 - The Lock-- 01 Aug 2004

Arthur meets Amy's uncle and through him is introduced to her father. I was right - she is sneaking food to the prison to give to her father. She is embarrassed that Arthur has met her here. We get to see Mr. Dorrit at his pan-handling best as he asks Arthur for money. After giving the money, Arthur makes a hasty exit and corners Amy. "I followed you to-night. I did so, that I might endeavour to render you and your family some service. You know the terms on which I and my mother are ... What I have seen here, in this short time, had greatly increased my heartfelt wish to be a friend to you".

The bells ring and Arthur finds he is trapped in the Marshalsea for the night. He pays for a "room" and as he tries to find sleep, the last thought crosses his mind that perhaps his parents had somehow wronged the Dorrit's in the past, causing them to be imprisoned here, and that perhaps this is the reason his mother has befriended Little Dorrit: out of a sense of guilt. "He withers away in his prison; I wither away in mind; inexorable justice is done; what do I owe on this score"! What indeed? Surely this bodes of things to come...

Chapter 9 - Little Mother-- 01 Aug 2004

After spending an anxious night at the prison, the doors open and Arthur is free to leave. He notices the stream of people coming in. The shabbiness of these attendants upon shabbiness, the poverty of these insolvent waiters upon insolvency, was a sight to see. Such threadbare coats and trousers, such fusty [old-fashioned/out-of-date/stale and unclean smelling] gowns and shawls, such squashed hatsand bonnets, such boots and shoes, such umbrellas and walking-sticks, never were seen in Rag Fair [a.k.a. Petticoat-lane: famous for its market of second-hand clothes from those of the richest in the land to the tattered garments of poverty]. All of them wore the cast-off clothes of other men and women, were made up of patches and pieces of other people's individuality, and had no sartorial existence of their own proper".

Arthur asks one of these passersby if he knows a Miss Dorrit. He replies that he knows two and directs Arthur to the house of Amy's uncle; he is also kind enough to deliver a message to Amy telling her that Arthur is at her uncles waiting for her.

While there, Amy's uncle speaks about Amy: "'Amy, Mr. Clennam. What do you think of her?' 'I am much impressed, Mr. Dorrit, by all that I have seen of her and thought of her.' 'My brother would have been quite lost without Amy ... She is a very good girl ... She does her duty'". Arthur feels that Amy is appreciated, but also that she is taken for granted and even taken advantage of.

After Amy arrives, Arthur invites her for a walk in order to continue their conversation from the previous evening. We are treated to an interesting glimpse of the differing perspectives of Amy and Arthur. He mentions the cramped, dirty little room where he lodged the previous evening and she exclaims "a majestic hotel ... a superb establishment".

The conversation turns to Mr. Dorrit as Arthur asks if he ever mentioned or knew Arthur's family in the past. Amy states "no" and although Arthur has no reason to doubt her, he thinks that perhaps she simply doesn't know. He takes a different approach and asks after he fathers creditors, saying he would like to meet with them. Many people used to think once of getting my poor father out, but you don't know how hopeless it is. She forgot to be shy at the moment, in honestly warning him away from the sunken wreck he had a dream of raising". Personally, I think Arthur may have some interest in freeing her father, but he's more interested in finding out if there is some link between his parent's past and that of Mr. Dorrit.

As the chapter closes, we meet Maggie. She calls Amy "Little Mother". Maggy is twenty-eight, but is forever a child with the mental capacity of a ten year old due to a severe fever she had as a child. Amy is extremely fond of her and seems like a proud parent as she explains Maggy's situation to Arthur and notes that she "does support herself [financially]".

Chapter 10 - Containing the Whole Science of Government-- 01 Aug 2004

This has to be my favorite chapter so far. It's basically divided into three parts. The first part of the chapter is a hilarious satire on Victorian-era government. The Circumlocution Office is described as the department of the government which is the perfect example of "HOW NOT TO DO IT". I would attempt a quote, but to do it justice, I'd end up quoting the first three pages of the chapter verbatim. It's definitely worth a read.

Next we have Arthur trying (to little avail) to track down the reason that Mr. Dorrit is in debtors prison. He tracks down the Barnacles (who in the previous chapter Amy had mentioned as being involved somehow). He is sent from one office to another and back again. They basically tell him that they are going to make it as difficult as possible to find the information he wants, and that he need not feel bad when he decides to give it up.

After a frustrating day as he is on his way out of the Circumlocution Office, he bumps into an angry Mr. Meagles. You remember Mr. Meagles from chapter 2 - Fellow Travelers. After a brief hello we discover the reason for his ill humor: Daniel Doyce. Doyce is a mild-mannered man who "is a smith and engineer". Mr. Doyce had invented something many years previous, and has spent many years trying to deal with the Circumlocution Office in getting his invention recognized. Mr. Meagles thinks that Daniel is some sort of traitor who has nothing better to do with his time than aggravate the government officials (who are obviously too busy with other important matters to listen to him)! Mr. Doyce is fed up with being ill-treated and talks about the red tape as the reason that so many inventors take their inventions elsewhere. "When they take their inventions into foreign countries, that's quite different. And that's the reason why so many go there ... Have you ever heard of any projector or inventor who failed to find it [The Government] all but inaccessible, and whom it did not discourage and ill-treat ... Have you ever known it to be beforehand in the adoption of any useful thing? Ever known it to set an example of any useful kind?", to which they unanimously answer "Never".

Chapter 11 - Let Loose-- 01 Aug 2004

A man is walking along in the weather, heading towards a city. He's obviously not happy about his situation:

'To the devil with this plain that has no end! To the devil with these questions that cut like knives! To the devil with this dismal darkness, wrapping itself about one with a chill! I hate you!'

And he would have visited his hatred upon it all with the scowl he threw about him, if he could ... But the teeth he set at the town, and the hand he shook at the town, brought the town no nearer.

