Her hands were then nervously clasping together. (See page 195), — Book I, chap. 32, is the full title as given in the Chapman and Hall printing. Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's twenty-seventh illustration for Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1873. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 10.7 cm high by 13.5 cm wide, p. 193, framed, under the running head "Mr. Tip Displays a Proper Spirit." [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

As Arthur Clennam moved to sit down by the side of Little Dorrit, she trembled so that she had much ado to hold her needle. Clennam gently put his hand upon her work, and said, "Dear Little Dorrit, let me lay it down."

She yielded it to him, and he put it aside. Her hands were then nervously clasping together, but he took one of them.

"How seldom I have seen you lately, Little Dorrit!"

"I have been busy, sir."

"But I heard only to-day," said Clennam, "by mere accident, of your having been with those good people close by me. Why not come to me, then?"

"I — I don't know. Or rather, I thought you might be busy too. You generally are now, are you not?"

He saw her trembling little form and her downcast face, and the eyes that drooped the moment they were raised to his — he saw them almost with as much concern as tenderness. — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 32, "More Fortune-Telling," p. 195.


The title is somewhat longer in the New York (Harper and Brothers) printing: "Dear Little Dorrit, let me lay it down." She yielded to him, and he put it aside! Her hands were then nervously clasping together — Book 1, chap. xxxii. In the original serial illustrations Phiz provided, this chapter had no illustration, there being steel-engravings for both Chapters 31 and 33: The Pensioner Entertainment (Part 9: August 1856) and Society Expresses its Views on a Question of Marriage (Part 10: September 1856) respectively, the former illustration involving Little Dorrit, Arthur Clennam, and Maggy with the Patriarch, Fanny, and Old Nandy. The study emphasizes Amy's modest, self-sacrificing nature as she pretends not to be interested romantically in the man who is endeavouring to effect her father's release from the Marshalsea. The setting was one which Phiz had depicted several times, the Dorrit family garret in the debtors' prison, and Little Dorrit is once again is engaged in that respectable middle-class feminine past-time, needle-work. Mahoney subtly suggests Clennam's superior social rank by placing him on a higher level than Amy's, in a large chair. In this, the last of what were originally the three chapters of the ninth serial number, Amy is embarrassed that her father and her brother, Tip, have insulted Arthur. He assures her that he understands her father's motivations, and does not regard his self-centred remarks and Tip's "showing the proper Spirit" as insults. In this illustration, the "spirited" brother and sister having left and Mr. Dorrit off to the Snuggery, "So, at last, Clennam's purpose in remaining was attained, and he could speak to Little Dorrit with nobody by. Maggy counted as nobody, and she was by" (end of Ch. 31, p. 195), Amy begins to weep as Arthur asks her to rely on and confide in him.

Although Mahoney's illustration occurs towards the conclusion of Chapter 31, it must be read proleptically as the passage illustrated occurs early in the next chapter. The illustration alerts the reader to the fact that Clennam andAmy are about to have a private interview — although the presence of Maggy in the background as a sort of chaperone renders the scene with its intimate dialogue socially acceptable as it prepares the reader for the eventual marriage of the story's protagonists. Amy has rejected John Chivery's romantic overtures, and Arthur has just parted with Minnie (Pet Meagles), who has decided to accept Henry Gowan's proposal. Already, Arthur is beginning to appreciate Amy's sensitivity and seriousness, in contrast to the flighty females of his youth, Flora and Pet, who of course can afford to dwell on frivolous fashions and conspicuous consumption, unlike the poor but earnest Little Dorrit, here depicted as Dickens describes her: "He saw the devoted little creature with her worn shoes, in her common dress, in her gaol-home; a slender child in body, a strong heroine in soul; and the light of her domestic story made all else dark to him" (196).

Pictures of Amy Dorrit, Arthur Clennam, and Maggy from other 19th c. editions

Left: Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual study of the apparently adult figure of Maggy and the diminutive adult, Amy, during their nocturnal ordeal, Little Dorrit and Maggy (1867), Little Dorrit being the only figure to appear twice in his sixteen illustrations. 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 entertaining Maggy in her Marshalsea garret, Little Dorrit tells a Story — 1910 lithograph. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

Above: Phiz's study in the original serial of a Dorrit family tea with Arthur Clennam and Old Nandy as guests, The Pensioner Entertainment (Part 9, August 1856). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 6 June 2016