Little Dorrit Manuscript: Chapters 1 to 4

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The autograph manuscript of Little Dorrit is now bound in 8 volumes (V&A MSL/1876/Forster/165/1 to 8).

The first volume is currently included in this transcription project.

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Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.020 recto
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Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.020 recto

11 Chapter II.

Baby Practical People Quarantine Quarantine Fellow Travellers.

[???] No more of [???] yesterday’s howling, over yonder, to-day, is? there [?? ??????] Sir; is there?”

[No. No ???? The ????? is? quiet? ???? ????] I have heard none.”

“Then you may be sure there is none. When these [fellows? howl?] people howl Sir, they howl to be heard.” But a lot of howling people [???]

“Most people do, I [??????? ????? [????????] suppose ?????????????] suppose [?[???]?[???]?].”

“Ah! but these people are always howling. Never happy otherwise.”

“Do you mean the Marseilles people?”

No [???] I mean the whole French people. As to Marseilles They’re always at it. As to Marseilles, there's no doubt about that [???????????????] we know what Marseilles is. It [????????????????] sent the most insurrectionary tune into the world, that was ever composed. It couldn’t exist without [? ?? ??? ??? ???] It couldn’t exist without allonging and marshonging to [??????????????????] [??] something or other—victory or death, or blazes or something.”

The speaker with [??? ????] a whimsical good [?????????] humour upon him all the time, looked over the parapet-wall with the greatest [??????????????????] disparagement of Marseilles; and taking up a [???????] [?????? hands in his pockets ????????????] [his hands in his pocket ???????????????????] [???][???] determined [???] position [???] by putting his hands in his pockets and [???] rattling his money at it, apostrophised it with a short laugh of [???] disdain.

“Allonging and marshonging indeed! [???]

It would be [???] more [???] creditable to you, I think, to let [?????] other people allong and marshong about their lawful business, instead of [???] shutting 'em up in quarantine!”

“Tiresome enough,” said the other. “But we shall be out to-day.”

“Out to-day [???]!” repeated the first. “It’s almost an aggravation of the enormity, [???????????] [???????] that we shall be out to-day. Out! What have we ever been in for?”

“For no very good [???????????] strong reason, I must [????????] say. [??????] But, as we [???] come from the East, and as the East is the [?????] country of the plague—”

“The plague Sir!” repeated the other. “That’s [???] my grievance. I [???] have had the plague [??????????] [???????] continually, ever since I have been here. I am like a sane [???] man [???? ??????] shut up in a madhouse; I can’t bear stand the suspicion of it the thing. I came here as well as ever I was in my life, but to suspect me of the plague is to give me the plague. And I have had it [???? ??? ??? of f????s] —and [???] I have got it [???].”

“You bear it very well Mr Meagles ” said [???????????????] the second speaker, [???] smiling.

Now No. If [????] a bit of it [?????????] If you knew the real state of the case, that’s the last observation you would think of making. I have been waking up night after night, and saying, now I have got it, now [?? ???] it has developed itself, now I am all [??? ????] in for it, now [?????] these fellows are making out their case [?at last? ?????????????] for [?thse?] their [?confounded?] precautions. Why, [?????????????????] [? ????] I’d as soon [???????????????????????] have a spit put ?????? through me [???], and be stuck upon a card [???????????] in a collection of beetles [??????????????], as lead the life I have been leading here.”

“Well, Mr Meagles, say no more about it [???] now it’s over,” [???] [???] urged a [?cheery?] ???? cheerful [?female?] feminine voice.

“Over!” repeated Mr Meagles, who [????] appeared (though without any ill-nature) to be in a that peculiarly [??????????????????] state of mind in which the last word [said?] spoken by anybody else is a new injury. “Over! and why should I say no more about it because it’s over!”

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Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.021 recto
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Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.021 recto

12 It was Mrs Meagles who confronted had spoken to Mr Meagles; and Mrs Meagles Mrs Meagles was, like Mr Meagles, comely and healthy, with a pleasant English face that which had been looking at homely things for five and fifty years or more, and had shone with a [?] bright reflection of them.

“There! Never mind, Father, never mind!” said Mrs Meagles. “For goodness sake content yourself with Baby .”

“With Pet?” repeated Mr Meagles in his injured vein. Pet, Baby however, being close behind him, [????????????] [put her hand?????] touched him on the shoulder, and Mr Meagles [instantly???] immediately forgave Marseilles from the bottom of his heart.

Pet [???] was about nineteen twenty. A fair girl with rich brown hair hanging free in natural ringlets. She was A lovely girl, with a frank [?????] face, and wonderful eyes; [??] so large, so soft, so bright, set to such perfection in her kind good head. She was round and fresh and dimpled and spoilt, and there was in Pet an air of timidity and dependence which was the best weakness in the world, and gave her the only crowning charm a girl so pretty and pleasant could have been without.

“Now, I ask you,” said Mr Meagles in the blandest confidence, falling back a step himself, and handing his daughter a step forward to illustrate his question: “I ask you simply, as between man and man, you know, DID you ever hear of such damned nonsense as putting Pet in quarantine?”

