12.9 x 9.3 cm vignetted
Dickens's Little Dorrit, Vol. 12 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 27, "Five-and-Twenty," facing p. 352.
For as long as the defensive Miss Wade remains her surety, Tattycoram feels that she can continue to thumb her nose at her employers, the Meagles. The plot, in fact, requires that Tattycoram live under Miss Wade's roof long enough to acquire the documents that she has acquired from Henry Gowan regarding both Little Dorrit and Arthur Clennam.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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"Come here, child." She had opened a door while saying this, and now led the girl in by the hand. It was very curious to see them standing together: the girl with her disengaged fingers plaiting the bosom of her dress, half irresolutely, half passionately; Miss Wade with her composed face attentively regarding her, and suggesting to an observer, with extraordinary force, in her composure itself (as a veil will suggest the form it covers), the unquenchable passion of her own nature.
"See here," she said, in the same level way as before. "Here is your patron, your master. He is willing to take you back, my dear, if you are sensible of the favour and choose to go. You can be, again, a foil to his pretty daughter, a slave to her pleasant wilfulness, and a toy in the house showing the goodness of the family. You can have your droll name again, playfully pointing you out and setting you apart, as it is right that you should be pointed out and set apart. (Your birth, you know; you must not forget your birth.) You can again be shown to this gentleman's daughter, Harriet, and kept before her, as a living reminder of her own superiority and her gracious condescension. You can recover all these advantages and many more of the same kind which I dare say start up in your memory while I speak, and which you lose in taking refuge with me — you can recover them all by telling these gentlemen how humbled and penitent you are, and by going back to them to be forgiven. What do you say, Harriet? Will you go?"
The girl who, under the influence of these words, had gradually risen in anger and heightened in colour, answered, raising her lustrous black eyes for the moment, and clenching her hand upon the folds it had been puckering up, "I'd die sooner!" — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 27, "Five-and-Twenty," p. 341-2.
As the novel opens, feeling resentful about how her adoptive family treat her as her sister's maid, self-pitying Tattycoram falls under the spell of another resentful female, Miss Wade, and runs away to be with this woman in what appears to be the only incidence in Dickens of a lesbian relationship. Later, however, after she has fallen out with the mooidy Miss Wade, Tattycoram repents of her decision, and returns to do her duty with her adopted family. Miss Wade's grounds for resentment are more significant than sibling rivalry — to the taint of illegitimacy (which she shares with Tattycoram) we eventually add artist Henry Gowan's cruel treatment of her. In these artists' rendering of this scene, Miss Wade seems to be contemplating Tattycoram's case in light of her own, and considering how she will cope with the younger woman's temperamental fits if Tattycoram is to be her "companion." The presence of the trunk in the Phiz version may be intended to implant in readers' minds the suggestion that the girl will discover something significant about the house (the legal papers). In neither illustration is Tattycoram depicted as a "handsome girl with lustrous dark hair and eyes, and very neatly dressed." Rather, she is a neurotic wreck seeking shelter. On the other hand, whereas Hablot Knight Browne would not have had the benefit of reading Miss Wade's true confession of her own circumstances in "The History of a Self-Tormentor" (Book Two, Chapter 21) in the March 1857 monthly number when he prepared the serial illustration in the autumn of 1855, James Mahoney and Harry Furniss both certainly knew about the contents of that much later chapter in what was originally serial instalment no. 16, although only Mahoney's characterization suggests the former governess's supercilious and suspicious nature:
In her later years, she is cynically deceived by the man who encourages her to break her engagement and then abandons her in order to court another woman. In the rest of Little Dorrit, Miss Wade is a mysterious but clearly unpleasant person; Pancks . . . remarks that "a woman more angry, passionate, reckless, and revengeful never lived". [Thomas 124]
In his portrait of Miss Wade, Mahoney captures his subject's judgmental nature, her aloofness, and her rigid sense of herself — here, then, is a character that the reader may not like, but one with whom the reader can nonetheless sympathize. Little of this complexity do we see in the images of Phiz and Furniss. The latter illustrator communicates her haughtiness, but nothing more. In fact, Tattycoram will be the key to uncovering a plot secret: Mrs. Clennam's having suppressed a codacil in Arthur's uncle's will awarding Little Dorrit a sizeable share in the estate. This information would not have come to light had Tattycoram not purloined the papers from Miss Wade.
Relevant Illustrations of Tattycoram and Miss Wade from Other Editions, 1855-1873
Left: Phiz's second illustration in the novel's first serial number, Under the Microscope (December 1855). Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's interpretation of the maid (Harriet Beadle) known as "Tattycoram" and the middle-class malcontent, Miss Wade, Miss Wade and Tattycoram (1867). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
James Mahoney's 1873 composite woodblock-engraving of Miss Wade and Tattycoram early in the novel, when the maid takes refuge with her, The Observer stood with her hand upon her own bosom, looking at the girl. (1873) [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 23 May 2016