Charles Dickens.

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I WAS occupied with this story during many-
working hours of two years. I must have been
very ill employed if I could not leave its merits
and demerits, as a whgle, to express themselves on
its being ready as a whole. But, as it is not unrea-
sonable to suppose that I may have held its various
threads with a more continuous attention than any
one else can have given to them during its desultory
publication, it is not unreasonable to ask that the
weaving may be looked at in its completed state,
and with the pattern finished.

If I might offer any apology for so exaggerated a
fiction as the Barnacles and the Circumlocution
Office, I would seek it in the common experience
of an Englishman, without presuming to mention
the unimportant fact of my having done that vio-
lence to good manners in the days of a Russian
war, and of a Court of Inquiry at Chelsea. If I
might make so bold as to defend that extravagant
conception, Mr. Merdle, I would hint that it origi-
nated after the Railroad Share epoch, in the times
of a certain Irish bank, and of one or two other


equally laudable enterprises. If I were to plead
anything in mitigation of the preposterous fancy
that a bad design will sometimes claim to be a good
and an expressly religious design, it would be the
curious coincidence that such fancy was brought to
its climax in these pages in the days of the public
examination of late Directors of a Royal British
Bank. But, I submit myself to suffer judgment
to go by default on all these counts, if need be, and
to accept the assurance (on good authority) that
nothing like them was ever known in this land.

Some of my readers may have an interest in
being informed whether or no any portions of the
Marshalsea Prison are yet standing. I, myself, did
not know until I was approaching the end of this
story, when I went to look. I found the outer front
courtyard, often mentioned here, metamorphosed
into a butter shop ; and I then almost gave up
every brick of the jail for lost. Wandering, how-
ever, down a certain adjacent "Angel Court, leading
to Bermondsey," I came to " Marshalsea Place : " the
houses in which I recognized, not only as the great
block of the former prison, but as preserving the
rooms that arose in my mind's eye when I became
Little Dorrit's biographer. The smallest boy I ever
conversed with, carrying the largest baby I ever
saw, offered a supernaturally intelligent explanation
of the locality in its old uses, and was very nearly
correct. How tins young Kewton (for such I judge


him to be) came by this information, I don't know ;
he was a quarter of a century too young to know
anything about it of himself. I pointed to the
window of the room where Little Dorrit was born,
and where her father lived so long, and asked him
what was the name of the lodger who tenanted that
apartment at present ? He said, " Tom Pythick."
I asked him who was Tom Pythick ? and he said,
" Joe Pythick's uncle."

A little further on, I found the older and smaller
wall, which used to enclose the pent-up inner prison
where nobody was put, except for ceremony. But,
whosoever goes into Marshalsea Place, turning out
of Angel Court, leading to Bermondsey, will find
his feet on the very paving-stones of the extinct
Marshalsea Jail ; will see its narrow yard to the
right and to the left, very little altered, if at all,
except that the walls were lowered when the place
got free ; will look upon the rooms ,in which the
debtors lived ; and will stand among the crowding
ghosts of many miserable years.

In the Preface to Bleak House I remarked that I
had never had so many readers. In the Preface to
its next successor, Little Dorrit, I have still to
repeat the same words, deeply sensible of the affec-
tion and confidence that have grown up between us.



I. Sun and Shadow 1

II. Fellow-Travellers 22

III. Home 42

IV. Mrs. Flintwinch has a Dream 62

V. Family Affairs 67

VI. The Father of tlie Marshalsea 85

VII. The Child of the Marshalsea 101

VIII. The Lock 118

IX. Little Mother 135

X. Containing the whole Science of Government 156

XI. Let Loose 186

XII. Bleeding Heart Yard 202

XIII. Patriarchal 216

XIV. Little Dorrit's Party 250

XV. Mrs. Flintwinch has another Dream .... 269

XVI. Nobody's Weakness 283

XVII. Nobody's Rival 304

XVIIL Little Dorrit's Lover 319

XIX. The Father of the Marshalsea in two or three

Relations 334

XX. Moving in Society 351

XXL Mr. Merdle's Complaint 372

XXII. A Puzzle 385

XXIII. Machinery in Motion 399



Little Dorrit Frontispiece

Portrait of Dickexs {cet. 49). After a Drawing
ON Stone by R. J. Lane, from a Photograph

BY Watkins, 1861 Title Page

The Birds in the Cage 4

Under the Microscope 40

Mr. Fi.intwinch mediates as a Friend of the

Family 76

The Room with the Portrait 81

Little Mother 158

Making Off 200

Mr. F.'s Aunt is conducted into Retirement . . 239

Little Dorrit' s Party 262

Mr. and Mrs. Flintwinch 279

The Ferry 304

The Brothers 334

Miss Dorrit and Little Dorrit 355

Visitors to Mrs. Merdle 300

Visitors at the Works 404






Thirty years ago, Marseilles lay burning in the
sun one day.