“It has had the effect of result of making even quarantine enjoyable.”

“Come!” said Mr Meagles, “that’s something to be sure. I am obliged to you for that remark. Now, Pet, my darling, you had better go along with Mother and get ready for the boat. The officer of health, and a variety of humbugs in cocked hats, are coming off to let us out of this at last: and all we [captives???] jail-birds are to breakfast together in something approaching to a Christian style again, before we take wing for our different destinations. Tattycoram, stick you close to your young mistress.”

He spoke to a handsome girl with lustrous dark hair and eyes, and very neatly dressed, who replied with a half curtsey as she passed off in the train of Mrs Meagles and Pet. They crossed the bare scorched terrace all three together, and disappeared through a staring white archway. Mr Meagles’s companion, a grave dark man of forty, still stood looking towards this archway after they were gone; until Mr Meagles tapped him on the arm.

“I beg your pardon,” said he, starting.

“Not at all,” said Mr Meagles.

They took a few one silent turns backward and forward in the shade of the wall, getting, at the height on which the quarantine [???????] barracks are placed, what cool refreshment of sea breeze there was at seven [?????] in the morning. Mr Meagles’s companion resumed the conversation.

“May I ask you,” he said, “what is the name of—”

“Tattycoram?” Mr Meagles struck in. “I have not the least idea.”

“I thought,” said the other, “that—”

“Tattycoram?” suggested Mr Meagles again.

“Thank you—that Tattycoram was a name; and I have several times wondered at the oddity of it.”

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Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.022 recto

13

“Why, the fact is,” said Mr Meagles, “Mrs Meagles and myself are, [????] you see, practical people.”

“That you have frequently mentioned in the course of the [????] agreeable and interesting conversations we have had together, [???] walking up and down on these [????] stones,” said the other, with a smile half smile [????? ??????] breaking through the gravity of his dark face.

“Practical people. So one day, [???????] five or six [????????] years ago now, when we took Pet to church at the Foundling—you have heard of the Foundling Hospital in London? Similar to the Institution for the Found Children in Paris?”

“I have [??????????] seen it [???????].”

“Well! One day when we took Pet to church there to hear the music—[???] because, as practical people, it is the business of our lives to show her everything that we think [??????] can please her [??????????]—Mother ([??????] my usual name for Mrs Meagles) began to cry so, [???????] that it was necessary to take her out. “What’s the matter, Mother?” said I, when we had brought her a little round: “you are frightening Pet, my dear.” “Yes, I know that, Father,” says Mother, “but I think it’s through my loving her so much, that it ever came into my head.” “That ever what came into your head, Mother?” “O dear, dear!” cried Mother, breaking out again, “when I saw all those children ranged tier above tier, and appealing from the father none of them has ever known on earth, to the great Father of us all in Heaven, I thought, does any wretched mother ever come here, and look among those young faces, wondering which is the poor child she brought into this forlorn world, never through all its life to know her love, her kiss, her face, her voice, even her name!” Now that was practical in Mother, and I told her so. I said, “Mother, that’s what I call practical in you, my dear.”“

The other, not unmoved, assented.

“So I said next day: Now, Mother, I have a proposition to make that I think you’ll approve of. Let us take one of those same little children to be a little maid to Pet. We are practical people. So if we should find her temper a little defective, or any of her ways a little wide of ours, we shall know what we have to take into account. We shall know what an immense deduction must be made from all the influences and experiences that have formed us—no parents, no child-brother or sister, no individuality of home, no Glass Slipper, or Fairy Godmother. And that’s the way we came by Tattycoram.”

“And the name itself—”

“By George!” said Mr Meagles, “I was forgetting the name itself. Why, she was called in the Institution, Harriet Beadle—an arbitrary name, of course. Now, Harriet we changed into Hattey, and then into Tatty, because, as practical people, we thought even a playful name might be a new thing to her, and might have a softening and affectionate kind of effect, don’t you see? As to Beadle, that I needn’t say was wholly out of the question. If there is anything that is not to be tolerated on any terms, anything that is a type of Jack-in-office insolence and absurdity, anything that represents in coats, waistcoats, and big sticks our English holding on by nonsense after every one has found it out, it is a beadle. You haven’t seen a beadle lately?”

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“As an Englishman who has been more than twenty years in china, no.”

“Then,” said Mr Meagles, laying his forefinger on his companion’s breast with great animation, “don’t you see a Beadle, now, if you can help it! Whenever I see a Beadle in full fig, coming down a street on a Sunday at the head of a charity School, I am obliged to turn and run away or I should hit him. The name of Beadle being out of the question, and the originator of the Institution for these poor Foundlings having been a blessed creature of the name of Coram, we gave that name to Baby’s little maid. At one time she was Tatty, and at one time she was Coram, until we got into a way of mixing the two names together, and now she is always Tattycoram.”

