13.4 x 9.3 cm vignetted
Dickens's Little Dorrit, Vol. 12 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Book the Second, "Riches," Chapter 19, "The Storming of the Castle in the Air," facing p. 672.
This situation at the farewell banquet in Italy is directly derived from Phiz's original serial illustration, An Unexpected After-dinner Speech, Part Sixteen (March 1857), in which Mr. Dorrit rather recalls his previous identity as "The Father of the Marshalsea" as much as he forgets himself.
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Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham.
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Mrs. Merdle had written on it in pencil, "Pray come and speak to Mr. Dorrit, I doubt if he is well."
[Amy] was hurrying to him, unobserved, when he got up out of his chair, and leaning over the table called to her, supposing her to be still in her place:
"Amy, Amy, my child!"
The action was so unusual, to say nothing of his strange eager appearance and strange eager voice, that it instantaneously caused a profound silence.
"Amy, my dear," he repeated. "Will you go and see if Bob is on the lock?"
She was at his side, and touching him, but he still perversely supposed her to be in her seat, and called out, still leaning over the table, "Amy, Amy. I don't feel quite myself. Ha. I don't know what's the matter with me. I particularly wish to see Bob. Ha. Of all the turnkeys, he's as much my friend as yours. See if Bob is in the lodge, and beg him to come to me."
All the guests were now in consternation, and everybody rose.
"Dear father, I am not there; I am here, by you."
"Oh! You are here, Amy! Good. Hum. Good. Ha. Call Bob. If he has been relieved, and is not on the lock, tell Mrs. Bangham to go and fetch him."
She was gently trying to get him away; but he resisted, and would not go.
"I tell you, child," he said petulantly, "I can't be got up the narrow stairs without Bob. Ha. Send for Bob. Hum. Send for Bob — best of all the turnkeys — send for Bob!"
He looked confusedly about him, and, becoming conscious of the number of faces by which he was surrounded, addressed them:
"Ladies and gentlemen, the duty — ha — devolves upon me of — hum — welcoming you to the Marshalsea! Welcome to the Marshalsea! The space is — ha — limited — limited — the parade might be wider; but you will find it apparently grow larger after a time — a time, ladies and gentlemen — and the air is, all things considered, very good. It blows over the — ha — Surrey hills. Blows over the Surrey hills. This is the Snuggery. Hum. Supported by a small subscription of the — ha — Collegiate body. In return for which — hot water — general kitchen — and little domestic advantages. Those who are habituated to the — ha — Marshalsea, are pleased to call me its father. I am accustomed to be complimented by strangers as the — ha — Father of the Marshalsea. Certainly, if years of residence may establish a claim to so — ha — honourable a title, I may accept the hum — conferred distinction. My child, ladies and gentlemen. My daughter. Born here!"
She was not ashamed of it, or ashamed of him. She was pale and frightened; but she had no other care than to soothe him and get him away, for his own dear sake. She was between him and the wondering faces, turned round upon his breast with her own face raised to his. He held her clasped in his left arm, and between whiles her low voice was heard tenderly imploring him to go away with her. — Book The Second, "Riches," Chapter 19, "The Storming of the Castle in the Air," p. 672-674.
This text accomplishes here what the illustration by itself cannot: the utter dismay of Amy Dorrit as she struggles to apprehend what is happening to her father. The majority of the assembly do not recognise what is happening, for William Dorrit's speech about the Marshalsea is inexplicable to Mr. Merdle's well-wishers. Furniss manages the group scene with aplomb by placing the collapsing figure of Mr. Dorrit well forward and has Amy solicitously touching his back, as if to remind him where (and who) he is.
With an eye for feminine beauty and feminine fashion alike, Furniss depicts several beautiful women in evening gowns. A master touch which is a departure from the Phiz original is Mr. Dorrit's bracing himself with his right hand on the back of his elegant dining-chair. Moreover, Furniss emphasizes both William Dorrit's baldness (he has a full head of black hair in the Phiz plate) and his formal evening dress. The elegantly dressed older woman to the right is undoubtedly Mrs. General, to whom he had intended to propose that very evening. Fanny Dorrit, a commanding figure in a splendid dinner-dress, and her husband, Edmund Sparkler (with monocle), are upper right in the opulent diningroom. In Furniss's interpretation, the banquet has suddenly broken up, and most of the diners are hurriedly leaving, their backs to William Dorrit as, looking upward (as if into the past), he calls for the assistance of a Marshalsea turnkey to get him to his cell. Daringly, Furniss minimizes the importance of the long table, and re-orients the entire scene around the pathetic figure of William Dorrit, but again emphasizes Amy's role as his care-giver while Mrs. General does nothing tro assist him.
Relevant Illustrations of the Dorrits from Other Editions, 1863-1873
Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's study in contrasts, the self-important Father of the Marshalsea and his sensitive daughter, Little Dorrit and Her Father. Right: F. O. C. Darley's frontispiece for the second volume of the Sheldon & Co. "Household" Edition, Joyful Tidings — Book I, Ch. XXXV. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
Phiz'sa March 1857 steel-engraving of William Dorrit's mental breakdown in the midst of the banquet in Book 2, Chapter 19, An Unexpected After-dinner Speech. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
James Mahoney's 1873 composite woodblock-engraving of Frederick Dorrit, lying dead upon his brother William's death-bed in Book 2, Chapter 19, The two brothers were before their Father. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 26 May 2016