Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1873. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 9.4 cm high by 13.7 cm wide, framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it.](See page 369), — Book II, chap. 27, Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's fifty-first 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.]
The day was sunny, and the Marshalsea, with the hot noon striking upon it, was unwontedly quiet. Arthur Clennam dropped into a solitary arm-chair, itself as faded as any debtor in the jail, and yielded himself to his thoughts.
In the unnatural peace of having gone through the dreaded arrest, and got there, — the first change of feeling which the prison most commonly induced, and from which dangerous resting-place so many men had slipped down to the depths of degradation and disgrace by so many ways, — he could think of some passages in his life, almost as if he were removed from them into another state of existence. Taking into account where he was, the interest that had first brought him there when he had been free to keep away, and the gentle presence that was equally inseparable from the walls and bars about him and from the impalpable remembrances of his later life which no walls or bars could imprison, it was not remarkable that everything his memory turned upon should bring him round again to Little Dorrit. — Book the Second, Riches," Chapter 27, "The Pupil of the Marshalsea," p. 369.
The title for this illustration as it appears in the New York edition of the same volume is much longer:— Book 2, chap. xxvii. The juxtaposition of the wood-engraving and passage illustrated and the lengthy passage serving as a caption makes it abundantly clear that the composite woodblock engraving serves as a headpiece in the Harper and Brothers printing. In contrast, in the Chapman and Hall volume, the plate appears eight pages ahead of the passage realised, forcing a proleptic reading that telegraphs to the reader Arthur Clennam's deep depression after his financial reversals and his becoming the occupant of those very rooms with cracking walls once assigned to the Father of the Marshalsea and his family.
Whereas Dickens's original illustrator, Hablot Knight Browne had focussed on the dialogue over tea between the callow youth, John Chivery, the turnkey's son, and Arthur Clennam in John's private room above one of the Marshalsea's gates, Mahoney has decided to focus on the latest "pupil" of the debtors' prison in what amounts to a psychological portrait. Undoubtedly Clennam blames himself for the financial loss to his company (Doyce and Clennam) resulting from Merdle's bankruptcy, when, at the very least, he should share the blame with Pancks, an astute businessman who persuaded Clennam that Merdle's promoses of large rates of return on investments were viable and that Merdle's bank was sound. Clennam in the Mahoney study is brooding, too, on his absence from Little Dorrit and his affection for her.
Pertinent illustrations from earlier editions, 1857 and 1867
Left: Sol Eytinge Junior's study of the hopelessly devoted John for Book 1, Chapter 18, "Little Dorrit's Lover," Young John Chivery (1867); right: Phiz's original 1857 study of an utterly depressed, incarcerated Arthur Clennam taking tea with John Chivery, At Mr. John Chivery's Tea-table. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]
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Last modified 21 May 2016