Mr. and Mrs. Plornish and John Edward Nandy

"Mr. and Mrs. Plornish and John Edward Nandy," the thirteenth full-page illustration for the volume by Sol Eytinge, Jr. 1871. 7.6 cm high by 10 cm wide. The Diamond Edition of Dickens's Little Dorrit (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1871), facing page 332. Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

In the thirteenth character study to complement Dickens's narrative, "Mr. and Mrs. Plornish and John Edward Nandy," Eytinge does not include the Plornishes' highly painted shop-parlour masquerading as "Happy Cottage" in Bleeding Heart Yard, located in a maze of alleyways in Holborn, but focuses on the good-natured couple — Sally, the proprietress of a small grocery store funded by the suddenly-wealthy Mr. Dorrit, and her husband, Thomas, a plasterer (as one may judge from his cap) — and Mrs. Plornish's cheerful, elderly, pipe-smoking father. Eytinge conveys their bonhomie and mutual delight in each other's company, and realizes Thomas's sandy whiskers. The relevant passage is probably this:

Mrs. Plornish's shop-parlour had been decorated under her own eye, and presented, on the side towards the shop, a little fiction in which Mrs. Plornish unspeakably rejoiced. This poetical heightening of the parlour consisted in the wall being painted to represent the exterior of a thatched cottage; the artist having introduced (in as effective a manner as he found compatible with their highly disproportionate dimensions) the real door and window. The modest sunflower and hollyhock were depicted as flourishing with great luxuriance on this rustic dwelling, while a quantity of dense smoke issuing from the chimney indicated good cheer within, and also, perhaps, that it had not been lately swept. A faithful dog was represented as flying at the legs of the friendly visitor, from the threshold; and a circular pigeon-house, enveloped in a cloud of pigeons, arose from behind the garden-paling. On the door (when it was shut), appeared the semblance of a brass-plate, presenting the inscription, Happy Cottage, T. and M. Plornish; the partnership expressing man and wife. No Poetry and no Art ever charmed the imagination more than the union of the two in this counterfeit cottage charmed Mrs. Plornish. It was nothing to her that Plornish had a habit of leaning against it as he smoked his pipe after work, when his hat blotted out the pigeon-house and all the pigeons, when his back swallowed up the dwelling, when his hands in his pockets uprooted the blooming garden and laid waste the adjacent country. To Mrs. Plornish, it was still a most beautiful cottage, a most wonderful deception; and it made no difference that Mr. Plornish's eye was some inches above the level of the gable bed-room in the thatch. To come out into the shop after it was shut, and hear her father sing a song inside this cottage, was a perfect Pastoral to Mrs. Plornish, the Golden Age revived. And truly if that famous period had been revived, or had ever been at all, it may be doubted whether it would have produced many more heartily admiring daughters than the poor woman. [Book Two, Chapter 13, "The Progress of an Epidemic," p. 332-33]

Reference

Bentley, Nicolas, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis. The Dickens Index. Oxford and New York: Oxford U P, 1990.

Davis, Paul. Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1999.

Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit, il. Sol Eytinge, Junior. The Diamond Edition. Boston: James R. Osgood, 1871.


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Last modified 25 May 2011