"Do they use you ill here? Is your mistress a tartar?", Chapter LI of Dickens's Old Curiosity Shop by Thomas Worth in the first Household Edition volume published by Harper & Bros., New York (1872), 160: 3 ½ x 5 ¼ inches (8.9 x 13.5 cm) framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

Passage Illustrated: Quilp visits his lawyer's office Bevis Marks

"There’s a servant, I suppose," said the dwarf, knocking at the  house-door. "She’ll do."

After a sufficiently long interval, the door was opened, and a small voice immediately  accosted him with, "Oh, please will you leave a card or message?"

"Eh?" said the dwarf, looking down, (it was something quite new to him) upon the small  servant.

To this, the child, conducting her conversation as upon the occasion of her first interview with Mr. Swiveller, again replied, "Oh please will you leave a card or message?"

"I’ll write a note," said the dwarf, pushing past her into the office; "and mind your master has it directly he comes home." So Mr. Quilp climbed up to the top of a tall stool to write the note, and the small servant, carefully tutored for such emergencies, looked on with her eyes wide open, ready, if he so much as abstracted a wafer, to rush into the street and give the alarm to the police.

As Mr. Quilp folded his note (which was soon written: being a very short one) he  encountered the gaze of the small servant. He looked at her, long and earnestly.

"How are you?" said the dwarf, moistening a wafer with horrible grimaces.

The small servant, perhaps frightened by his looks, returned no audible reply; but it  appeared from the motion of her lips that she was inwardly repeating the same form of  expression concerning the note or message.

"Do they use you ill here? is your mistress a Tartar?" said Quilp with a chuckle.

In reply to the last interrogation, the small servant, with a look of infinite cunning mingled with fear, screwed up her mouth very tight and round, and nodded violently. [Chapter LI, 160]

Commentary: "He looked at her, long and earnestly."

Dickens had planned to make The Marchioness the illegitimate daughter of  Sally Brass and Daniel Quilp, but never makes this relationship explicit. Here, Quilp has dropped by Bevis Marks to formulate his conspiracy against Kit Nubbles. The scene establishes the small servant's awareness of Quilp and her assessment of his professional and personal connections with her employers. She will be a key witness against the trio; her testimony will lead directly to Sampson Brass's disbarment.

However, what the illustrator does not include is any suggestion that Quilp is the girl's natural father. The text retains some suggestion of the relationship between the dwarf and Sally Brass, but Dickens edited out a section that made this illicit relationship explicit.

Related Material about The Old Curiosity Shop

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 in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. Illustrated by Thomas Worth. The Household Edition. 16 vols. New York: Harper & Bros., 1872. I.

Created 25 August 2020

Last modified 26 November 2020