Little Dorrit Manuscript: Chapters 1 to 4

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.


Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.029 recto

Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.029 recto

The ???Miss Wade???The visitor stood looking at her with a strange, attentive smile ly attentive strange, attentive smile. It was wonderful to see the fury of the contest in the girl, and the bodily struggle she made as if she were rent by the Demons of old.

“I am ???? as old as she is younger than she is by two or three years, and yet it’s its me that looks after her, as if I was old, and it’s its she that’s [????] always petted and called Baby! [????????] I detest the name. I [?????????] hate [????], her! They make a fool of her, they spoil her. She thinks of nothing but herself, she thinks no more of me if than if I was a stock and a stone!” So she the girl went on.

“You must have patience.”

“I won’t have patience!”

“If they take much care of themselves, and forget forget little or none of or none of you, you must not mind it.”

"I will mind it.”

“Hush! Be more prudent. You forget your dependent position.”

“I don’t care for that. I’ll run away. I’ll do some mischief. I won’t bear it; I can’t bear it; I shall die if I try to bear it!”

The observer stood with her hand upon her own bosom, looking at the girl, as one afflicted with a diseased part might curiously watch the dissection and exposition of an analogous case.

The girl raged and battled with all the force of her youth and fulness of life, until by little and little her passionate exclamations trailed off into broken murmurs as if she were in pain. By corresponding degrees she sank into a chair, then upon her knees, then upon the ground beside the bed, drawing the coverlet with her, half to hide her shamed head and wet hair in it, and half, as it seemed, to embrace it, rather than have nothing to take to her repentant breast.

“Go away from me, go away from me! When my temper comes upon me, I am mad. I know I might keep it off if I only tried hard enough, and sometimes I do try hard enough, and at other times I don’t and won’t. What have I said! I knew when I said it, it was all lies. They think I am being taken care of somewhere, and have all I want. They are nothing but good to me. I love them dearly; no people could ever be kinder to a thankless creature than they always are to me. Do, do go away, for I am afraid of you. I am afraid of myself when I feel my temper coming, and I am as much afraid of you. Go away from me, and let me pray and cry myself better!”

The day passed on; and again the wide stare stared itself out; and the hot night was on Marseilles; and through it the caravan of the morning, all dispersed, went their appointed ways. And thus ever by day and night, under the sun and under the stars, climbing the dusty hills and toiling along the weary plains, journeying by land and journeying by sea, coming and going so strangely, to meet and to act and react on one another, move all we restless travellers through the pilgrimage of life.

Last edit over 3 years ago by Douglas Dodds
Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.030 recto

Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.030 recto

21[Dickens' pagination]30[curator's pagination] Chapter III. Home. It was a [??][cl??c??d]dur [?] Sunday evening in London, gloomy,[cl???i?y ???i? and ?olling?] close, and stale hot. Maddening The [??ch?????] lashing church bells of all [??l?i?eds]degrees of dissonance, sharp and flat, cracked and cleclear, fast and slow, [??? ?an?is ??]made the[?? ????nes of the ????on?l???]brick and mortar echoes hideous. [??? ?????ing the ????and melancholyMelancholy streets, in a penitential garb of soot, steeping steeped the souls of the[????cay] people[????] who were condemned to look[????] at them out ofout of windows in [???eniss and]dire despondency. InIn every [?????]thoroughfare up almost every[???? ???? ?ll?y] alley, and[?? down every turning, some doleful bell[???] was throbbing, jerking,[??] tolling, as if the[Plague ????] Plague were in the city and the Dead-Carts were goingabout in a bit of the [???????] round. Everything [?????]was bolted and barred that could byany possibility [??]furnish relief to an overworked people. No pictures, no unfamiliar animals, no rare plants or flowers, no natural or artificial wonders of the ancient world—all taboo with that enlightened strictness, that the ugly South Sea gods in the British Museum might have supposed themselves at home again. Nothing to see but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to breathe but streets, streets, streets. Nothing to change the brooding mind, or raise it up. Nothing for the spent toiler to do, but to compare the monotony of his seventh day with the monotony of his six days, think what a weary life he led, and make the best of it—or the worst, according to the probabilities.

At such a happy time, so propitious to the interests of religion and morality, Mr Arthur Clennam, newly arrived from Marseilles by way of Dover, and by Dover coach the Blue-eyed Maid, sat in the window of a coffee-house on Ludgate Hill. Ten thousand responsible houses surrounded him, frowning as heavily on the streets they composed, as if they were every one inhabited by the ten young men of the Calender’s story, who blackened their faces and bemoaned their miseries every night. Fifty thousand lairs surrounded him where people lived so unwholesomely that fair water put into their crowded rooms on Saturday night, would be corrupt on Sunday morning; albeit my lord, their county member, was amazed that they failed to sleep in company with their butcher’s meat. Miles of close wells and pits of houses, where the inhabitants gasped for air, stretched far away towards every point of the compass. Through the heart of the town a deadly sewer ebbed and flowed, in the place of a fine fresh river. What secular want could the million or so of human beings whose daily labour, six days in the week, lay among these Arcadian objects, from the sweet sameness of which they had no escape between the cradle and the grave—what secular want could they possibly have upon their seventh day? Clearly they could want nothing but a stringent policeman.

