Little Dorrit Manuscript: Chapters 5 to 8

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.


Vol.1 f.048 recto

Vol.1 f.048 recto

the leaves, closed the book upon them, and held it up to her son in a threatening way.

“In the days of old, Arthur, chronicled here in these pages treated of in this commentary, there were pious men, beloved of the Lord, who would have cursed their sons for less than this: and who would have sent them forth, and sent whole nations forth, if such had supported them, to be avoided of God and man, and perish, down to the baby [who ??? ??????] at the breast. But I only tell you that if you ever renew that theme with me, I will renounce you; I will so dismiss you through that doorway, that you had better have been motherless from your cradle. I will never see or know you more. And if, after all, you were to come into this darkened room to look upon me lying dead, my body should bleed, if I could make it, when you came near me.”

In part relieved by the intensity of this threat, and in part (monstrous as the fact is) by a general impression that it was in some sort a religious proceeding, she handed the book back the book to the old man, and was silent.

“Now,” said Jeremiah; “premising that I’m not going to stand between you two, will you let me ask (as I have been called in, and made a third) what is all this about?”

“Take your version of it,” returned Arthur, finding it left to him to speak, “from my mother. Let it rest there. What I have said, was said to my mother only.”

“Oh!” returned the old man. “From your mother? Take it from your mother? Well! But your mother mentioned that you had been suspecting your father. That’s not dutiful, Mr Arthur. Who will you be suspecting next?”

“Enough,” said Mrs Clennam, turning her face so that it was addressed for the moment to the old man only. “Let no more be said about this.”

“Yes, but stop a bit, stop a bit,” the old man persisted. “Let us see how we stand. Have you told Mr Arthur that he mustn’t lay offences at his father’s door? That he has no right to do it? That he has no ground to go upon?”

“I tell him so now.”

“Ah! Exactly,” said the old man. “You tell him so now. You hadn’t told him so before, and you tell him so now. Ay, ay! That’s right! You know I stood between you and his father so long, that it seems as if death had made no difference, and I was still standing between you. So I will, and so in fairness I require to have that plainly put forward. Arthur, you please to hear that you have no right to mistrust your father, and have no ground to go upon.”

He put his hands to the back of the wheeled chair, and muttering to himself, slowly wheeled his mistress back to her cabinet. “Now,” he resumed, standing behind her: “in case I should go away leaving things half done, and so should be wanted again when you come to the other half and get into one of your flights, has Arthur told you what he means to do about the business?”

“He has relinquished it.”

“In favour of nobody, I suppose?”

Mrs Clennam glanced at her son, leaning against one of the windows. He observed the look and said, “To my mother, of course. She does what she pleases.”

“And if any pleasure,” she said after a short pause, “could arise for me out of the disappointment of my expectations that my son, in the prime of his life, would infuse new youth and strength into it, and make it of great profit and power, it would be in advancing an old and faithful

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Vol.1 f.049 recto

Vol.1 f.049 recto

[I? fee??d???????? and ???ident] servant ›along. Jeremiah, [l?g?] the captain deserts the ship, but you and I will sink or float with it.”

Jeremiah [???ld ???] [??se] eyes glistenedwhose eyes glistened as if they saw money, darted a sudden look at [???????? a??f] the son, i??e as if they ??? whilst which seemed to say [????d] “I [???? ????] no;?? owe owe you no thanks for this[y?]; you have [????], done did nothing [h?e??n??s???] long served towards it!” and then [said?] told [?]the mother that he thanked her [? it so his ????], and that Affery thanked her with all his heart, and that he would never desert her, and that Affery would never desert her. Finally, he [t?rned] hauled up his watch from its depths and sayingsaid Eleven said, “Eleven. [I?? t???] Time for your oysters!” and with that change of subject, which involved no change of [??i? or in ????] expression or manner, rang the bell.

But Mrs Clennam, resolved to treat herself [ep in ????nt] with great rigor [?????f] the greater rigour for[?h?? that he was on hand a?? ????? making ???? ??] [for ?????????]having been supposed to be unacquainted with reparation, refused to eat her oysters when they were brought. They looked tempting; eight in number, circularly set out on a white plate on a tray covered with a white napkin, flanked by a slice of buttered French roll, and a little compact glass of cool wine and water; but she resisted all persuasions, and sent them down again—placing the act to her credit, no doubt, in her Eternal Day-Book.

This refection of oysters was not presided over by Affery, but by the girl who had appeared when the bell was rung; the same who had been in the dimly-lighted room last night. Now that he had an opportunity of observing her, Arthur found that her diminutive figure, small features, and slight spare dress, gave her the appearance of being much younger than she was. A woman, probably of not less than two-and-twenty, she might have been passed in the street for little more than half that age. Not that her face was very youthful, for in truth there was more consideration and care in it than naturally belonged to her utmost years; but she was so little and light, so noiseless and shy, and appeared so conscious of being out of place among the three hard elders, that she had all the manner and much of the appearance of a subdued child.