A blazing sun upon a fierce August day was no
greater rarity in Southern France then than at any
other time, before or since. Everything in Mar-
seilles, and about Marseilles, had stared at the fervid
sky, and been stared at in return, until a staring
habit had become universal there. Strangers were
stared out of countenance by staring white houses,
staring white walls, staring white streets, staring
tracts of arid road, staring hills from which verdure
was burnt away. The only things to be seen not
fixedly staring and glaring were the vines drooping
under their load of grapes. These did occasionally
wink a little, as the hot air barely moved their faint

VOL. i.-l.


There was no wind to make a ripple ou the foul
water within the harbor, or on the beautiful sea
without. The line of demarcation between the two
colors, black and blue, showed the point which the
pure sea would not pass ; but it lay as quiet as the
abominable pool, with which it never mixed. Boats
without awnings were too hot to touch ; ships blis-
tered at their moorings ; the stones of the quays
had not cooled, night or day, for months. Hindoos,
Russians, Chinese, Spaniards, Portuguese, English-
men, Frenchmen, Genoese, Neapolitans, Venetians,
Greeks, Turks, descendants from all the builders of
Babel, come to trade at Marseilles, sought the shade
alike — taking refuge in any hiding-place from a
sea too intensely blue to be looked at, and a sky of
purple set with one great flaming jewel of fire.

The universal stare made the eyes ache. Towards
the distant line of Italian coast, indeed, it was a
little relieved by light clouds of mist, slowly ris-
ing from the evaporation of the sea ; but it softened
nowhere else. Far away the staring roads, deep in
dust, stared from the hillside, stared from the
hollow, stared from the interminable plain. Far
away the dusty vines overhanging wayside cottages,
and the monotonous wayside avenues of parched
trees without shade, drooped beneath the stare of
earth and sky. So did the horses with drowsy bells,
in long files of carts, creeping slowly towards the
interior; so did their recumbent drivers when they
were awake, which rarely happened: so did the
exhausted laborers in the fields. Everything that
lived or grew was oppressed by the glare ; except
the lizard, passing swiftly over rough stone walls,
and the cicala, chirping his dry hot chirp, like a


rattle. The very dust was scorched brown, and
something quivered in the atmosphere as if the air
itself were panting.

Blinds, shutters, curtains, awnings, were all closed
and drawn to keep out the stare. Grant it but a
chink or keyhole, and it shot in like a white-hot
arrow. The churches were the freest from it. To
come out of the twilight of pillars and arches —
dreamily dotted with winking lamps, dreamily peo-
pled with ugly old shadows piously dozing, spitting,
and begging — was to plunge into a fiery river, and
swim for life to the nearest strip of shade. So, with
people lounging and lying wherever shade was, with
but little hum of tongues or barking of dogs, with
occasional jangling of discordant church bells, and
rattling of vicious drums, Marseilles, a fact to be
strongly smelt and tasted, lay broiling iu the sun
one day.

In Marseilles that day there was a villanous
prison. In one of its chambers, so repulsive a place
that even the obtrusive stare blinked at it, and left
it to such refuse of reflected light as it could find
for itself, were two men. Besides the two men, a
notched and disfigured bench, immovable from the
wall, with a draught-board rudely hacked upon it
with a knife, a set of draughts made of old buttons
and soup bones, a set of dominos, two mats, and
two or three wine-bottles. That was all the cham-
ber held, exclusive of rats and other unseen vermin,
in addition to the seen vermin, the two men.

It received such light as it got through a grating
of iron bars, fashioned like a pretty large window,
by means of which it could be always inspected from
the gloomy staircase on which the grating gave.


There was a broad strong ledge of stone to this
grating, where the bottom of it was let into the
masonry, three or four feet above the ground. Upon
it, one of the two men lolled, half sitting and half
lying, with his knees drawn up, and his feet and
shoulders planted against the opposite sides of the
ajjerture. The bars were wide enough apart to
admit of his thrusting his arm through to the elbow ;
and so he held on negligently, for his greater ease.