Who can this be? In retrospect, the chapter title gives it away. This is none other than Monsieur Rigaud, who, you'll recall, was introduced to us in the first chapter. Apparently the reason he was in the prison was not because he was in debt to anyone, but for his own safekeeping until his trial. Says the tavern owner where he's staying: "Monsieur, the law could not prove it against him to its satisfaction. So the law says. Nevertheless, all the world knows he did it. The people knew it so well, that they tried to tear him to pieces". And if that isn't quite clear enough, she spells out exactly what she thinks of this man:
I tell you this, my friend, that there are people (men and women both, unfortunately) who have no good in them -- none. That there are people whom it is necessary to detest without compromise. That there are people who must be dealt with as enemies of the human race. That there are people who have no human heart, and who must be crushed like savage beasts and cleared out of the way.
When he is led to his room (obviously he is in disguise - going under a false name: Lagnier), he has a bed-mate, whom is none other than his old cell-mate John Baptist Cavalletto! Yes, true, this is a bit far-fetched, but it helps the story along and gives Rigaud a chance to explain to the audience his intentions. He's going to show society how ill-treated he has been and how wrong they are! "I am a man whom society has deeply wronged ... But society shall pay for it".

But just how did Rigaud escape his fate? Was there insufficient evidence as the landlady suggests? Does he have political connections? Bribery perhaps? Obviously he will play a larger role as the story unfolds. Maybe we have gotten a glimpse of the antagonist.

Chapter 12 - Bleeding Heart Yard-- 01 Aug 2004

Here we continue our story with Arthur walking along with Mr. Meagles and Mr. Doyce. They end up in a run down part of town called "Bleeding Heart Yard". Arthur is here to track down Mr. Plornish, who, according to Little Dorrit, is how she came to be employed by his mother. Mr. Doyce lives here as well, and he and Mr. Meagles continue on to Doyce's factory while Arthur pays a visit to the Plornish household.

As an aside, two theories are put forth as to how the yard got it's name. Most of the men believe a murder occurred here some time in the past and take a more literal meaning to the name. Most of the women favor a story about a young lady who was locked away because she refused her arranged marriage since she was in love with another, and so died a hart broken women.

Back to the plot. Basically Arthur discovers that Amy came to the Plornish house and asked that they place an advertisement about her availability as a seamstress at Mr. Plornish's place of employment. Mr. Plornish had previously been in the Marshalsea prison and had become acquainted with Amy and her father: "'It was her father that I got acquainted with first. And through getting acquainted with him, you see -- why -- I got acquainted with her,' said Plornish tautologically [repetition of same sense in different words]".

The only other plot point of note in the chapter is that Arthur gives Mr. Plornish some money and asks him to settle the debt with Amy's brother so that he can get out of prison. He's obviously quite stricken with the young lass...

Chapter 13 - Patriarchal-- 01 Aug 2004

In this chapter, we have Arthur paying a visit to the landlord of Bleeding Heart Yard. The real reason for his visit, however, is not to interrogate Mr. Casby (the landlord), but rather to meet his old childhood sweetheart, Flora (thus we also get the title; Mr. Casby is described in great detail as having a very patriarchal demeanor). A little guilty of his visit (due to his newfound affection for Little Dorrit), he tries to justify his visit by meeting with Mr. Casby first.

For we all know how we all deceive ourselves -- this is to say, how people in general, our profounder selves excepted, deceive themselves -- as to motives of action.
While Mr. Casby is fetching Flora, a small wheezing man, with beady eyes, scrubby chin, wiry black hair, and a dingy complexion arrives and introduces himself as Mr. Pancks - the man who does the work of collecting the rents for Mr. Casby. From the long introduction and great description, I feel that we might see more of Mr. Pancks as the story rolls on.

Flora arrives and completely shatters Arthur's childhood remembrances of her. She talks incessantly, has no self-esteem, and seems to be still stuck in her childhood ways. No doubt secretly Arthur is relieved, since there is no more any Flora to get between him and Little Dorrit. "thus making a moral mermaid of herself, which her once boy-lover contemplated with feelings wherein his sense of the sorrowful and his sense of the comical were curiously blended".

After leaving (or escaping) the house, he walks partway home with Mr. Pancks who says that his life consists of his work and that's all there is and all there should be. A perfectly happy little automaton. Arthur then parts ways and runs into a Frenchman who has been injured. As Arthur speaks French, he helps the man out and takes him to a surgeon. There are several wonderful quotes throughout the rest of this chapter that I simply must quote:

'It's a serious injury, I suppose?' said Clennam.

'Ye-es', replied the surgeon, with the thoughtful pleasure of an artist contemplating the work upon his easel. '... There's a compound fracture above the knee, and a dislocation below. They are both of a beautiful kind.'

And here we get a glimpse into the true nature of Arthur Clennam:
He was a dreamer in such wise, because he was a man who had, deep-rooted in his nature, a belief in all the gentle and good things his life had been without. Bred in meanness and hard dealing, this had rescued him to be a man of honourable mind and open hand. Bred in coldness and severity, this had rescued him to have a warm and sympathetic heart. Bred in a creed too darkly audacious to pursue, through its process of reserving the making of man in the image of his Creator to the making of his Creator in the image of an erring man, this had rescued him to judge not, and in humility to be merciful, and have hope and charity.
And finally, a lovely metaphor on our frail mortality:
He looked at the fire from which the blaze departed, from which the after-glow subsided, in which the ashes turned grey, from which they dropped to dust, and thought, 'How soon I too shall pass through such changes, and be gone!'
Chapter 14 - Little Dorrit's Party-- 01 Aug 2004

In all actuality, it's not Little Dorrit's party so much as Little Dorrit has told her father that she had a party to attend so that she could leave the compound and go visit Arthur. Her purpose? "My brother is at large ... I am not to know whose generosity released him -- am never to ask, and am never to be told, and am never to thank that gentleman with all my grateful heart!".

She arrived at midnight with Maggy in tow; she generously accepted the food and comfort offered (although in true Little Dorrit fashion she tucked away the food 'for later'; i.e. to give to her father). When invited to spend the night she says that she has other arrangements. Arthur "had no suspicion that they ran any risk of being houseless until morning; had no idea of the truth until long, long afterwards". Where did they stay? They simply wandered the streets all night long in the cold weather; catch short naps here and there in various alleyways. Why didn't she accept Arthur's hospitality? She's too timid and frightened to accept; hopefully further interaction with Arthur will help ease her out of her 'shell'.