“Your daughter,” said the other, when they had taken another silent turn to and fro, and after standing for a moment at the wall glancing down at the sea had resumed their walk, “is your only child, I know, Mr Meagles. May I ask you—in no impertinent curiosity, but because I have had so much pleasure in your society, may never in this labyrinth of a world exchange a quiet word with you again, and wish to preserve an accurate remembrance of you and yours—may I ask you if I have not gathered from your good wife that you have had other children?”

“No. No,” said Mr Meagles. “Not exactly other children. One other child.”

“I am afraid I have inadvertently touched upon a tender theme.”

“Never mind,” said Mr Meagles. “If I am grave about it, I am not at all sorrowful. It quiets me for a moment, but does not make me unhappy. Baby had a twin sister, who died when we could just see her eyes—exactly like Baby’s—above the table, as she stood on tiptoe holding by it.”

“Ah! indeed, indeed?”

“Yes. And being practical people, a result has gradually sprung up in the minds of Mrs Meagles and myself which perhaps you may—or perhaps you may not—understand. Baby and her baby sister were so exactly alike, and so completely one, that in our thoughts we have never been able to separate them since. It would be of no use to tell us that our dead child was a mere infant. We have changed that child according to the changes in the child spared to us and always with us. As Baby has grown, that child has grown; as Baby has become more sensible and womanly, Baby's sister has become more sensible and womanly by just the same degrees. It would be as hard to convince me that if I was to pass into the other world tomorrow, I should not, through the mercy of God, be received there by a daughter, just like Baby, as to persuade me that Baby herself is not a reality at my side.”

“I understand you,” said the other, gently.

“How baby herself thinks on this particular point,” pursued her father, “I don't know; but, probably pretty much as her mother and I do. The sudden loss of her little picture and play fellow, and her early association with that mystery in which we all have our equal share but which is not often so forcibly presented as a child, has necessarily had some influence on her character. Then, her mother and I were not young when we married, and Baby has always had a sort of grown-up life

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15 with us, though we have tried [???????][???????] to adapt ourselves to her. We [???????? ???????]have been advised more than once when she has been a little [?????? ????] ailing, to change [??][??]climate and air for her as [????????]often as we could —especially [????????][????????] at about this time of her life— and to keep her amused and to give her changeand to give her change. So, as I have no [??????????][??????????] need to stick at a Bank-desk now (though I have been poor enough in my time I assure you, or I should have married Mrs Meagles long before), we go trotting about the world [?????essly][?????essly][?????][?????][??????][??????]. This is how you found us shewing Baby the Nile, and the Pyramids, and the Sphinxes, and the [b?q??b?q??][b?q??b?q??] Desert, [and the mosques][and the mosques] and all the rest of it; and this is how Tattycoram will be a greater traveller in course of time than Captain Cook.”

“I thank you,” said the other, “very heartily for your confidence.”

“Don’t mention it,” returned Mr Meagles, “I am sure[??????][??????] you are veryquite welcome [??????][??????][I??????][I??????]. And now, Mr [??????][??????] Clennam, [? of ???????][? of ???????] perhaps I may ask you whether you have made up your mind yet come to a decision as to which [?????? ??????]as to which [?????? ??????] where to go next?”

“Indeed, no. I am such a waif and stray everywhere, that I am liable to be drifted where any current may set.”

“It’s extraordinary to me—if you’ll excuse my freedom in saying so—that you don’t go straight to London,” said Mr Meagles, in the tone of a confidential adviser.

“Perhaps I shall.”

“Ay! But I mean with a will.”

“I have no will. That is to say,’—he coloured a little,—’next to none that I can put in action now. Trained by main force; broken, not bent; heavily ironed with an object on which I was never consulted and which was never mine; shipped away to the other end of the world before I was of age, and exiled there until my father’s death there, a year ago; always grinding in a mill I always hated; what is to be expected from me in middle life? Will, purpose, hope? All those lights were extinguished before I could sound the words.”

“Light “em up again!” said Mr Meagles.

“Ah! Easily said. I am the son, Mr Meagles, of a hard father and mother. I am the only child of parents who weighed, measured, and priced everything; for whom what could not be weighed, measured, and priced, had no existence. Strict people as the phrase is, professors of a stern religion, their very religion was a gloomy sacrifice of tastes and sympathies that were never their own, offered up as a part of a bargain for the security of their possessions. Austere faces, inexorable discipline, penance in this world and terror in the next—nothing graceful or gentle anywhere, and the void in my cowed heart everywhere—this was my childhood, if I may so misuse the word as to apply it to such a beginning of life.”

“Really though?” said Mr Meagles, made very uncomfortable by the picture offered to his imagination. “That was a tough commencement. But come! You must now study, and profit by, all that lies beyond it, like a practical man.”

“If the people who are usually called practical, were practical in your direction—”

“Why, so they are!” said Mr Meagles.

“Are they indeed?”

“Well, I suppose so,” returned Mr Meagles, thinking about it. “Eh? One can but be practical, and

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