In a hard way, and in an uncertain way that fluctuated between patronage and putting down, the sprinkling from a watering-pot and hydraulic pressure, Mrs Clennam showed an interest in this dependent. [LD Proofs Vol.1 f.055] Even in the moment of her entrance, upon the violent ringing of the bell, when the mother shielded herself with that singular action from the son, Mrs Clennam’s eyes had had some individual recognition in them, which seemed reserved for her. As there are degrees of hardness in the hardest metal, and shades of colour in black itself, so, even in the asperity of Mrs Clennam’s demeanour towards all the rest of humanity and towards Little Dorrit, there was a fine gradation.

Little Dorrit let herself out to do needlework. At so much a day—or at so little—from eight to eight, Little Dorrit was to be hired. Punctual to the moment, Little Dorrit appeared; punctual to the moment, Little Dorrit vanished. What became of Little Dorrit between the two eights was a mystery.

Another of the moral phenomena of Little Dorrit. Besides her consideration money, her daily contract included meals. She had an extraordinary repugnance to dining in company; would never do so, if it were possible to escape. Would always plead that she had this bit of work to begin first, or that bit of work to finish first; and would, of a certainty, scheme and plan—not very cunningly, it would seem, for she deceived no one—to dine alone. Successful in this, happy in carrying off her plate anywhere, to make a

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Vol.1 f.050 recto

Vol.1 f.050 recto

table of her kneelap, or a box, or the ground, or a ?????? Bill even as was supposed, to stand on tip-toe, dining moderately at a ????i?p???mantel-shelf; the great anxiety of Little Dorrit’s day was set at rest.

It was not easy to make out LittleDorrit’s face; she was so ?? ???retiring, sewed plied her needle in such removed ?? ???????? ????? ??? corners, and started away so scared petrified?? if encountered on the stairs ,that . But it seemed to be a pale transparent face, quick in expression, butthough not at allbeautiful in feature, its soft hazel eyes excepted. A delicately bent head, a tiny form, a quick little pair of busy hands, and a shabby dress—it must needs have been very shabby to look at all so, being so neat—were Little Dorrit as she sat at work.

For these particulars or generalities concerning Little Dorrit, Mr Arthur was indebted in the course of the day to his own eyes and to Mrs Affery’s tongue. If Mrs Affery had had any will or way of her own, it would probably have been unfavourable to Little Dorrit. But as “them two clever ones’—Mrs Affery’s perpetual reference, in whom her personality was swallowed up—were agreed to accept Little Dorrit as a matter of course, she had nothing for it but to follow suit. Similarly, if the two clever ones had agreed to murder Little Dorrit by candlelight, Mrs Affery, being required to hold the candle, would no doubt have done it.

In the intervals of roasting the partridge for the invalid chamber, and preparing a baking-dish of beef and pudding for the dining-room, Mrs Affery made the communications above set forth; invariably putting her head in at the door again after she had taken it out, to enforce resistance to the two clever ones. It appeared to have become a perfect passion with Mrs Flintwinch, that the only son should be pitted against them.

In the course of the day, too, Arthur looked through the whole house. Dull and dark he found it. The gaunt rooms, deserted for years upon years, seemed to have settled down into a gloomy lethargy from which nothing could rouse them again. The furniture, at once spare and lumbering, hid in the rooms rather than furnished them, and there was no colour in all the house; such colour as had ever been there, had long ago started away on [LD Proofs Vol.1 f.056] lost sunbeams—got itself absorbed, perhaps, into flowers, butterflies, plumage of birds, precious stones, what not. There was not one straight floor from the foundation to the roof; the ceilings were so fantastically clouded by smoke and dust, that old women might have told fortunes in them better than in grouts of tea; the dead-cold hearths showed no traces of having ever been warmed but in heaps of soot that had tumbled down the chimneys, and eddied about in little dusky whirlwinds when the doors were opened. In what had once been a drawing-room, there were a pair of meagre mirrors, with dismal processions of black figures carrying black garlands, walking round the frames; but even these were short of heads and legs, and one undertaker-like Cupid had swung round on its own axis and got upside down, and another had fallen off altogether. The room Arthur Clennam’s deceased father had occupied for business purposes, when he first remembered him, was so unaltered that he might have been imagined still to keep it invisibly, as his visible relict kept her room up-stairs; Jeremiah Flintwinch still going between them negotiating.