Mr Arthur Clennam sat in the window of the coffee-house on Ludgate Hill, counting one of the neighbouring bells, making sentences and burdens of songs out of it in spite of himself, and wondering how many sick people it might be the death of in the course of the year. As the hour approached, its changes of measure made it more and more exasperating. At the quarter, it went off into a condition of deadly-lively importunity, urging the populace in a voluble manner to Come to church, Come to church, Come to church! At the ten minutes, it became aware that the congregation would be scanty, and slowly hammered out in low spirits, They won’t come, they won’t come, they

Last edit over 3 years ago by Douglas Dodds
Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.031 recto

Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.031 recto

won’t come! At the five minutes, it abandoned hope, and shook every house in the neighbourhood for three hundred seconds, with one dismal swing per second, as an expression of its grief a groan of despair.

“Thank Heaven!” said Clennam, when the hour struck, "There is an end of it for this hour!" and the bell stopped.

But its sound had revived a long train of miserable Sundays, and the procession would not stop with the bell, but continued to march on. “Heaven forgive me,” said he, “and those who trained me. How I have hated this day!”

There was the dreary Sunday of his childhood, when he sat with his hands before him, scared out of his senses by a horrible tract which commenced business with the poor child by asking him in its title, why he was going to Perdition?—a piece of curiosity that he really, in a frock and drawers, was not in a condition to satisfy—and which, for the further attraction of his infant mind, had a parenthesis in every other line with some such hiccupping reference as 2 Ep. Thess. c. iii, v. 6 & 7. There was the sleepy Sunday of his boyhood, when, like a military deserter, he was marched to chapel by a picquet of teachers three times a day, morally handcuffed to another boy; and when he would willingly have bartered two meals of indigestible sermon for another ounce or two of inferior mutton at his scanty dinner in the flesh. There was the interminable Sunday of his nonage; when his mother, stern of face and unrelenting of heart, would sit all day behind a Bible—bound, like her own construction of it, in the hardest, barest, and straitest boards, with one dinted ornament on the cover like the drag of a chain, and a wrathful sprinkling of red upon the edges of the leaves—as if it, of all books! were a fortification against sweetness of temper, natural affection, and gentle intercourse. There was the resentful Sunday of a little later, when he sat down glowering and glooming through the tardy length of the day, with a sullen sense of injury in his heart, and no more real knowledge of the beneficent history of the New Testament than if he had been bred among idolaters. There was a legion of Sundays, all days of unserviceable bitterness and mortification, slowly passing before him.

“Beg pardon, sir,” said a brisk waiter, rubbing the table. “Wish see bed-room?”

“Yes. I have just made up my mind to do it.”

“Chaymaid!” cried the waiter. “Gelen box num seven wish see room!”

“Stay!” said Clennam, rousing himself. “I was not thinking of what I said; I answered mechanically. I am not going to sleep here. I am going home.”

“Deed, sir? Chaymaid! Gelen box num seven, not go sleep here, gome.”

He sat in the same place as the day died, looking at the dull houses opposite, and thinking, if the disembodied spirits of former inhabitants were ever conscious of them, how they must pity themselves for their old places of imprisonment. Sometimes a face would appear behind the dingy glass of a window, and would fade away into the gloom as if it had seen enough of life and had vanished out of it. Presently the rain began to fall in slanting lines between him and those houses, and people began to collect under cover of the public passage opposite, and to look out hopelessly at the sky as the rain dropped thicker and faster. Then wet umbrellas began to appear,

Last edit over 3 years ago by Douglas Dodds
Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.032 recto

Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.032 recto

draggled skirts, and mud. What the mud had been doing with itself or where it came from, who could say? But it collectedseemed to collect in a moment, as a crowd will, and where splashedin [??]five minutes where splashed all [???????]the sons and daughters of Adam. The lamplighter was going his rounds now; andand as [???? ???? ?????????e?pl????????the???? t???s?f]the fiery jets [????????]sprang up under[???] his touch, one might haveappeared fancied them astonished at being suffered to introduce any show of brightness into such a dismal scene.

Mr Arthur Clennam took up his hat and buttoned his coat, and walked out. In the country, the rain would have developed a thousand fresh scents, and every drop would have had its bright association with some beautiful form of growth or life. In the city, it developed only foul stale smells, and was a sickly, lukewarm, dirt-stained, wretched addition to the gutters.