This was Little Dorrit's party. The shame, desertion, wretchedness, and exposure of the great capital; the wet, the cold, the slow hours, and the swift clouds of the dismal night. This was the party from which Little Dorrit went home, jaded, in the first grey mist of a rainy morning.
Chapter 15 - Mrs Flintwinch has another Dream-- 01 Aug 2004

After a hiatus of several chapters, we come back to the lonely house with Mrs. Flintwinch, Jeremiah, and Arthur's mother. Dickens makes reference in a very poetic way about how this house is a central crux of this story:

Time shall show us. The post of honour and the post of shame, the general's station and the drummer's, a peer's statue in Westminster Abbey and a seaman's hammock in the bosom of the deep, the mitre [joint that forms a corner; usually both sides are bevelled at a 45-degree angle to form a 90-degree corner] and the workhouse, the woolsack and the gallows, the throne and the guillotine -- the travellers to all are on the great high road, but it has wonderful divergencies, and only Time shall show us whither each traveller is bound.
So what was Mrs. Flintwinch's dream? She dreamed that she snuck up to the bedroom of Mrs. Clennam (you know - Arthur's mother) and heard an argument between her and Mr. Affrey (i.e. Jeremiah, i.e. Mrs. Flintwinch's husband). Jeremiah was saying "None of your nonsense with me ... I won't take it from you". The cause of the argument? Mr. Affrey is upset "because you [Mrs. Clennam] hadn't cleared his father to him, and you ought to have done it ... he was an undecided, irresolute chap, who had everything but his orphan life scared out of him when he was young ... I suppose you are astonished that I should consider it worth my while to have justice done to Arthur's father".

Why they were arguing thus, and what exactly Mrs. Flintwinch is holding back from Arthur is not made clear. No doubt it will be revealed as the story progresses.

Chapter 16 - Nobody's Weakness-- 01 Aug 2004

Arthur decides to renew his acquaintance with the Meagles family. As he is walking towards his destination, "there was the subject seldom absent from his mind, the question, what he was to do henceforth in life". As he is walking and thinking, he runs into Mr. Doyce - you remember - the inventor. They have a short talk and Arthur learns that Mr. Doyce is a great engineer but a poor businessman and is looking for a new partner. What a great stroke of coincidence! Obviously, Arthur makes up his mind to seek for this position from Mr. Meagles (who apparently is in the position to grant it - although I'm fuzzy on why that is so).

Upon arriving, Arthur makes small-talk with Mr. Meagles, who goes on at some length showing off his eclectic collection gathered from his travels around the world. After some time, a new thought takes hold of Arthur. He finds that he rather likes Pet (Mr. Meagles daughter - the mistress of Tattycoram, whom we met briefly in chapter 2). The thought? "Whether he should allow himself to fall in love with Pet?" After some internal debate (which included things such as he being twice her age, she being so young and vibrant and helpless, her father taking a liking to Arthur, etc..), he concludes "that we would not allow himself to fall in love with Pet".

We get a small detour in the middle of the chapter when we learn that Tattycoram has met with Miss Wade (also from Chapter 2), who has been comforting her and telling her she's welcome to visit any time she feels put out - which apparently is quite often. The Meagles treat her like a small child. I believe this story will evolve further; Tattycoram and Miss Wade will have some part to play in the larger story.

Finally after dinner as he is preparing to lie down for the night, Arthur gets around to asking Mr. Meagles about the position with Mr. Doyce. "I have ... disembarrassed myself of an occupation ... [and] wish to devote myself and what means I have, to another pursuit". He thus places himself in the hands of Mr. Meagles, who agrees to take his proposition under consideration.

As the chapter closes, Arthur reflects that "he was glad he had resolved not to fall in love with Pet", but "Why should he be vexed or sore at heart ... And he thought ... that it might be better to flow away monotonously, like the river, and to compound for its insensibility to happiness with its insensibility to pain". Perhaps he's feeling torn between Pet and Little Dorrit?

Chapter 17 - Nobody's Rival-- 01 Aug 2004

Arthur gets up and goes for a walk. He meets a man while on a ferry crossing that he decides he doesn't like. Something in his disposition seems insensitive or uncaring, with an air of cruelty. They didn't speak, and Arthur goes back to Mr. Meagles house. There he meets none other than the gentleman from the ferry! His name is Henry Gowan, and it appears that he is a suitor to Pet. He's also a distant Barnacle relation, and a failed painter.

"Clennam thought, that if he had not made that decided resolution to avoid falling in love with Pet, he would have taken a dislike to this Henry Gowan". At one point there is a humorous exchange: "'Mrs Gowan is well, Henry?', said Mrs Meagles. (Clennam became attentive.) 'My mother is quite well, thank you.' (Clennam became inattentive.)". Arthur isn't alone. Although not obvious in their distaste for Henry, both Mr. and Mrs. Meagles seem to have a slight dislike for the man.

At dinner that evening, who should arrive but Young Barnacle. The same Barnacle from whom Arthur attempted to gather information about Little Dorrit's father. Upon seeing Arthur, Mr. Barnacle is most taken back and explains "'Ecod, sir', returned Young Barnacle, 'he said he wanted to know, you know! Pervaded our Department -- without an appointment -- and said he wanted to know!'"

The chapter closes with another reference to Arthur and his struggle over Pet: "The rain fell heavily, drearily. It was a night of tears. If Clennam had not decided against falling in love with Pet; if he had had the weakness to do it; if he had, little by little, persuaded himself to set all the earnestness of his nature, all the might of his hope, and all the wealth of his matured character, on that cast; if he had done this and found that all was lost; he would have been, that night, unutterably miserable. As it was -- As it was, the rain fell heavily, drearily".

Chapter 18 - Little Dorrit's Lover-- 01 Aug 2004

Don't worry - it's not what you think. This chapter tells the story of the son of the turnkey at the Marshalsea prison who is about the same age as Amy (one year older, in point of fact), and has grown up with her. When they were small he would pretend to lock her up in a cell and only let her out for real kisses.

