And so he left her: first observing that she sat down that she sat down on the corner of a seat, and not only rested her little hand upon the rough wall, but laid her face against it too, as if her head were heavy, and her mind were sad. (See page 112.) — Book 1, chap, xviii, "Little Dorrit's Lover." Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's fifteenth illustration for Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1873. The wood-engraving by the Dalziels occurs on p. 105 in the Chapman & Hall volume, with the running head Playing Fast and Loose. 9.3 cm high x 13.6 cm wide, framed. [Click on the image to enlarge it.]

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

"And good-bye, John," said Little Dorrit. "And I hope you will have a good wife one day, and be a happy man. I am sure you will deserve to be happy, and you will be, John."

As she held out her hand to him with these words, the heart that was under the waistcoat of sprigs — mere slop-work, if the truth must be known — swelled to the size of the heart of a gentleman; and the poor common little fellow, having no room to hold it, burst into tears.

"Oh, don't cry," said Little Dorrit piteously. "Don't, don't! Good-bye, John. God bless you!"

"Good-bye, Miss Amy. Good-bye!"

And so he left her: first observing that she sat down on the corner of a seat, and not only rested her little hand upon the rough wall, but laid her face against it too, as if her head were heavy, and her mind were sad.

t was an affecting illustration of the fallacy of human projects, to behold her lover, with the great hat pulled over his eyes, the velvet collar turned up as if it rained, the plum-coloured coat buttoned to conceal the silken waistcoat of golden sprigs, and the little direction-post pointing inexorably home, creeping along by the worst back-streets, and composing, as he went, the following new inscription for a tombstone in St. George's Churchyard:

"Here lie the mortal remains Of JOHN CHIVERY, Never anything worth mentioning, Who died about the end of the year one thousand eight hundred and twenty-six, Of a broken heart, Requesting with his last breath that the word AMY might be inscribed over his ashes, which was accordingly directed to be done, By his afflicted Parents." — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 18, "Little Dorrit's Lover," p. 112-113.


The caption is somewhat shorter in the Harper and Bros. New York edition: "O don't cry!" said Little Dorrit piteously. "Don't, don't! Good-bye, John. God bless you!" "Good-bye, Miss Amy. Good-bye!" And so he left her — Book 1, chap, xviii. Either accompanying caption is insufficient to graph the melancholic disposition of the sentimentalist who loves in vain above his station, so that one must take into account other passages in the chapter in order to assess John's romantic disposition, which is akin to that of many a youthful lover in Dickens's early works:

Young John's Character, Disposition, and Appearance

Young John was small of stature, with rather weak legs and very weak light hair. One of his eyes (perhaps the eye that used to peep through the keyhole) was also weak, and looked larger than the other, as if it couldn't collect itself. Young John was gentle likewise. But he was great of soul. Poetical, expansive, faithful. — Book 1, Ch. 18, p. 109.

John's First Epitaph

Young John drew tears from his eyes by finishing the picture with a tombstone in the adjoining churchyard, close against the prison wall, bearing the following touching inscription: "Sacred to the Memory Of JOHN CHIVERY, Sixty years Turnkey, and fifty years Head Turnkey, Of the neighbouring Marshalsea, Who departed this life, universally respected, on the thirty-first of December, One thousand eight hundred and eighty-six, Aged eighty-three years. Also of his truly beloved and truly loving wife, AMY, whose maiden name was DORRIT, Who survived his loss not quite forty-eight hours, And who breathed her last in the Marshalsea aforesaid. There she was born, There she lived, There she died." — Book 1, Ch. 18, p. 109.

Young John's Appearance on that Memorable Sunday

From the portal thus decorated, one Sunday after an early dinner of baked viands, Young John issued forth on his usual Sunday errand; not empty-handed, but with his offering of cigars. He was neatly attired in a plum-coloured coat, with as large a collar of black velvet as his figure could carry; a silken waistcoat, bedecked with golden sprigs; a chaste neckerchief much in vogue at that day, representing a preserve of lilac pheasants on a buff ground; pantaloons so highly decorated with side-stripes that each leg was a three-stringed lute; and a hat of state very high and hard. When the prudent Mrs. Chivery perceived that in addition to these adornments her John carried a pair of white kid gloves, and a cane like a little finger-post, surmounted by an ivory hand marshalling him the way that he should go. . . .— Book 1, Ch. 18, p. 110.

The Mahoney illustration departs from Phiz's original program of illustration, which depicts Young John Chivery (as distinct from his father, the non-resident Marshalsea turnkey whoxe wife keeps a tobacconist's shop in Horsemonger Lane nearby in the Borough), Amy's admirer ever since their childhood together in the grim shadows of the debtors' prison. Phiz provides three significant illustrations of Yong John, none of which really captures the persona of the long-suffering admirer of Amy Dorrit: At Mr. John Chivery's Tea-table (Book 2, Ch. 27: May 1857), Reception of an Old Friend in Book 2, Ch. 18 (February 1857), and John's seeing Little Dorrit out of the Marshalsea's main entrance, Title-page vignette (June 1857). Thus, both the later illustrators, Mahoney and Furniss, have availed themselves of the opportunity to re-evaluate the importance of Dickens;'s satire of the frustrated lover whose blighted hopes led him to compose epitaphs charged with self-pity — and afford the reader a species of gentle humour that draws sustenance from the reader's own memories of adolescent infatuation. Mahoney's focus is as much on the distressed Amy, who is upset as she realizes that her father has led Young John along in his romantic expectations by unreservedly accepting John's Sunday cigar tributes.

Young John Chivery from Other Early Editions, 1857-1910

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's study of the nattily dressed, poetic youth, not paired with any other character, Young John Chivery. Centre: Phiz's illustration of John Chivery taking tea with the latest Marshalsea wreck, Arthur Clennam, in At Mr. John Chivery's Tea-table (May 1857). Right: Harry Furniss's portrait of the melancholic lover revising his own epitaph in Book 2, Ch. 27. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]


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Last modified 26 May 2016