A prison taint was on everything there. The im-
prisoned air, the imprisoned light, the imprisoned
damps, the imprisoned men, were all deteriorated
by confinement. As the captive men were faded
and haggard, so the iron was rusty, the stone was
slimy, the wood was rotten, the air was faint, the
light was dim. Like a well, like a vault, like a
tomb, the prison had no knowledge of the bright-
ness outside ; and would have kept its polluted
atmosphere intact in one of the spice islands of the
Indian Ocean.

The man Avho lay on the ledge of the grating was
even chilled. He jerked his great cloak more heavily
upon him by an impatient movement of one shoulder,
and growled, " To the devil with this Brigand of a
Sun that never shines in here ! "

He was waiting to be fed ; looking sideways
through the bars, that he might see the further
down the stairs, with much of the expression of a
wild beast in similar expectation. But his eyes,
too close together, were not so nobly set in his head
as those of the king of beasts are in his, and they
were sharp rather than bright — pointed weapons
with little surface to betray them. They had no
depth or change ; tliey glittered, and they opened


and shut. So far, and waiving their use to himself,
a clockmaker could have made a better pair. He
had a hook nose, handsome after its kind, but too
high between the eyes, by probably just as much as
his eyes were too near to one another. For the rest,
he was large and tall in frame, had thin lips where
his thick mustache showed them at all, and a
quantity of dry hair, of no definable color in its
shaggy state, but shot with red. The hand with
which he held the grating (seamed all over the back
with ugly scratches newly healed) was unusually
small and plump ; would have been unusually white,
but for the prison grime.

The other man was lying on the stone floor covered
with a coarse brown coat.

" Get up, pig ! " growled the first. " Don't sleep
when I am hungry."

" It's all one, master," said the pig in a submissive
manner, and not without cheerfulness ; *' I can wake
when I will, I can sleep when I will. It's all the

As he said it, he rose, shook himself, scratched
himself, tied his brown coat loosely round his neck
by the sleeves (he had previously used it as a cover-
let), and sat down upon the pavement yawning, with
his back against the wall opposite to the grating.

" Say what the hour is," grumbled the first man.

" The mid-day bells will ring — in forty minutes."
When he made the little pause, he had looked round
the prison-room, as if for certain information.

"You are a clock. How is it that you always
know ? "

"How can I say ? I always know what the hour
is, and where I am. I was brought in here at night,


and out of a boat, but I know where I am. See
here ! Marseilles Harbor ; " on his knees on the
pavement, mapping it all out with a swarthy fore-
finger ; " Toulon (where the galleys are), Spain over
there, Algiers over there. Creeping away to the
left here, Nice. Round by the Cornice to Genoa.
Genoa Mole and Harbor. Quarantine ground.
City there ; terrace gardens blushing with the bella
donna. Here, Porto Fino. Stand out for Leghorn.
Out again for Civita Vecchia, So away to — Hey !
there's no room for Naples ; " he had got to the
wall by this time ; "■ but it's all one ; it's in there ! "

He remained on his knees, looking up at his
fellow-prisoner with a lively look for a prison. A
sunburnt, quick, lithe, little man, though rather
thick-set. Earrings in his brown ears, white teeth
lighting up his grotesque brown face, intensely
black hair clustering about his brown throat, a
ragged red shirt open at his brown breast. Loose,
seaman-like trousers, decent shoes, a long red cap,
a red sash round his waist, and a knife in it.

"Judge if I come back from Naples as I went!
See here, my master! Civita Vecchia, Leghorn,
Porto Fino, Genoa, Cornice, Off Nice (which is
in there), Marseilles, you and me. The apartment
of the jailer and his keys is where I put this thumb ;
and here, at my wrist, they keep the national razor
in its case — the guillotine locked up."

The other man spat suddenly on the pavement,
and gurgled in his throat.

Some lock below gui'gled in its throat immedi-
ately afterwards, and then a door clashed. Slow
steps began ascending the stairs ; the prattle of a
sweet little voice mingled with the noise they made ;


and the prison-keeper appeared, carrying his daugh-
ter, three or four years old, and a basket.

