Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1873. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 10.5 cm high by 13.4 cm wide, framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it.](See page 298), — Book II, chap. 13, Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's thirty-ninth illustration in the Chapman and Hall Household Edition volume of Charles Dickens's
Scanned image 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.]
"Right in sharing Cavalletto's inclination to speculate with Mr. Merdle?"
"Per-fectly, sir," said Pancks. "I've gone into it. I've made the calculations. I've worked it. They're safe and genuine." Relieved by having got to this, Mr. Pancks took as long a pull as his lungs would permit at his Eastern pipe, and looked sagaciously and steadily at Clennam while inhaling and exhaling too.
In those moments, Mr Pancks began to give out the dangerous infection with which he was laden. It is the manner of communicating these diseases; it is the subtle way in which they go about.
"Do you mean, my good Pancks," asked Clennam emphatically, "that you would put that thousand pounds of yours, let us say, for instance, out at this kind of interest?"
"Certainly," said Pancks. "Already done it, sir."
Mr. Pancks took another long inhalation, another long exhalation, another long sagacious look at Clennam.
"I tell you, Mr Clennam, I've gone into it," said Pancks. "He's a man of immense resources — enormous capital — government influence. They're the best schemes afloat. They're safe. They're certain."
"Well"' returned Clennam, looking first at him gravely and then at the fire gravely. "You surprise me!"
"Bah!" Pancks retorted. "Don't say that, sir. It's what you ought to do yourself! Why don't you do as I do?"
Of whom Mr. Pancks had taken the prevalent disease, he could no more have told than if he had unconsciously taken a fever. Bred at first, as many physical diseases are, in the wickedness of men, and then disseminated in their ignorance, these epidemics, after a period, get communicated to many sufferers who are neither ignorant nor wicked. Mr. Pancks might, or might not, have caught the illness himself from a subject of this class; but in this category he appeared before Clennam, and the infection he threw off was all the more virulent.
"And you have really invested," Clennam had already passed to that word, "your thousand pounds, Pancks?' — Book the Second, "Riches," Chapter 13, "the Progress of an Epidemic," p. 298.
The American Household Edition has a much longer caption that clarifies the precise passage illustrated: — Book 2, chap. xiii. The chief illustrators of the book in the nineteenth century, Phiz and James Mahoney, have focussed on very different aspects of the plot revealed in this chapter: whereas Phiz in the original serial illustration underscores Cavaletto's terror of Rigaud, who has suddenly appeared in London, Mahoney pursues the investment mania created by Merdle's promise of high rates of return on significant investment, a mania that has even swept up so cautious an investor as Panks.
Having deployed a serious illustration as the first in the January 1857 number (Part Fourteen), Dickens and Phiz have elected to use a character-comedy steel-engraving as the second for that number, even though this instalment explores a more important matter, the pernicious influence of Merdle's millions. In The Patriotic Conference (Book II, Chapter 12) serial artist and author had employed the rather lacklustre Merdle social gathering to draw the reader's attention to Merdle's using his personal influence with the Barnacle clan to effect his step-son's promotion to a post in the governmental Circumlocution Office. Speculation fever based on the lure of high rates of return runs rampant throughout England. Mahoney conveys this mania in this quiet study of two otherwise reasonable characters, Pancks and Clennam, sober-minded, reflective, pipe-smoking men of business who are tempted by Merdle's get-rich-quick promises, with the "infection" passing from Pancks the rent-collector to the cautious capitalist Arthur Clennam.
Pertinent illustrations in other early editions, 1867 to 1910
Left: Eytinge, Junior's dual study of the hard-headed Victorian businessmen Casby and Pancks (1867). Right: The Harry Furniss dynamic realisation of the same scene, with the entire Bleeding Heart cast except Doyce, Mr. Baptist takes Refuge in Happy Cottage (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Phiz's comic rendering of Cavaletto's trying to avoid being seen by Rigaud, now in London, as he is entering Mrs. Plornish's shop, Mr. Baptist is Supposed to have seen Something (January 1857). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 22 May 2016