The Observer stood with her hand upon her own bosom, looking at the girl. — Book I, chap. 2, "Fellow Travellers," second full-page composite woodblock engraving, facing p. 14. Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's fourth illustration for Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1875. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 13.4 cm high x 17.2 cm wide. The Chapman and Hall woodcut and its caption are identical to those in the New York (Harper and Brothers) edition. In the original serial illustration, Phiz depicts Miss Wade and Tattycoram (the Meagles' nickname for their adopted daughter from Coram's Foundling Hospital, Harriet Beadle) in much the same poses and juxtaposition in Under the Microscope (Book One, Chapter 2), although in the original illustration Miss Wade is less stern and judgmental, and the scene plays out in the context of a fully furnished bedroom. Here as in the original, December 1855 steel engraving, Tattycoram, the much put-upon servant of Pet Meagles, the pampered daughter of an English banker, seems utterly distraught at the prospect of having to return to her parents (who behave more like employers), although after her falling out with Miss Wade she does so — penitently, taking with her papers relating to Little Dorrit's inheritance.

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.]

Passage Illustrated

The visitor stood looking at her with a strange attentive smile. It was wonderful to see the fury of the contest in the girl, and the bodily struggle she made as if she were rent by the Demons of old.

"I am younger than she is by two or three years, and yet it's me that looks after her, as if I was old, and it's she that's always petted and called Baby! I detest the name. I hate her! They make a fool of her, they spoil her. She thinks of nothing but herself, she thinks no more of me than if I was a stock and a stone!" So the girl went on.

"You must have patience."

"I won't have patience!"

"If they take much care of themselves, and little or none of you, you must not mind it."

I will mind it."

"Hush! Be more prudent. You forget your dependent position."

"I don't care for that. I'll run away. I'll do some mischief. I won't bear it; I can't bear it; I shall die if I try to bear it!"

The observer stood with her hand upon her own bosom, looking at the girl, as one afflicted with a diseased part might curiously watch the dissection and exposition of an analogous case.

The girl raged and battled with all the force of her youth and fulness of life, until by little and little her passionate exclamations trailed off into broken murmurs as if she were in pain. By corresponding degrees she sank into a chair, then upon her knees, then upon the ground beside the bed, drawing the coverlet with her, half to hide her shamed head and wet hair in it, and half, as it seemed, to embrace it, rather than have nothing to take to her repentant breast.

"Go away from me, go away from me! When my temper comes upon me, I am mad. I know I might keep it off if I only tried hard enough, and sometimes I do try hard enough, and at other times I don't and won't. What have I said! I knew when I said it, it was all lies. They think I am being taken care of somewhere, and have all I want. — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 2, "Fellow Travellers," p. 14.


As the novel opens, feeling resentful about how her adoptive family treat her as her sister's maid, self-pitying Tattycoram falls under the spell of another resentful female, Miss Wade, and runs away to be with this woman in what appears to be the only incidence in Dickens of a lesbian relationship. Later, however, after she has fallen out with the mooidy Miss Wade, Tattycoram repents of her decision, and returns to do her duty with her adopted family. Miss Wade's grounds for resentment are more significant than sibling rivalry — to the taint of illegitimacy (which she shares with Tattycoram) we eventually add artist Henry Gowan's cruel treatment of her. In these artists' rendering of this scene, Miss Wade seems to be contemplating Tattycoram's case in light of her own, and considering how she will cope with the younger woman's temperamental fits if Tattycoram is to be her "companion." The presence of the trunk in the Phiz version may be intended to implant in readers' minds the suggestion that the girl will discover something significant about the house (the legal papers). In neither illustration is Tattycoram depicted as a "handsome girl with lustrous dark hair and eyes, and very neatly dressed." Rather, she is a neurotic wreck seeking shelter. On the other hand, whereas Hablot Knight Browne would not have had the benefit of reading Miss Wade's true confession of her own circumstances in "The History of a Self-Tormentor" (Book Two, Chapter 21) in the March 1857 monthly number when he prepared the serial illustration in the autumn of 1855, James Mahoney and Harry Furniss both certainly knew about the contents of that much later chapter in what was originally serial instalment no. 16, although only Mahoney's characterization suggests the former governess's supercilious and suspicious nature:

In her later years, she is cynically deceived by the man who encourages her to break her engagement and then abandons her in order to court another woman. In the rest of Little Dorrit, Miss Wade is a mysterious but clearly unpleasant person; Pancks . . . remarks that "a woman more angry, passionate, reckless, and revengeful never lived". [Thomas 124]

In his portrait of Miss Wade, Mahoney captures his subject's judgmental nature, her aloofness, and her rigid sense of herself — here, then, is a character that the reader may not like, but one with whom the reader can nonetheless sympathize. Little of this complexity do we see in the images of Phiz and Furniss.

Miss Wade and Tattycoram in the original and later editions, 1855-1910

Left: Phiz's second illustration in the novel's first serial number, Under the Microscope (December 1855). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's interpretation of the maid (Harriet Beadle) known as "Tattycoram" and the middle-class malcontent, Miss Wade, Miss Wade and Tattycoram (1867). Right: Harry Furniss's elegant interpretation of the odd pair, the binary opposites of despair and haughtiness, Tattycoram and Miss Wade (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]


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Last modified 24 May 2016