Little Dorrit and Maggy find shelter in a vestry
13.4 cm high x 9.5 cm wide, vignetted
Dickens's Little Dorrit, Vol. 12 of Charles Dickens Library Edition, Book the First, "Poverty"; Chapter 14, "Little Dorrit's Party," facing p. 193.
Little Dorrit and Maggy find shelter in a vestry. (See page 184) — Book 1, Chapter 14, "Little Dorrit's Party."
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They went back again to the gate, intending to wait there now until it should be opened; but the air was so raw and cold that Little Dorrit, leading Maggy about in her sleep, kept in motion. Going round by the Church, she saw lights there, and the door open; and went up the steps and looked in.
"Who's that?" cried a stout old man, who was putting on a nightcap as if he were going to bed in a vault.
"It's no one particular, sir," said Little Dorrit.
"Stop!"cried the man. "Let's have a look at you!"
This caused her to turn back again in the act of going out, and to present herself and her charge before him.
"I thought so!" said he. "I know you."
"We have often seen each other," said Little Dorrit, recognising the sexton, or the beadle, or the verger, or whatever he was, "when I have been at church here."
"More than that, we've got your birth in our Register, you know; you're one of our curiosities."
"Indeed!" said Little Dorrit.
"To be sure. As the child of the — by-the-bye, how did you get out so early?"
"We were shut out last night, and are waiting to get in."
"You don't mean it? And there's another hour good yet! Come into the vestry. You’ll find a fire in the vestry, on account of the painters. I’m waiting for the painters, or I shouldn't be here, you may depend upon it. One of our curiosities mustn't be cold when we have it in our power to warm her up comfortable. Come along."
He was a very good old fellow, in his familiar way; and having stirred the vestry fire, he looked round the shelves of registers for a particular volume. "Here you are, you see," he said, taking it down and turning the leaves. "Here you'll find yourself, as large as life. Amy, daughter of William and Fanny Dorrit. Born, Marshalsea Prison, Parish of St George. And we tell people that you have lived there, without so much as a day's or a night's absence, ever since. Is it true?"
"Quite true, till last night."
"Lord!" But his surveying her with an admiring gaze suggested Something else to him, to wit: "I am sorry to see, though, that you are faint and tired. Stay a bit. I’ll get some cushions out of the church, and you and your friend shall lie down before the fire. . . . ." — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 14, "Little Dorrit's Party," p. 183-184.
After a night at the theatre in company with Maggy, Little Dorrit visits Arthur Clennam in his rooms overlooking Covent Garden to thank him for arranging her brother Tip's release from the Marshalsea. In consequence, the pair find themselves too late to be admitted to Maggy's lodging house, and must spend the night in the streets.
Fin-de-siécle illustrator Harry Furniss's interpretation of Amy's experience of being locked out of the Marshalsea and having to spend the night on the street after her plan for staying in Maggy's lodgings falls through. The lithograph from the Charles Dickens Library Edition, 1910, reinterprets the original serial illustration, Little Dorrit's Party (March 1856) in Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit. The pen-and-ink sketch occurs facing page 193 in Chapter 15, but the passage illustrated occurs nine pages earlier, forcing the reader to return to the previous chapter and re-read its fortunate conclusion, in which the sexton of St. George's admits Amy and Maggy to the vestry and fetches them cushions from the church nave. As a consequence of the extra activity after an evening at the working-class theatre where her uncle and sister work, Maggy and Little Dorrit arrive at Maggy's lodging too late to be admitted — everybody in the house is apparently sound asleep, and nobody responds when Amy knocks. This eventuality Little Dorrit had not foreseen, even though she had expected to be locked out of the Marshalsea. Now she and Maggy must make the best of a bad situation and spend the night out on the street, waiting out the five hours before the prison gates open at daybreak. After crossing London Bridge and returning, they notice lights on in the church nearby. The kindly sexton, recalling Amy as appearing in the church's birth registry, offers to let her sleep the few remaining hours of the night in the vestry.
The artist, aware that readers are likely to familiar with Phiz's interpretation of the pair being shut out of the Marshalsea — Little Dorrit's Party, does not attempt to replicate Phiz's architectural handling of the exterior night scene. Rather, Furniss reduces the interior scene which follows the night's adventures to the bare essentials: the old sexton, who is offering Maggy and Little Dorrit pillows. Furniss focuses on Amy by depicting her examining the register of births while he has merely sketched in the interior Gothic architectural elements of arch and pillaster. While Maggy in her gigantic bonnet seems somewhat stupified, staring blankly ahead of her, the alert Amy turns away to examine the register.
Pertinent illustrations in other early editions, 1856 to 1873
Left: Eytinge, Junior's dual study of the childlike adult, Maggy, and the apparent child, Amy, locked out of the Marshalsea, Little Dorrit and Maggy (1867). Right: The original Hablot Knight Browne illustration of Maggy and Amy locked out of the Marshalsea with the nearby St. George's Church in the background, Little Dorrit's Party (March 1856). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Mahoney's British Household Edition frontispiece, scene from the previous chapter, depicting Amy Dorrit's arrival at Arthur Clennam's room, "Little Dorrit." (1873). Her stopping there after the theatre precipitates the night's crisis. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 25 April 2016