The Third Volume of the Registers (facing p. 710) — Phiz's final illustration for Dickens's Little Dorrit, Authentic Edition, 1901. Steel engraving for Book Two, Chapter 34 (originally in Parts 19-20, June 1857). 10 cm high x 16.3 cm wide, vignetted.

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

Then they went up the steps of the neighbouring Saint George's Church, and went up to the altar, where Daniel Doyce was waiting in his paternal character. And there was Little Dorrit's old friend who had given her the Burial Register for a pillow; full of admiration that she should come back to them to be married, after all.

And they were married with the sun shining on them through the painted figure of Our Saviour on the window. And they went into the very room where Little Dorrit had slumbered after her party, to sign the Marriage Register. And there, Mr. Pancks, (destined to be chief clerk to Doyce and Clennam, and afterwards partner in the house), sinking the Incendiary in the peaceful friend, looked in at the door to see it done, with Flora gallantly supported on one arm and Maggy on the other, and a back-ground of John Chivery and father and other turnkeys who had run round for the moment, deserting the parent Marshalsea for its happy child. Nor had Flora the least signs of seclusion upon her, notwithstanding her recent declaration; but, on the contrary, was wonderfully smart, and enjoyed the ceremonies mightily, though in a fluttered way.

Little Dorrit's old friend held the inkstand as she signed her name, and the clerk paused in taking off the good clergyman's surplice, and all the witnesses looked on with special interest. "For, you see," said Little Dorrit's old friend, "this young lady is one of our curiosities, and has come now to the third volume of our Registers. Her birth is in what I call the first volume; she lay asleep, on this very floor, with her pretty head on what I call the second volume; and she's now a-writing her little name as a bride in what I call the third volume." — Book The Second, "Riches," Chapter 34, "Gone," p. 712.


The picture and text constitute a happy rather than an indeterminate ending, although neither indicates the fate of the Clennams. The figures in the signing scene in the chapel of St. George's Church, near the Marshalsea, are Little Dorrit, Maggy, John Chivery, and sundry witnesses, including Clennam's business partner, Daniel Doyce, as the community of the Marshalsea and of the novel comes together for the novel's final scene, the wedding of one of the Marshalsea's own — or two, if we count Clennam as an insolvent debtor in consequence of his losing all of his investments in the crash resulting from Merdle's suicide.

Mahoney's uncaptioned final illustration, Tailpiece, dwells upon the intimate, personal experience of the well-dressed bride and groom leaving the church for the challenges of life, unassisted by friends and family (for Little Dorrit's uncle and father, like Arthur Clennam's mother and father). Phiz's illustration, in contrast, focuses upon the continuity of life from birth to marriage, with the implication that Arthur and Amy will find themselves before long signing another church's registry as the parents of an infant. Phiz's sense of the communal nature of the marriage ceremony is not suggested in Mahoney's reflective moment about the couple's escaping the prison of the past, of the tense Clennam household and the confines of the debtors' prison, to join the teaming life of the metropolis.

Relevant Illustrations of the Novel's Conclusion from Other Editions, 1867-1910

Left: James Mahoney's uncaptioned tailpiece for the 1873 Household Edition, Little Dorrit and her husband walked out of the church alone — Chap. xxxiv. Right: Harry Furniss's closing illustration (Book 2, Chapter 31), in which the reclusive Mrs. Clennam walks amidst the teaming life of a London street on the way to the Marshalsea, Mrs Clennam Seeks Little Dorrit. [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual study Casby and Pancks, the final plate in the 1867 Diamond Edition but one which has little to do with the marriage of the two protagonists. [Click on the image to enlarge them.]


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Last modified 6 May 2016