He is described as small of stature, having weak legs, weak light hair and a weak eye (with one larger than the other). He was also gentle, poetical, and faithful. We open the chapter with John imagining that his tombstone will bear the following inscription:

Sacred to the Memory of JOHN CHIVERY, Sixty years Turnkey, and fifty years Head Turnkey, Of the neighbouring Marshalsea, Who departed this life, universally respected, on the thirty-first of December, One thousand eight hundred and eighty-six, Aged eighty-three years. Also of his truly beloved and truly loving wife, AMY, whose maiden name was DORRIT, who survived his loss not quite forty-eight hours, And who breathed her last in the Marshalsea aforesaid. There she was born, There she lived, There she died.

Now that he's grown up, he takes it into his head to ask Little Dorrit to be his wife. After obtaining the permission of Amy's father, he goes in search of his love and finds her alone on a bridge, looking out to sea. His timing couldn't be worse, of course; Amy is smitten by Arthur (although this is not said outright in the book it has become fairly obvious). John comes up and asks, "Miss Amy ... I have had for a long time -- ages they seem to me -- Revolving ages -- a heart-cherished wish to say something to you. May I say it?", to which Amy responds "If you please ... since you are so considerate to ask me whether you shall say any more -- if you please, no". And that's that. She sends him on his way, and continues to stare out to sea.

John revises his tombstone inscription thus:

Here lie the mortal remains of JOHN CHIVERY, Never anything worth mentioning, Who died about the end of the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six, Of a broken heart, Requesting with his last breath that the word AMY might be inscribed over his ashes, Which was accordingly directed to be done, By his afflicted Parents.
Chapter 19 - The Father of the Marshalsea in Two or Three Relations-- 01 Aug 2004

Here we see how Amy's father feels about his brother (William) - very condescending. He treats him as someone who has no will or goals of his own, is very frail and couldn't do without the help of "The Father". William, I believe, has taken this to heart and so does act this way.

On their walk, Mr Dorrit meets with the turnkey (Frederick) who is a bit cool in his attitude due to the fact that Amy just spurned his son's advance.

When Amy comes by after the walk, we see how frail Mr. Dorrit is. Without his reputation inside the walls of the prison he has nothing. "Thus, now boasting, now despairing, in either fit a captive with the jail-rot upon him, and the impurity of his prison worn into the grain of his soul, he revealed his degenerate state to his affectionate child. No one else ever beheld him in the details of his humiliation".

Dutifully does Little Dorrit attend her father until he is calm, never receiving (or expecting) thanks.

Chapter 20 - Moving in Society-- 01 Aug 2004

This chapter gives us some insight into Amy's sister. We follow Amy to the theater where her sister works. Upon meeting Amy wants to know where her sister got such a nice bracelet. Rather than just tell her, she leads her to the house of a wealthy woman.

Along the way she says something that hints to me that things used to be different with the Dorrit's position in society: "I was not born where you were, you know". "I hope and I think you would have seen this differently, if you had known a little more of Society".

Through the entire chapter she is condescending to Amy.

Upon meeting the wealthy woman -- a Mrs. Merdle (who, we will learn in a few chapters has considerable influence in Society (including the Barnacles), -- we learn that Amy's sister is taking a bribe from the woman in order that she tell the woman's son no to a marriage proposal. The woman thinks that the Dorrit's social station must be scorned. "We should find ourselves compelled to look down with contempt, and from which (socially speaking) we should feel obliged to recoil with abhorrence".

Amy is sorry for her sister for stooping to taking money (much as she feels shame at her father begging). To which her sister vehemently responds "Would you let a woman like this, whom you could see, if you had any experience of anything, to be as false and insolent as a woman can be -- would you let her put her foot upon your family, and thank her for it? 'No, Fanny, I am sure.' Then make her pay for it, you mean little thing. What else can you make her do? Make her pay for it, you stupid child; and do your family some credit with the money!".

Chapter 21 - Mr Merdle's Complaint-- 01 Aug 2004

Mr. Merdle is obviously an immensely wealthy and influential man. Everything he does is done for the good of Society. He doesn't seem to particularly enjoy his wealth, but he puts it to good use - buying his wife expensive items, and throwing lavish parties. "Society approving, Mr. Merdle was satisfied. He was the most disinterested of men, -- did everything for Society, and got as little for himself out of all his gain and case, as a man might. That is to say, it may be supposed that he got all he wanted, otherwise with unlimited wealth he would have got it. But his desire was to the utmost to satisfy Society (whatever that was), and take up all its drafts upon him for tribute ... In this same Society (if that were it which came to his dinners, and to Mrs. Merdle's receptions and concerts), he hardly seemed to enjoy himself much, and was mostly to be found against walls and behind doors".

There are several interesting points to note. First, he is the husband of Mrs. Merdle, who's son was involved with Amy's sister (as we just learned in the previous chapter). Second, he has ties to the Barnacle and Stiltstalking families. You will recall that the Barnacles are somehow involved with Amy's father and his being in debtors prison. The Stiltstalkings are another governmental family like the Barnacles. Mr. Merdle is going to be a key player as the story unfolds.

Oh, and just what is Mr. Merdle's complaint? "Mr. Merdle's complaint. Society and he had so much to do with one another in all things else, that it is hard to imagine his complaint, if he had one, being solely his own affair. Had he that deep-seated recondite [hidden from sight {concealed}; difficult or impossible for one of ordinary understanding or knowledge to comprehend {deep}; of, relating to, or dealing with something little known or obscure] complaint, and did any doctor find it out? Patience".

Chapter 22 - A Puzzle-- 01 Aug 2004

Mr. Clennam has taken to visiting the Marshalsea prison quite often. And although Amy's father doesn't show any outward sign of disfavor, he thinks that Arthur isn't nearly so bright as he looks. Of course, it all boils down to the fact that Arthur is no longer handing out money every time Amy's father asks. "An impression of disappointment, occasioned by the discovery that Mr. Clennam scarcely possessed that delicacy for which, in the confidence of his nature, he had been inclined to give him credit, began to darken the fatherly mind in connection with that gentleman ... Howbeit, the father did not fail in any outward show of politeness".

One day as he's leaving the prison after a visit, he is approached by the turnkey, Mr. Chivery. Chivery asks Arthur if he will stop by his house and have a chat with his wife. He says there's an issue that perhaps he can be of some help to them with. Since it appeared to pertain to Little Dorrit, Arthur agrees.