His picture, dark and gloomy, earnestly speechless on the wall, with the eyes intently looking at his son as they had looked when life departed from them, seemed to urge him awfully to the task he had attempted; but as to any yielding on the part of his mother, he had now no hope, and as to any other means of setting his distrust at rest, he had abandoned hope a long time. Down in the cellars, as up in the bed-chambers, old objects that he well remembered were changed by age and decay, but were still in their old places; even to empty beer-casks hoary with cobwebs, and empty wine-bottles with fur and fungus choking up their throats. There, too, among unusual bottle-racks and pale slants of light from the yard above, was the strong room stored with old ledgers, which had as musty and corrupt a smell as if they were regularly balanced, in the dead small hours, by a nightly resurrection of old book-keepers.

The baking-dish was served up in a penitential manner on a shrunken cloth at an end of the dining-table, at two o’clock, when he dined with Mr Flintwinch, the new partner. Mr Flintwinch informed him that his mother had recovered her equanimity now, and that he need not fear her again alluding to what had passed in the morning. “And don’t you lay offences at your father’s door, Mr Arthur,” added Jeremiah, “once for all, don’t do it! Now, we have done with the subject.”

Mr Flintwinch had been already rearranging and dusting his own particular little office, as if to do honour to his accession to new dignity. He resumed this occupation when he was replete with beef, had sucked up all the gravy in the baking-dish with the flat of his knife, and had drawn liberally on a barrel of small beer in the scullery. Thus refreshed, he tucked up his shirt-sleeves and went to work again; and Mr Arthur

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Vol.1 f.051 recto (MS. Chapters 4 to 5, later renumbered as 5 & 6)

Vol.1 f.051 recto (MS. Chapters 4 to 5, later renumbered as 5 & 6)

[The top of the page is marked by a the page number 8 [?????????????] watching him as he set about it, [??????????????????] plainly saw that his father’s picture, or his father’s grave,[????] would [????????????] be [???????]as communicative with him on the subject of this as this old man.

“Now, Affery, woman,” said Mr Flintwinch, as she crossed the hall. “You hadn’t made Mr Arthur’s bed when I was up there last. Stir yourself. Bustle.”

But Mr Arthur found the house so blank and dreary, ??? and was so unwilling to assist at another implacable consignment of his [????????????] mother’s enemies ( [????] perhaps himself among them) to [???????] mortal [????????????] disfigurement and [????????????] immortal ruin, that he announced his intention of lodging [?????????] at the[????????????] coffee-house where he had left his luggage.[????] Mr Flintwinch [??? ?? ?????????] taking kindly to the idea of [????????????] getting rid of him, and his mother [????????????] being indifferent, beyond considerations of saving , [?????] to most domestic arrangements [???]that were not bounded by the walls of her own chamber, he easily carried this point without new offence.[????????????] Daily business hours were agreed upon,[??] which his mother, Mr Flintwinch, and he, were to [????? ?????]devote together to a necessary checking of books and papers; and he left the home he had so lately found, with a [??????]depressed heart.

obscured underlined number But Little Dorrit? [?????] The business hours, allowing for intervals of invalid regimen of oysters and partridges, during which Clennam refreshed himself with a walk, were from ten to [????]six for [??????? ???? ?? ?????]about a fortnight. [???]Sometimes Little Dorrit was employed at her needle, sometimes not, sometimes appeared as a humble visitor: which must have been her character on the occasion of his arrival. [???? ?? ??????] His original curiosity [Dorrit ?? little Creature} augmented every day, as he watched for her, saw or did not see her, and speculated about her. Influenced by his predominant idea, he even fell into a habit of discussing with himself the possibility of her being in some way associated with it. At last he resolved to watch Little [???] Dorrit and know more of her. published text = story .

text CHAPTER 6. published text = Chapter V The Father of the Marshalsea

[????? ??????? ???? ??? stood years ago ??] Thirty years ago there stood, [there had ?????? ??? ???} a few doors short of the [???] Church of Saint George, in the borough of Southwark, [? ??? ??? ?????] on the left-hand side of the way going southward, the Marshalsea Prison. It had stood there many years before, and it remained there some years afterwards; but it is gone now, and the world is [??? ?? ???? ??????????] none the worse without it.

It was an [???] oblong pile of barrack building, [?? ???] partitioned into squalid houses standing back [??? ???] to back, so that there were no back rooms; [??? ?????? ?????? ????] environed by a narrow paved yard, hemmed in by high walls duly spiked at top. Itself a close and confined prison for debtors, it contained within it [another ?? ????] [???? ??? ??. It was ?? ???] a much closer and more [???] confined jail for smugglers.[??? ???? ????? ?????????] O ffenders against the revenue laws, and defaulters [??? ???? ???????] to excise or customs who had incurred fines which they were unable to pay, were supposed to be incarcerated behind an iron-plated door closing up a second prison, consisting of a [??? ????? ?????? ???] strong cell or two, and a blind alley some yard and a half wide, which formed the mysterious termination of the very limited [???] skittle-ground in which the Marshalsea debtors bowled down their troubles. Supposed to be incarcerated there, because the time had rather outgrown the [?????] strong cells and the blind alley. In practice [????? ????] they had come to be considered a little too bad, [????? ?? ?????] though in theory [????? ???? ?????] they were quite as good as ever; which may be observed to be the case [????? ??? ??] at the present day with other cells that are not at all strong and with other [?????]