He crossed by St Paul’s and went down, at a long angle, almost to the water’s edge, through some of the crooked and descending streets which lie (and lay more crookedly and closely then) between the river and Cheapside. Passing, now the mouldy hall of some obsolete Worshipful Company, now the illuminated windows of a Congregationless Church that seemed to be waiting for some adventurous Belzoni to dig it out and discover its history; passing silent warehouses and wharves, and here and there a narrow alley leading to the river, where a wretched little bill, FOUND DROWNED, was weeping on the wet wall; he came at last to the house he sought. An old brick house, so dingy as to be all but black, standing by itself within a gateway. Before it, a square court-yard where a shrub or two and a patch of grass were as rank (which is saying much) as the iron railings enclosing them were rusty; behind it, a jumble of roots. It was a double house, with long, narrow, heavily-framed windows. Many years ago, it had had it in its mind to slide down sideways; it had been propped up, however, and was leaning on some half-dozen gigantic crutches: which gymnasium for the neighbouring cats, weather-stained, smoke-blackened, and overgrown with weeds, appeared in these latter days to be no very sure reliance.

“Nothing changed,” said the traveller, stopping to look round. “Dark and miserable as ever. A light in my mother’s window, which seems never to have been extinguished since I came home twice a year from school, and dragged my box over this pavement. Well, well, well!”

He went up to the door, which had a projecting canopy in carved work of festooned jack-towels and children’s heads with water on the brain, designed after a once-popular monumental pattern, and knocked. A shuffling step was soon heard on the stone floor of the hall, and the door was opened by an old man, bent and dried, but with keen eyes.

He had a candle in his hand, and he held it up for a moment to assist his keen eyes. “Ah, Mr Arthur?” he said, without any emotion, “you are come at last? Step in.”

Mr Arthur stepped in and shut the door.

“Your figure is filled out, and set,” said the old man, turning to look at him with the light raised again and shaking his head; “but you don’t come up ?your father in my opinion. Nor yet your mother.”

Last edit over 3 years ago by Douglas Dodds
Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.033 recto

Little Dorrit Vol.1 f.033 recto

“How is my mother?”

Well!She is as she always is now.SheKeeps her room when not actually bedridden, and hasn’t been out of it fifteen [?????teen] times [?] [???????? y????? ????t] in as many years , Arthur”[,??i?]. They had walked into [??????????] a [d??g?] spare, meagre dining-room. The old man had put the candlestick upon the table, and, supporting his right elbow with his left hand, was smoothing [????]his leathern jaws [??????????????] while he looked at the visitor. The visitor [??? ??? ?????] offered his hand. The old man [??? ????] [???? ????]took it coldly enough, and [???] seemed to prefer his jaws, to which he returned as soon as he could.

“I doubt if your mother will approve of your coming home on the Sabbath, Arthur,” he said, shaking his head warily.

“You wouldn’t have me go away again?”

“Oh! I? I? I am not the master. It’s not what I would have. I have stood between your father and mother for a number of years. I don’t pretend to stand between your mother and you.”

“Will you tell her that I have come home?”

“Yes, Arthur, yes. Oh, to be sure! I’ll tell her that you have come home. Please to wait here. You won’t find the room changed.” He took another candle from a cupboard, lighted it, left the first on the table, and went upon his errand. He was a short, bald old man, in a high-shouldered black coat and waistcoat, drab breeches, and long drab gaiters. He might, from his dress, have been either clerk or servant, and in fact had long been both. There was nothing about him in the way of decoration but a watch, which was lowered into the depths of its proper pocket by an old black ribbon, and had a tarnished copper key moored above it, to show where it was sunk. His head was awry, and he had a one-sided, crab-like way with him, as if his foundations had yielded at about the same time as those of the house, and he ought to have been propped up in a similar manner.

“How weak am I,” said Arthur Clennam, when he was gone, “that I could shed tears at this reception! I, who have never experienced anything else; who have never expected anything else.”

He not only could, but did. It was the momentary yielding of a nature that had been disappointed from the dawn of its perceptions, but had not quite given up all its hopeful yearnings yet. He subdued it, took up the candle, and examined the room. The old articles of furniture were in their old places; the Plagues of Egypt, much the dimmer for the fly and smoke plagues of London, were framed and glazed upon the walls. There was the old cellaret with nothing in it, lined with lead, like a sort of coffin in compartments; there was the old dark closet, also with nothing in it, of which he had been many a time the sole contents, in days of punishment, when he had regarded it as the veritable entrance to that bourne to which the tract had found him galloping. There was the large, hard-featured clock on the sideboard, which he used to see bending its figured brows upon him with a savage joy when he was behind-hand with his lessons, and which, when it was wound up once a week with an iron handle, used to sound as if it were growling in ferocious anticipation of the miseries into which it would bring him. But here was the old man come back, saying, “Arthur, I’ll go before and light you.”

Last edit over 3 years ago by Douglas Dodds
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