" How goes the world this forenoon, gentlemen ?
My little one, you see, going round with me to have
a peep at her father's birds. Fie, then ! Look at
the birds, my pretty, look at the birds ! "

He looked sharply at the birds himself, as he held
the child up at the grate, especially at the little
bird, whose activity he seemed to mistrust. " I
have brought your bread, Signor John Baptist,"
said he (they all spoke in French, but the little
man was an Italian) ; " and if I might recommend
you not to game " —

" You don't recommend the master ! " said John
Baptist, showing his teeth as he smiled.

" Oh ! but the master wins," returned the jailer,
with a passing look of no particular liking at the
other man, " and you lose. It's quite another thing.
You get husky bread and sour drink by it ; and he
gets sausage of Lyons, veal in savory jelly, white
bread, strachino cheese, and good wine by it. Look
at the birds, my pretty ! "

'' Poor birds ! " said the child.

The fair little face, touched with divine compas-
sion as it peeped shrinkingly through the grate, was
like an angel's in the prison. John Baptist rose
and moved towards it, as if it had a good attraction
for him. The other bird remained as before, except
for an impatient glance at the basket.

'' Stay ! " said the jailer, putting his little daughter
on the outer ledge of the grate, " she shall feed the
birds. This big loaf is for Signor John Baptist.
We must break it to get it through into the cage.
So, there's a tame bird to kiss the little hand !


This sausage in a vine-leaf is for Monsieur Rigaud.
Again — this veal in savory jelly is for Monsieur
Rigaud. Again — these three white little loaves
are for Monsieur Rigaud. Again, this cheese —
again, this wine — again, this tobacco — all for
Monsieur Rigaud. Lucky bird ! "

The child put all these things between the bars
into the soft, smooth, well-shaped hand with evident
dread — more than once drawing back her own, and
looking at the man with her fair brow roughened
into an expression half of fright and half of anger.
Whereas, she had put the lump of coarse bread into
the swart, scaled, knotted hands of John Baptist
(who had scarcely as much nail on his eight fingers
and two thumbs as would have made out one for
Monsieur Rigaud) with ready confidence ; and, when
he kissed her hand, had herself passed it caressingly
over his face. Monsieur Rigaud, indifferent to this
distinction, propitiated the father by laughing and
nodding at the daughter as often as she gave him
anything; and, so soon as he had all his viands
about him in convenient nooks of the ledge on
which he rested, began to eat with an appetite.

When Monsieur Rigaud laughed, a change took
place in his face that was more remarkable than
prepossessing. His mustache went up under his
nose, and his nose came down over his mustache,
in a very sinister and cruel manner.

" There ! " said the jailer, turning his basket up-
side down to beat the crumbs out, " I have expended
all. the money I received; here is the note of it, and
thafs a thing accomplished. jMonsieur Rigaud, as
I expected yesterday, the President will look for
the pleasure of your societ}' at an hour after mid-
day to-day."


" To try me, eli ? " said Rigaud, pausing, knife in
hand and morsel in mouth.

" You have said it. To try you."

" There is no news for me ? " asked John Baptist,
who had begun contentedly to munch his bread.

The jailer shrugged his shoulders.

" Lady of mine ! Am I to lie here all my life,
my father ? "

" What do I know ? " cried the jailer, turning
upon him with southern quickness, and gesticulating
with both his hands and all his fingers, as if he
were threatening to tear him to pieces. "My
friend, how is it possible for me to tell how long
you are to lie here ? What do I know, John Baptist
Cavalletto ? Death of my life ! There are pris-
oners here sometimes who are not in such a devil of
a hurry to be tried."

He seemed to glance obliquely at Monsieur
Rigaud in this remark ; but Monsieur Rigaud had
already resumed his meal, though not with quite so
quick an appetite as before.

" Adieu, my birds ! " said the keeper of the prison,
taking his pretty child in his arms, and dictating
the words with a kiss.

" Adieu, my birds " the pretty child repeated.

Her innocent face looked back so brightly over
his shoulder as he walked away with her, singing
her the song of the child's game : —

" Who passes by this road so late ?

Compagnon de la Majolaine!
Who passes by this road so late ?
Always gay I"

that John Baptist felt it a point of honor to reply


at the grate, and in good time and tune, tliough a
little hoarsely : —

" Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
Corapagnon de la Majolaine!
Of all the king's knights 'tis the flower,
Always gay!"

