"As she stood behind him, leaning over his chair so lovingly, he looked with downcast eyes at the fire." (See page 116), — Book I, chap. 19, is the full title as given in the Chapman and Hall printing. Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's sixteenth illustration for Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1873. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 10.5 cm high by 13.4 cm wide, p. 113, framed, under the running head "The Brothers." [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

There, the table was laid for his supper, and his old grey gown was ready for him on his chair-back at the fire. His daughter put her little prayer-book in her pocket — had she been praying for pity on all prisoners and captives! — and rose to welcome him.

Uncle had gone home, then? she asked him as she changed his coat and gave him his black velvet cap. Yes, uncle had gone home. Had her father enjoyed his walk? Why, not much, Amy; not much. No! Did he not feel quite well?

As she stood behind him, leaning over his chair so lovingly, he looked with downcast eyes at the fire. An uneasiness stole over him that was like a touch of shame; and when he spoke, as he presently did, it was in an unconnected and embarrassed manner.

"Something, I — hem! — I don't know what, has gone wrong with Chivery. He is not — ha! — not nearly so obliging and attentive as usual to-night. It — hem! — it's a little thing, but it puts me out, my love. It's impossible to forget," turning his hands over and over and looking closely at them, "that — hem! — that in such a life as mine, I am unfortunately dependent on these men for something every hour in the day."

Her arm was on his shoulder, but she did not look in his face while he spoke. Bending her head she looked another way.. — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 19, "The Father of the Marshalsea in Two or Three Relations," p. 116.


The title is somewhat longer in the New York (Harper and Brothers) printing: As she stood behind him, leaning over his chair so lovingly, he looked with downcast eyes at the fire. An uneasiness stole over him that was like a touch of shame; and when he spoke, as he presently did, it was in an unconnected and embarrassed manner — Book 1, chap. xix. The chapter emphasizes Amy's self-sacrificing nature as she ministers to her aged father both night and day, again placing her hand gently on his back to comfort him as she had done for Maggy when they were locked out of the Marshalsea in The gate was so familiar, and so like a companion, that they put down Maggy's basket in a corner to serve for a seat (Book I, chap. 14). The almost sacramental nature of scene is emphasized by the highlighting of the uncut loaf on the table before the Patriarch, the identity suggested by the head-covering of Mr. Dorrit. As is customary for older, middle-class males of the late 1820s, William Dorrit wears a respectable skull-cap (as in the Phiz illustrations of Old Martin in Martin Chuzzlewit, such as Martin Chuzzlewit Suspects The Landlady Without Any Reason [January 1843]). Despite his despondency at having been a prisoner for so long, ironically William Dorrit is comfortably ensconced before a roaring coal-fire, has a dressing-gown, and a dutiful daughter to tend him. In pitying himself, the self-centred father never gives a thought to the cloistered life he has imposed upon his daughter, whose love and affection he quite undervalues.

Although Mahoney does not offer a clue to Amy's especial solicitousness here, she knows the cause of Young Chivery's recent coldness towards her father, for she has without reservation broken off her relationship with that self-styled "lover" in the previous chapter, an incident which Mahoney has realised in "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. Thus, sacrificing herself to her father's comforts commendably has its limits, and she asserts herself sufficiently for the reader to admire her deft handling of the enamoured John.

Pictures of the Patriarch and Amy from other 19th c. editions

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's study of the self-centred father and pensive daughter, Little Dorrit and Her Father (1867). Centre: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's study of Amy's attending to her father as Clennam (left) brings news of his inheritance, Joyful Tidings — Book I, Ch. XXXV — 1863 engraved frontispiece. Right: Harry Furniss's realisation of Amy's looking after her father as he suffers a mental breakdown in Italy, Mr. Dorrit Forgets Himself — 1910 lithograph. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Phiz's study in the original serial of the Dorrit brothers in the College yard, The Brothers (Part 10, May 1856). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Frontispieces by Felix Octavius Carr Darley and Sir John Gilbert. The Household Edition. 55 vols. New York: Sheldon & Co., 1863. 4 vols.

Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Illustrated by Sol Eytinge, Jr. The Diamond Edition. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1867. 14 vols.

Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Illustrated by James Mahoney. The Household Edition. 22 vols. London: Chapman and Hall, 1873. Vol. 5.

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"Little Dorrit — Fifty-eight Illustrations by James Mahoney." Scenes and Characters from the Works of Charles Dickens, Being Eight Hundred and Sixty-six Drawings by Fred Barnard, Gordon Thomson, Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz), J. McL. Ralston, J. Mahoney, H. French, Charles Green, E. G. Dalziel, A. B. Frost, F. A. Fraser, and Sir Luke Fildes. London: Chapman and Hall, 1907.

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Last modified 3 June 2016