Upon arrival, Arthur introduces himself to Mrs. Chivery. She immediately takes Arthur out back to have a look at their son John. He is sitting in the back, staring at nothing, looking very downtrodden. You will recall that John is the man who tried to propose to Amy on the bridge but was rebuffed by her. Suddenly Mr. Chivery's request for a visit to his home by Arthur becomes clear. "'Sir,' said she in continuation, 'you are acquainted with the family, and have interested yourself with the family, and are influential with the family. If you can promote views calculated to make two young people happy, let me, for Our John's sake, and for both their sakes, implore you so to do!'".

Naturally Arthur is taken aback by this. He has never seen this side to Little Dorrit and can't believe it. He asks for clarification of what Mrs. Chivery thinks happened. John asked Amy for her hand in marriage and Amy turned him down saying "No John, I cannot have you, I cannot have any husband, it is not my intentions ever to become a wife, it is my intentions to be always a sacrifice". To which Mrs. Chivery has the following very interesting remark:

This is the way in which she is doomed to be a constant slave to them that are not worthy that a constant slave she unto them should be.
Well said! I couldn't agree more. Now whether or not John is the right man for Amy is another matter entirely, but she is making herself a slave to her unworthy family members. Arthur comforts Mrs. Chivery by telling her he will do all he can to promote Amy's happiness at all times.

One final episode occurred during this chapter. Arthur meets Amy on a bridge and while they are talking, Maggy comes up and delivers a letter from Amy's father in which he is begging for money. As soon as Amy sees this she immediately makes an excuse and runs home. Something about this has disturbed her more than usual. Arthur muses "was there someone [for Amy] in the unattainable distance"?

Chapter 23 - Machinery in Motion-- 01 Aug 2004

Three things of note occur in this chapter.

First, as the title alludes to, we finally come back to the business proposition that Arthur entertained several chapters ago. Mr. Meagles comes to him and says that Mr. Doyce (the inventor) would like Arthur to look over his book and decide if he would be inclined to make an offer to go into partnership with him. Arthur does look over the books and agrees to become a 50/50 partner. Arthur will keep the books and hold up the businesses end while Mr. Doyce will do the actual work (whatever that is; it's not quite made clear, other than there is a factory with lots of metalwork going on).

Next, while Arthur is busy at work keeping the books at the factory, he is paid a visit by Flora (his one-time girlfriend). She goes on in her almost incomprehensible babble for several pages about various trivial matters. Here's a sample:

'One last remark,' resumed Flora, 'I was going to say I wish to make one last explanation I wish to offer, Mr F.'s Aunt and myself would not have intruded on business hours Mr F. having been in business and though the wine trade still business is equally business call it what you will and business habits are just the same as witness Mr F. himself who had his slippers always on the mat at ten minutes before six in the afternoon and his boots inside the fender at ten minutes before eight in the morning to the moment in all weathers light or dark -- would not therefore have intruded without a motive which being kindly meant it may be hoped will be kindly taken Arthur, Mr Clennam far more proper, even Doyce and Clennam probably more business-like.'
"Even Flora's commas seemed to have fled on this occasion; she was so much more disjointed and voluble than in the preceding interview". After a few more pages we finally get to the point: Flora is asking if she should employ Little Dorrit as a seamstress. Apparently Arthur's mother had mentioned her to Flora's father in passing. "I think, Flora ... that the employment you can give Little Dorrit, and the kindness you can show her -- ... will be a great assistance and support to her".

Lastly, after Flora and company leave (her father and Mr F's Aunt and her father's assistant Mr. Pancks were also present), Mr. Pancks comes back to inquire further about the Dorrit family. Rightly curious, Arthur asks him why. To which Pancks answers, "Desiring to server young person, name of Dorrit ... Better admit motive to be good". Apparently believing him, Arthur tells him what he knows of the Dorrit family and asks that Mr. Pancks return the favor if he should find out any additional details. Mr. Pancks agrees to do this.

Chapter 24 - Fortune-Telling-- 01 Aug 2004

Mr. Plornish is approached by Flora and asked if he will invite Little Dorrit over to see Flora the next morning to do some needlework. He does so, and the next morning Amy is waiting in Flora's sitting room, after being told to make herself at home. "[She] felt at a loss how to do it; so she was still sitting hear the door with her bonnet on, when Flora came in in a hurry half an hour afterwards". She immediately begins talking at a frantic pace, takes off Amy's bonnet and "dashed at the breakfast-table full of business, and plunged over head and ears into loquacity [the quality or state of being very talkative]".

After going on for a bit she excuses herself to take breakfast to Mr. F's Aunt. "She disappeared, leaving Little Dorrit [and the reader] to ponder over the meaning of her scattered words". "'... Arthur, have you known him long?' As soon as Little Dorrit comprehended that she had been asked this question -- for which time was necessary, the galloping pace of her new patroness having left her far behind -- she answered that she had known Mr. Clennam ever since his return". Indeed - it makes my head spin reading Flora's dialog, but at the same time it's very humorous and engaging.

After several pages we find that Flora has told of how she and Arthur were engaged at one point, how it didn't work out, how Arthur went to China, how Flora got married to Mr. F. How Mr. F had died, and how Arthur had returned. "'Ask me not ... if I love him still or if he still loves me or what the end is to be or when, ...' There is not much doubt that when she worked herself into full mermaid condition, she did actually believe whatever she said in it".

After a time, even Flora ran out of words and asked Little Dorrit about herself. "[Amy] condensed the narrative of her life into a few scanty words about herself and a glowing eulogy upon her father". A very stark contrast. And both of them interested in Arthur.

After dinner as Little Dorrit is alone working on her needlework, a strange interview takes place. Mr. Pancks comes in and says "I do a little in the other way, sometimes; privately, very privately, Miss Dorrit ...I am a fortune-teller." He takes her palm, traces the lines and then begins to tell her of her life's story, her family, everything about her. He ends by saying "If this isn't me in the corner here! What do I want here? What's behind me?" What indeed. Why he would do this we (and Little Dorrit) are left wondering, but he does promise her to tell her more, but she must not let on that this interview has taken place. "If Little Dorrit were beyond measure perplexed by this curious conduct on the part of her new acquaintance ... her perplexity was not diminished by ensuing circumstances. ... [Mr. Pancks] began to pervade her daily life. She saw him in the street, constantly." It goes on to say she sees him in the street, in Arthur's house, in Flora's house, and even in the prison.