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Vol.1 f.052 recto
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Vol.1 f.052 recto

[The top of the page is marked by a large 9 (page number?) which is obscured by a large deleted section perhaps from the previous page.] [???????????????????????] [?????????? ?????????? ??????? 9 ?????? ????? ?????] [alleys] blind alleys that are [???] stone blind indeed . [??so] Hence the smugglers [?? in fact ??] habitually consorted with the debtors (who received them with open arms), except [on??] at certain [o??? ?????] [?????? ??????]constitutional moments when somebody came from some [other??] Office, to go through some form of [inspecting??] overlooking something [??? for] which [?he ?????? some ????] neither he nor anybody else knew anything about. [?x???? ???? ?? ???? ???pace? ????? ???] On these truly British [ ???????] [???? ????? ???? ????] occasions, the smugglers, / if any, [???] [?????] made a feint of walking [????] into the strong cells and the blind alley, while this somebody [was ???? and an ????] pretended to do his something: and [walked] made a reality of walking out again as soon as he hadn’t done it—[???] neatly epitomising the administration of [all ??? ???? ??? ?] most ?????? of the public affairs in our ????? right little, tight little, island. [???? ???? ?? ???? ???? ????? ???????? ???? ????]

[?? boiling in the sun, a ???? debtor] There had been taken to the Marshalsea Prison, long before the day when the sun shone on Marseilles and on the [first??]opening of this narrative, a debtor with whom [it] [????]this narrative has [????] some [???ing] concern.

No! [ He was, at that time, [a] a very [very?]amiable and very any very helpless middle-aged man?? gentleman, who was going out again directly. [??] [????] Necessarily, he was going out again directly, because the Marshalsea lock never turned upon a debtor who was not. He [had???] [?????] brought in a portmanteau with him, which [?????] he doubted its being worth while to unpack; he was so perfectly clear—like all the rest of them, the turnkey on the lock said—about that he was going out again directly.

He was a shy, retiring [?? ????] [??????] man; [f???? looking ??? of?] well-looking, though in an effeminate style; of good looks with a mild voice, curling hair, and [????] irresolute hands—[??????] rings upon the fingers in those days—which nervously wandered to his trembling lip a hundred times [or so??] in the first half-hour of his acquaintance with the jail. After some days [???] His [wife] principal anxiety was about his wife. [She]

“Do you think, sir,” he asked the turnkey, “that she will be very much shocked, if she should come to the gate to-morrow morning?”

[Some of] The turnkey gave it as the result of his experience that some of ‘em was and some of ‘em wasn’t. In general, more no than yes. “What like is she, you see?” [????] he [he?] philosophically [??? ????? ????? ???? ?????] asked : “that’s what it hinges on.”

“She is very [?timid?] delicate and [????] inexperienced indeed.”

“That,” "[????]" said the turkey, “ [?? ?????her/e] is agen her.”

“She is so little used to go [about??] out alone,” said the debtor, “that I [can't think?] [???? can't]am at a loss to think how she will ever [find the?] make her way here, if she walks.”

“P’raps,” quoth the turnkey, “she’ll take a ackney ? Ackney coach.”

“Perhaps.” [???] "???????" The irresolute fingers [?????] [????] went to the trembling lip [?again] . “I hope she will. She may not think of it.”

“Or p’raps,” said the turnkey, [?????king ?ff???] offering his suggestions from the the top of his well-worn wooden stool, as he might have offered them to a child for whose [weakkness?] [??????] weakness he felt a compassion, “p’raps she’ll get her brother, or her sister, to come along with her [???? ? ?????] [has she ?????] .”

“She has no brother or sister.” She is an only child???

???Niece, nevy, cousin, serwant, ???? ?????? [????????? ??????] young ‘ooman, greengrocer [????????? ????????] .— Dash Blow B??? Blow Dash it! ?????????? One or another on ‘em,” said the turnkey, repudiating i? ???????? beforehand the refusal of all his suggestions.

“I [think?] fear—I hope it is not against the rules—that she may? [????] will bring the children.”

“The children? ?” said the turnkey. “And the rules? ? Why, Lord set you up like a corner pin, we’ve a reg’lar playground o’ children ?????? here. Children! Why we swarm with ‘em. How many ???y ?? got a you got?”

“Two,” said the debtor [??? ???? ??????, lifting his irresolute hand [???????????]

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