Arthur Clennam, with the card in his hand, betook himself to the address set forth upon it. (See page 131) — Book I, chap. 22, "A Puzzle," p. 129. Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's nineteenth illustration for Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1873. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 10.6 cm high x 13.6 cm wide.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Passage Illustrated

"(Private) I ask your pardon again," said Mr. Chivery, "but could you go round by Horsemonger Lane? Could you by any means find time to look in at that address?" handing him a little card, printed for circulation among the connection of Chivery and Co., Tobacconists, Importers of pure Havannah Cigars, Bengal Cheroots, and fine-flavoured Cubas, Dealers in Fancy Snuffs, &C. &C.

"(Private) It an't tobacco business," said Mr. Chivery. "The truth is, it's my wife. She's wishful to say a word to you, sir, upon a point respecting — yes," said Mr. Chivery, answering Clennam's look of apprehension with a nod, "respecting her."

"I will make a point of seeing your wife directly."

"Thank you, sir. Much obliged. It an't above ten minutes out of your way. Please to ask for Mrs Chivery!" These instructions, Mr. Chivery, who had already let him out, cautiously called through a little slide in the outer door, which he could draw back from within for the inspection of visitors when it pleased him.

Arthur Clennam, with the card in his hand, betook himself to the address set forth upon it, and speedily arrived there. It was a very small establishment, wherein a decent woman sat behind the counter working at her needle. Little jars of tobacco, little boxes of cigars, a little assortment of pipes, a little jar or two of snuff, and a little instrument like a shoeing horn for serving it out, composed the retail stock in trade.

Arthur mentioned his name, and his having promised to call, on the solicitation of Mr. Chivery. About something relating to Miss Dorrit, he believed. Mrs. Chivery at once laid aside her work, rose up from her seat behind the counter, and deploringly shook her head. — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 22, "A Puzzle," p. 131.


The Chapman and Hall composite wood-engraving is identical to that in the New York (Harper and Brothers) edition; however, the American volume has a much longer caption: Arthur Clennam with the card in his hand, betook himself to the address set forth on it, and speedily arrived there. It was a very small establishment, wherein a decent woman sat behind the counter working at her needle — Book 1, chap. xxii. As a piece of genre art devoted to the mundane and commonplace, in the manner of the seventeenth-century Dutch masters such as Johannes Vermeer, the Mahoney wood-engraving of a nineteenth-century London tobacconist's shop (two steps down from Horsemonger Lane) has much to recommend it as the illustrator describes his commercial subject in considerable detail, including the small statue of an aboriginal chief mounted outside the shop door (as a business "sign" for the illiterate), the jars labelled with their contents behind the vendor, Mrs. Chivery, and broadsheets posted (right).

Compare this commonplace scene to that by Phiz for A Tale of Two Cities, the Defarges' local business in the Parisian suburb of St. Antoine, The Wine Shop (September 1859), in which the shop is at least one step up from the street, as opposed to this London shop, which is two steps down. The well-dressed middle-class customer at the counter does not reveal his face to the viewer in the Mahoney illustration as he studies the card he was given, but, as he is tall and impeccably dressed, his form is entirely consistent with that of Arthur Clennam seen elsewhere. The excessive amount of cross-hatching seems to be intended to suggest the darkness of the little shop's interior, as the front of the counter, the rear of Clennam's coat, and his trousers pick up the light from open door; the window, crowded with bric-a-brac admits far less illumination. Mrs. Chivery is sewing with her back to the window and door to take advantage of whatever natural light is available.

As it turns out, the mysterious engagement at the tobacconist's in Horsemonger Lane results in Clennam's acquiring through his conversation with the proprietress a deeper insight into the self-sacrificing Amy Dorrit. In the back yard, Arthur Clennam observes the disconsolate lover, John Chivery, suffering from unrequited life for Little Dorrit because she has said that she can be nobody's wife as long as she has tend her father. Formerly, Arthur has thought of her as a dutiful child; however, young John Chivery's "pining" in the "groves" of linen hanging on the clotheslines behind the shop forces the middle-class observer to regard Little Dorrit as a young woman capable of inspiring infatuation and romantic devotion in young men — and perhaps even of returning such warm feelings. The peculiar summons to the Chiverys' shop and Arthur's subsequent conversation with Mrs. Chivery, then, mark a turning point in his conception of Amy Dorrit, although he continues to apply the term "child" to her in his thoughts when he meets her on the Iron Bridge, the reference suggesting a temporal setting some time in the early 1820s. Southwark Bridge, originally a "tolled" bridge, was popularly known as "Iron Bridge." Built by John Rennie in 1819, Southwark Bridge leads directly to the Borough High Street, off which the Marshalsea was located.

Phiz's illustrations for the early chapters (Book One, Ch. 19-22) involve studies of the Dorrits, but none involving Arthur Clennam: Fanny and Little Dorrit call on Mrs. Merdle (Frontispiece: Book One, Ch. 20); The Brothers (Book One, Ch. 19); Miss Dorrit and Little Dorrit. To address this deficit since Arthur is, in essence, co-protagonist, Mahoney created a frontispiece relating Arthur Clennam to Amy Dorrit. Furthermore, in characterizing Arthur Clennam here, Mahoney had to consult Phiz's illustrations for other chapters (originally in other monthly parts) for pertinent 1856-57 illustrations in order to provide a credible figure consistent with the image of the male engenue in the original series. In Mr. Flintwich mediates as a friend of the family (Book One, Ch. 5), for example, Phiz has drawn a respectably dressed, bourgeois slightly balding but rather undistinguished middle-aged man — hardly a romantic lead, whereas in Little Mother (Book One, Chapter 9) Mahoney would have found a useful model, a middle-class, thirty-year-old male with a handsome profile and mutton chop sideburns whose height and breadth of shoulder clearly distinguish him from the story's other young men.

Relevant Illustrations of Arthur Clennam from Other Editions, 1856-1910

Left: Phiz's study of the well-dressed, bourgeois protagonist, with Little Dorrit and Maggy in the Marshalsea, Little Mother (February 1856). Centre: Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual study of the reclusive, suspicious mother and her [adopted] son, Mrs. Clennam and Arthur Clennam (1867). Right: Felix Octavius Carr Darley's realisation of Arthur Clennam as the harbinger of good fortune for the Dorrits, Joyful Tidings (1863). [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Harry Furniss's 1910 study of Arthur Clennam with Flora and Mr. F.'s Aunt, Clennam is introduced to "Mr. F.'s Aunt" (Book I, Ch. 13). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 2 May 2016