The chapter closes when Little Dorrit tells Maggy a story about a beautiful princess and a poor cottage girl who is very lonely and sad and takes her sadness with her to the grave.

Chapter 25 - Conspirators and Others-- 01 Aug 2004

Mr. Pancks is becoming more interesting as the book progresses. Here we find that he rents a small room and will occasionally have dinner or tea with his landlords. Lately after he ends his day of work for The Patriarch collecting rents, he immediately goes to work on other endeavors - no doubt his "fortune telling" activities. He has befriended John Chivery (you remember the boy that Little Dorrit crushed by turning down his advances). He has got John doing strange and mysterious activities, and pays Mrs. Chivery for John's time. He even goes so far as to invite John to dinner! "That Mr. Pancks should be moved to invite any one to dinner at Pentonville, was an unprecedented fact in his calendar".

Here's a nice quote about Mr. Chivery (the turnkey and John's father):

He kept his mouth as he kept the Marshalsea door. He never opened it without occasion. When it was necessary to let anything out, he opened it a little way, held it open just as long as sufficed for the purpose, and locked it again.

At dinner, John professes his love to Miss Dorrit. "He only hoped he did what was right, and what showed how entirely he was devoted to Miss Dorrit". Perhaps there is some pretense to the dinner we are not aware of yet? Mr. Rugg (the landlord of Mr. Pancks, and the one serving dinner) makes a nice remark that I simply must quote: "I hope you have brought your appetite with you, and intend to play a good knife and fork". After dinner we get down to business. "The ensuing business proceedings were brief but curious, and rather in the nature of a conspiracy". Mr. Pancks takes out his notebook, writes down several things on pieces of paper, and hands the papers out to each of the three men (himself included). On the papers are written things such as "Churchyard in Bedfordshire", "Clerk at Durham", and "An Enquiry in York".

We learn of another friend that Mr. Pancks has made: The foreigner John Baptist Cavalletto, whom Arthur helped earlier on.

Chapter 26 - Nobody's State of Mind-- 01 Aug 2004

Arthur and Doyce discuss Mr. Gowan, and how they think him an ill match for Pet, but can do nothing about it and so resolve to speak no ill of him. Arthur says that they don't know she will be unhappy, to which this reply is given:

'We don't know,' returned his partner, 'that the earth will last another hundred years, but we think it highly probable.'

The next day Gowan pays a visit to Arthur and asks him to have dinner at his mothers house. "In nobody's state of mind, there was nothing Clennam would have desired less, or would have been more at a loss how to avoid". As Arthur arrives at Mrs. Gowan's home he takes note of the temporary gypsy air of the place, and notices that the temperament of many of the inhabitants is less than hospitable.

Some of these Bohemians were of an irritable temperament, as constantly soured and vexed by two mental trials: the first, the consciousness that they had never got enough out of the public; the second, the consciousness that the public were admitted into the building. Under the latter great wrong, a few suffered dreadfully -- particularly on Sundays, when they had for some time expected the earth to open and swallow the public up; but which desirable event had not yet occurred, in consequence of some reprehensible laxity in the arrangements of the Universe.

Needless to say, dinner did not go well for Arthur. There was a Stiltstalking in attendance, who had nothing good to say and left dinner feeling cold and empty. Afterwards, Mrs. Gowan took Arthur aside to chat with him. She asked about the Meagles (Pet's parents), and was completely convinced that even though Mr. Meagles seemed unhappy with Henry Gowan's pursuit of his daughter, he was doing nothing more than playing hard to get. "I know such people will do anything for the honour of such an alliance". Arthur strenuously denied this, but it was like water off a ducks back. Mrs. Gowan couldn't conceive of anyone not wanting to be with her son.

Chapter 27 - Five-and-Twenty-- 01 Aug 2004

As Arthur muses on the reasons for Mr. Panck's interest in Little Dorrit and wonders if there might be some connection to his fathers dying statement about a terrible wrong, he went to visit Mr. Meagles, who "was in an excited state walking up and down his room". It turns out that Tattycoram (their daughters mistress) had left them in the night.

Apparently Tattycoram had had an argument with the family in which she felt she had been ill-used. As was customary, Mr. Meagles told her to count to twenty five. She wouldn't do it and went to her room (obviously sneaking out later on). In trying to justify his agitated state to Arthur, Mr. Meagles has this to say:

I admit as a practical man, and I am sure Mother would admit as a practical woman, that we do, in families, magnify our troubles and make mountains of our molehills in a way that is calculated to be rather trying to people who look on -- to mere outsiders, you know.

He thinks that Tattycoram might have went to stay with Miss Wade. You'll recall that she was on the ship in chapter 2, and showed up again in chapter 16, where we learned that she had been meeting with Tatty and told her she should come to visit any time she felt put out by the Meagles. Mr. Meagles suggests this as an obviously place to begin their inquiry.

After much searching, they find the residence of Miss Wade, and sure enough, Tattycoram is there. Miss Wade treats them with cool disdain, lets them talk to Harriet (which is apparently Tatty's real name), and then asks them to leave. As Arthur turns to leave, he notes that she addresses him "with the same external composure and in the same level voice, but with a smile that is only seen on cruel faces: a very faint smile, lifting the nostril, scarcely touching the lips, and not breaking away gradually, but instantly dismissed when done with".

Is this the last we shall see Miss Wade and Tattycoram, or will they show up again and some inopportune moment? I think the latter, but only time will tell. Interesting contrasts begin to emerge between Little Dorrit and Miss Wade. They have both been prisoners of one kind or another; Amy a literal prisoner of the Marshalsea prison, and Miss Wade a prisoner of her bitterness about being an orphan like Tattycoram. However, unlike Amy who is kind and passionate to all around her, and very willing to accept help when offered, Wade is cruel and bitter, believing that any kindness done to her is done out of condescension.

