Mr. F's Aunt
14 x 7.2 cm vignetted
Dickens's Little Dorrit, Vol. 12 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Book Two, "Riches"; Chapter 9, "Appearance and Disappearance," facing p. 544.
This situation in the Patriarchal madhouse is utterly baffling for the reader who merely "drops into" the pages of text involved, even though in his "List of Special Plates" (vii) Furniss has given the location of the illustration as "facing p. 544" — in fact, the illustration pertains to p. 557 in the following chapter, so that the reader must construe the illustration proleptically, then revert to it when he or she arrives at the passage realised since the angry blathering of Mr. F.'s Aunt like her image only makes sense in the context of the chapter, in which Arthur Clennam follows Miss Wade and Tattycoram to the "Patriarchal mansion" of Mr. Casby, Flora Finching's father. As is typical of Furniss's studies, the figure of Mr. F's Aunt stands against no backdrop, but reveals herself psychologically by her facial expression, posture, clothing, and some sort of talisman or representative possession — in this instance, a partially consumed piece of toast, which represents her mastery over Flora Finching and her attempt to subjugate or extirpate Arthur as a rival for Flora's attention.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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