Which accompanied them so far down the few steep
stairs, that the prison-keeper had to stop at last for
his little daughter to hear the song out, and re-
peat the Eefrain while they were yet in sight.
Then the child's head disappeared, and the prison-
keeper's head disappeared, but the little voice pro-
Ion sred the strain until the door clashed.

Monsieur Rigaud, finding the listening John
Baptist in his way before the echoes had ceased
(even the echoes were the weaker for imprisonment,
and seemed to lag), reminded him with a push of
his foot that he had better resume his own darker
place. The little man sat down again upon the
pavement, with the negligent ease of one who was
thoroughly accustomed to pavements ; and placing
three hunks of coarse bread before himself, and
falling to upon a fourth, began contentedly to work
his way through them, as if to clear them off were
a sort of game.

Perhaps he glanced at the Lyon's sausage, and
perhaps he glanced at the veal in savory jelly, but
they were not there long to make his mouth water;
Monsieur Rigaud soon despatched them, in spite of
the President and tribunal, and proceeded to suck
his fingers as clean as he could, and to wipe them
on his vine-leaves. Then, as he paused in his drink
•to coutemplate his fellow-prisoner, his mustache
went up, and his nose came down.


" How do you find the bread ? "

"A little dry, but I have my old sauce here,"
returned John Baptist, holding up his knife.

" How sauce ? "

"I can cut my bread so — like a melon. Or so —
like an omelet. Or so — like a fried fish. Or so —
like Lyons sausage," said John Baptist, demonstrat-
ing the various cuts on the bread he held, and
soberly chewing what he had in his mouth.

" Here ! " cried Monsieur Eigaud. " You may
drink. You may finish this."

It was no great gift, for there was mighty little
wine left ; but Signor Cavalletto, jumping to his
feet, received the bottle gratefully, turned it upside
down at his mouth, and smacked his lips.

" Put the bottle by with the rest," said Eigaud.

The little man obeyed his orders, and stood ready
to give him a lighted match ; for he was now rolling
his tobacco into cigarettes by the aid of little
squares of paper which had been brought in with

" Here ! You may have one."

" A thousand thanks, my master ! " John Baptist
said it in his own language, and with the quick con-
ciliatory manner of his own countrymen.

Monsieur Eigaud arose, lighted a cigarette, put
the rest of his stock into his breast pocket, and
stretched himself out at full length upon the bench.
Cavalletto sat down on the pavement, holding one
of his ankles in each hand, and smoking peacefull}''.
There seemed to be some uncomfortable attraction
of Monsieur Eigaud's eyes to the immediate neigh-
borhood of that part of the pavement where the
thumb had been in the plan. They were so drawn


in that direction, that the Italian more than once
followed them to and back from the pavement in
some surprise.

" What an infernal hole this is ! " said Monsieur
Rigaud, breaking a long pause. " Look at the light
of day. Day ! the light of yesterday week, the light
of six months ago, the light of six years ago. So
slack and dead ! "

It came languishing down a square funnel that
blinded a window in the staircase wall, through
which the sky was never seen, nor anything else.

" Cavalletto," said Monsieur Eigaud, suddenly
withdrawing his gaze from this funnel, to which
they had both involuntarily turned their eyes, " you
know me for a gentleman ? "

" Surely, surely ! "

" How long have we been here ? "

"I, eleven weeks to-morrow night at midnight.
You, nine weeks and three days at five this after-

" Have I ever done anything here ? Ever touched
the broom, or spread the mats or rolled them up, or
found the draughts, or collected the dominos, or
put my hand to any kind of work ? "

*' Never ! "

" Have you ever thought of looking to me to do
any kind of work ? "

John Baptist answered with that peculiar back-
handed shake of the right forefinger which is the
most expressive negative in the Italian language.

<'No! You knew, from the first moment when
you saw me here, that I was a gentleman ? "

" Altro ! " returned John Baptist, closing his
eyes and giving his head a most vehement toss. The


word being, according to its Genoese emphasis, a
confirmation, a contradiction, an assertion, a denial,
a taunt, a compliment, a joke, and fifty other things,
became in the present instance, with a significance
beyond all power of written expression, our familiar
English " I believe you ! "

" Haha ! You are right ! A gentleman I am !
And a gentleman I'll live, and a gentleman I'll die !
It's my intent to be a gentleman. It's my game.

Online LibraryCharles DickensDicken's works (Volume 24) → online text (page 1 of 27)