Chapter 28 - Nobody's Disappearance-- 01 Aug 2004

In this chapter, Arthur runs into Pet and she informs him that her marriage is going through, and to please think well of her. Inside, he is hurt, but he puts a good face on it. This also frees him up to pursue other relationships ... such as Amy?

There's one really great quote. It's long, but perfectly describes the calm and peaceful mood that is perhaps a metaphor of how Arthur feels now that he doesn't have to worry about loving Pet.

A tranquil summer sunset shone upon him as he approached the end of his walk, and passed through the meadows by the river side. He had that sense of peace, and of being lightened of a weight of care, which country quiet awakens in the breasts of dwellers in towns. Everything within his view was lovely and placid. The rich foliage of the trees, the luxuriant grass diversified with wild flowers, the little green islands in the river, the beds of rushes, the water lilies floating on the surface of the stream, the distant voices in boats borne musically towards him on the ripple of the water and the evening air, were all expressive of rest. In the occasional leap of a fish, or dip of an oar, or twittering of a bird not yet at roost, or distant barking of a dog, or lowing of a cow -- in all such sounds, there was the prevailing breath of rest, which seemed to encompass him in every scent that sweetened the fragrant air. The long lines of red and gold in the sky, and the glorious track of the descending sun, were all divinely calm. Upon the purple tree-tops far away, and on the green height near at hand up which the shades were slowly creeping, there was an equal hush. Between the real landscape and its shadow in the water, there was no division; both were so untroubled and clear, and, while so fraught with solemn mystery of life and death, so hopefully reassuring to the gazer's soothed heart, because so tenderly and mercifully beautiful.
Chapter 29 - Mrs Flintwinch goes on Dreaming-- 01 Aug 2004

An observation about Mr Flintwinch & Mrs Clenham: "... and it appeared to Affery, who was always groping about, listening and watching, that the two clever ones were making money". How are they making money? Their business has been slowly declining for years. What's changed?

The chapter is told from Mrs Flintwinch's point of view. We learn that Pancks has been paying Mrs Clenham frequent visits, and she is very grumpy about it. "'Thank you. Good evening.' The dismissal, and its accompanying finger pointed straight at the door, was so curt and direct that Mr Pancks did not see his way to prolong his visit".

After escorting Pancks outside Mrs Flintwinch gets locked out of the house late at night.

Mistress Affery, whose fear of thunder and lightning was only to be equalled by her dread of the haunted house with a premature and preternatural darkness in it, stood undecided whether to go in or not, until the question was settled for her by the door blowing upon her in a violent gust of wind and shutting her out. 'What's to be done now, what's to be done now!' cried Mistress Affery, wringing her hands in this last uneasy dream of all; 'when she's all alone by herself inside, and can no more come down to open it than the churchyard dead themselves!'

In this dilemma, Mistress Affery, with her apron as a hood to keep the rain off, ran crying up and down the solitary paved enclosure several times. Why she should then stoop down and look in at the key hold of the door as if an eye would open it, it would be difficult to say but it is none the less what most people would have done in the same situation, and it is what she did.

Fortunately a late caller offers to help if she will arrange a meeting between him and Mrs Clenham. "Now, madam, frankly -- frankness is part of my character -- shall I open the door for you?". Of course she agrees, and the stranger climbs into a window and opens the door from the inside. What strange character just happens to be lurking about late at night waiting for an opportunity to enter someone's house?

Chapter 30 - The Word of a Gentleman-- 01 Aug 2004

Mr Blandois introduces himself to Mr Flintwinch as a gentleman from Paris. He produces a letter of recommendation which Flintwinch appears to trust. Consequently, Blandois is taken to a nearby inn to lodge for the night. It is here we are permitted to know who this truly is: "Mr Blandois waiting for his dinner, lolling on a window-seat with his knees drawn up, looked (for all the difference in the setting of the jewel) fearfully and wonderfully like a certain Monsieur Rigaud who had once so waited for his breakfast, lying on the stone ledge of the iron grating of a cell in a villainous dungeon at Marseilles."

Before parting for the inn, Mrs. Clenham and Mr Blandois have a conversation upon "D.N.F", which is inscribed on her pocket watch. She insists it means "do not forget" and goes on at great length to say that she doesn't forget. What is she supposed to remember? What dark secret lies behind those initials? It must tie into the Dorrits. Recall that Arthur was entrusted by his dying father to return this watch to his mother.

After meeting with Mrs Clenham he says "'Faith!' cried the visitor. 'If Mr Flintwinch would do me the favour to take me through the rooms on my way out, he could hardly oblige me more. An old house is a weakness with me. I have many weaknesses, but none greater. I love and study the picturesque in all its varieties." What does he seek? I don't trust him at all. As they tour the house he keeps looking at Mr Flintwinch and hardly notices the rooms (a fact which is not lost on Jeremiah).

Blandois treats Jeremiah to a drink at the inn and says he shall see him again. The next day we learn he has gone, but Jeremiah thinks that he will indeed show himself again.

Chapter 31 - Spirit-- 01 Aug 2004

Mr Plornish Sr: "This old man wears a hat, a thumbed and napless and yet an obdurate [Stubborn and unyielding; hard-hearted and without remorse] hat, which has never adapted itself to the shape of his poor head".

Little Dorrit is walking Mr Plornish Sr. to visit her father when she bumps into her sister who yells at her saying she is disgracing the family by associating with paupers . Amy defends herself by saying it's never wrong to help the unfortunate.

However, when her father sees Amy with Plornish, he cries out that he has now felt humiliation. He goes on at great length how he has bourne his many trials with patience, but never has he been brought to the depths of humiliation until now. Amy breaks down and begs forgiveness. All is forgiven and Plornish comes up to the room. Not soon after Arthur pays a visit as well and joins them for dinner.

During dinner Mr Dorrit seems to take obdurate :) pleasure in demeaning Mr Plornish. One has to wonder why. Perhaps Plornish is part of the reason for the fall of the Dorrit family. It would certainly seem so, given how Amy's sister and father both initially reacted.

