Little Dorrit's Party
Phiz (Hablot K. Browne)
Illustration for Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Part IV (Book 1, Chapter 14).
Source: Authentic Edition (1901), facing p. 150.
The book was published in the customary twenty monthly parts, December 1855 through June 1857, by Bradbury and Evans with a blue wrapper and forty plates designed by Phiz.
Image scan 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 a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one. ]
No day yet in the sky, but there was day in the resounding stones of the streets; in the waggons, carts, and coaches; in the workers going to various occupations; in the opening of early shops; in the traffic at markets; in the stir of the riverside. There was coming day in the flaring lights, with a feebler colour in them than they would have had at another time; coming day in the increased sharpness of the air, and the ghastly dying of the night.
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. . . .
This was Little Dorrit's party. The shame, desertion, wretchedness, and exposure of the great capital; the wet, the cold, the slow hours, and the swift clouds of the dismal night. This was the party from which Little Dorrit went home, jaded, in the first grey mist of a rainy morning. — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 14, "Little Dorrit's Party," p. 151-152.
"Little Dorrit's Party" is really Phiz's only chance (apart from the cover and the final pair of etchings) to make direct social and thematic comment, but another dark plate, "Visitors at the Works" (Bk 1, ch. 23), imparts a certain Kafkaesque quality to the novel. [Steig, p. 165]
The picture offers an interesting fusion of the architectural and the pathetic, with Maggy and Little Dorrit locked out of a dilapidated edifice which is also a decaying social institution, the debtors' prison. Phiz subordinates the female characters, the focal point of the nightmarish adventure like something out of French illustrator Gustav Doré's night scenes of Victorian London to focus on two buildings from earlier eras: the crumbling and ruinous eighteenth-century prison with its tattered flag in the foreground and the Gothic style Church of St. George the Martyr in the background. Although the debtors' prison as a social institution dates from the middle ages, it was at its zenith in the eighteenth century, when over half of all inmates of English prisons were in fact incarcerated in such places. Dickens's own father, John, a clerk in the Naval Pay Office, was sent to the Marshalsea on 20 February 1824 for an unpaid baker's bill. That year when the future novelist was just twelve was seared into the boy's mind by his own servitude at Warren's Blacking Factory at Hungerford Stairs on the Thames. Dickens that year worked most of the week without seeing his family, lodging not in the Marshalsea like Amy, but in Lant Street.
The title of the fourteenth chapter in Book the First, like that of the complementary illustration, is situationally ironic as Amy's spending the first night of her life outside the Marshalsea, sleeping in the streets and wandering a deserted London Bridge with Maggy, is anything but a party. The night proves Kafkaesque as strange street-people accost the pair, and Amy sees the night side of London, defamiliarizing her notion of the metropolis as a safe and civilised place. Likewise, in his next novel — the last that Phiz would illustrate for Charles Dickens (as much a "Child of the Marshalsea" as Amy Dorrit) — Lucie Manette discovers the night side of another European metropolis in which the normal polity of day and of reasonable civic organisation has utterly broken down. At least in the nightside of Little Dorrit compassion and fairness form part of the code of the streets and sheer social Darwinism does not reign.
Pertinent illustrations in other early editions, 1867 to 1910
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 Harry Furniss realisation of the sexton's giving the stranded pair a room in the nearby St. George's Church, Little Dorrit and Maggy find shelter in a vestry (1910). [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). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Cohen, Jane Rabb. Charles Dickens and His Original Illustrators. Columbus: Ohio State U. P., 1980.
Davis, Paul. Charles Dickens A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Life and Work. New York: Checkmark and Facts On File, 1999.
Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Illustrated by Phiz. The Authentic Edition. London:Chapman and Hall, 1901. (rpt. of the 1868 edition).
Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. 14 vols.
Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Illustrated by James Mahoney. The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873. Vol. 5.
Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. 18 vols. London: Educational Book, 1910. Vol. 12.
Hammerton, J. A. "Chapter 19: Little Dorrit." The Dickens Picture-Book. The Charles Dickens Library Edition. Illustrated by Harry Furniss. 18 vols. London: Educational Book Co., 1910. Vol. 17. Pp. 398-427.
Kitton, Frederic George. Dickens and His Illustrators: Cruikshank, Seymour, Buss, "Phiz," Cattermole, Leech, Doyle, Stanfield, Maclise, Tenniel, Frank Stone, Landseer, Palmer, Topham, Marcus Stone, and Luke Fildes. Amsterdam: S. Emmering, 1972. Re-print of the London 1899 edition.
Lester, Valerie Browne. Phiz: The Man Who Drew Dickens. London: Chatto and Windus, 2004.
Schlicke, Paul, ed. The Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Oxford and New York: Oxford U. P., 1999.
Steig, Michael. Dickens and Phiz. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978.
Vann, J. Don. Victorian Novels in Serial. New York: The Modern Language Association, 1985.
Last modified 24 April 2016