Chapter 32 - More Fortune-Telling-- 01 Aug 2004

Arthur meets Amy in the Yard. She notes that he looks a bit sad and he confides in her that he thought that "I fancied I loved someone". He then goes on the point out how much older he is than Amy and how his extra years make him an ideal friend and advisor. "O! If he had known, if he had known! If he could have seen the dagger in his hand, and the cruel wounds it struck in the faithful bleeding breast of his Little Dorrit!".

He entreats Amy to visit him more often. He then asks her if there's any anxiety or sadness or secrets she feels she can entrust to him. If so he will endeavor to make it right. I get the feeling he's fishing for who she loves. He can tell she loves someone (although he's too blind to realize it's him), and she won't say. So he leaves the subject alone

As Arthur is about to take his leave, Mr. Pancks arrives and announces (as he often does): "Pancks the gipsy ... fortune-telling". He goes on and on about coming into his property, and finding out things, and hinting that Arthur is in on some conspiracy of which Amy is a part, and keeps exchanging quick glances with Arthur (glances which are not lost on Little Dorrit). Pancks ushers Arthur out of the room and introduces him to Mr. Rugg. Both Mr. Rugg and Mr. Pancks then each produce a bundle of papers. Arthur states "You have made a discovery". Pancks makes Arthur promise that he'll break the news to Amy, but not for a few days until everything is finalized.

What is it? The only hint we get is a final parting word from Mr. Pancks: "There sir! That's what you'll have to break to her. That man's your Father of the Marshalsea!". Something big. I can't wait to find out!

Chapter 33 - Mrs Merdle's Complaint-- 01 Aug 2004

Here we have Mrs Gowan's son Henry getting married [to Pet?]. Mrs Gowan's friend, Mrs Merdle is very opposed to the idea since [Pet?] is not of Society. That is, until she considers the financial aspects of the union, at which point she gives it her full blessing.

As to marriage on the part of a man, my dear, Society requires that he should retrieve his fortunes by marriage. Society requires that he should gain by marriage. Society requires that he should found a handsome establishment by marriage. Society does not see, otherwise, what he has to do with marriage
A side-note here. Earlier in the chapter it talks about how the Merdle's are newcomers to Society, and most members of Society would frown upon them were it not for their fabulous wealth. And Mr Merdle is constantly in a morose attitude and looks as if he doesn't want his wealth and feels as if he should be in prison: "He presented himself before the two ladies in the course of a dismal stroll through his mansion ... he came in, and stood looking out at a distant window, with his hands crossed under his uneasy coat-cuffs, clasping his wrists as if he were taking himself into custody". I get the feeling that perhaps Mr Merdle should be the one in the Marshalsea prison, and not Mr Dorrit.

He and his wife have an argument. She tells him that he isn't fit to present himself to Society in such a downcast manner, at which point he explodes and goes on about how he provides so much for Society through his wealth and that his wife is herself a gift to Society (because of her handsomely decorated bosom and costly apparel) from him. Or, in short: "You supply manner, and I supply money". To add support for her theory, she asks her son Mr Edmund Sparkler, what he thinks. He has "heard it noticed". To which Mrs Merdle says "'Why, no doubt everybody has heard it noticed!' Which in truth was no unreasonable inference; seeing that Mr Sparkler would probably be the last person, in any assemblage of the human species, to receive an impression from anything that passed in his presence". Ouch.

"...but say the Shop sits heavily on him. Say he carried the Shop about, on his back rather -- like Jew clothesmen with too much business", says Edmund. "'Which,' said Mrs Merdle ... 'is exactly my complaint'".

Chapter 34 - A Shoal of Barnacles-- 01 Aug 2004

Mr Gowan is having a conversation with Arthur about the wedding, as it draws near. Gowan remarks that he's disappointed. Disappointed that he may not be able to keep up the pretense of being interested in Art. Arthur tries his best not to dislike Henry Gowan, but finds that it is not an easy thing.

The wedding day finally arrives, and so do a good many Barnacles. From the head of the family on down to a few nobody's sprinkled in for good effect. The wedding happens, the couple leaves for Dover, and the Barnacles leave.

Chapter 35 - What was behind Mr Pancks on Little Dorrit's Hand-- 01 Aug 2004

The ball finally drops. Mr Pancks reveals all of his sleuthing to Arthur. Why did he wait so long? "So if the whole thing had broken down ... nobody but ourselves would have been cruelly disappointed, or a penny the worse". The big secret he's discovered, and has now gotten all legalized in stone so that it can't be revoked? "[Amy's] father was heir-at-law to a great estate that had long lain unknown of, unclaimed, and accumulating. His right was now clear, nothing interposed in his way, the Marshalsea gates stood open, the Marshalsea walls were down, a few flourishes of his pen, and he was extremely rich".

Arthur goes to Flora's house (where Little Dorrit is employed) and tells her the good news. I have come to tell you something ... Good Wonderful fortune! ... Dear Little Dorrit! Your father ... Your father can be free within this week. ... Your father will be free within a few hours ... Shall I tell you more? ... Your father will be no beggar when he is free. He will want for nothing. Shall I tell you more? ... He will be a rich man. He is a rich man ... you are all henceforth very wealthy". Amy is swooning, shaky, and cries "Father!" as she faints away. When she comes to, she insists that they immediately go to her father and relate the news.

After the initial shock wears off, Amy's father immediately declares that everyone who helped him shall be recompensed handsomely. "I will not go away from here in anybody's debt. All the people who have been -- ha -- well behaved towards myself and my family, shall be rewarded".

Chapter 36 - The Marshalsea becomes an Orphan-- 01 Aug 2004

Well I can't say that I'm too surprised, but (with the exception of Amy), the entire Dorrit family seems to have just done a 180° turn. They did make good on their promise to pay off all their debts (the book specifically mentions Arthur and several of the fellow collegians). But aside from that, they are looking down upon the other collegians with disdain ('how ever will they get along without me', remarks Mr Dorrit one more than one occasion), and are being downright rude to the turnkeys.

At the end, when they make their grand exit from the Yard, it's not until they get to the carriage that they realize they've forgotten Amy! She has fainted in the room and has to be carried out by Arthur. Her sister is aghast at the embarrassment, and her father seems none too pleased that Amy has marred his triumphant exit. With Amy quickly loaded into the cart, they drive away.