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.058 recto

Vol.1 f.058 recto

By this time the collegian would be up with him, and he would paternally add, “What have you forgotten? What can I do for you?”

“I forgot to leave this, if you please” the collegian would usually return, “for the Father of the Marshalsea.”

My good My good sir,” he would rejoin, taking the bit of paper with “he is infinitely obliged to you.” But to the last the irresolute hand of old would remain in the pocket into which he had slipped the money [???], during two or three turns [???] about the yard, [???] lest its action the transaction should be too conspicuous to the general body of collegians.

One afternoon he had been taking leave of doing the honours of the place [at parting ?], to a rather large party of collegians, who happened to be going out, [?? ???? afternoon] when, as he was coming back, he encountered one [??] plasterer [????] from the poor side who had "settled" [????] execution been taken in execution for a small sum a week before, had “settled” in the course of that afternoon, and was going out too. The man was a plasterer only a plasterer in his working dress; carrying a bundle, and [???????????] had his wife with him and a bundle; had his wife with him, and a bundle and was in high spirits.

“God bless you, sir,” he said in passing.

“And you,” benignantly returned the Father of the Marshalsea.

They were stood yards pretty far divided [???], going their several ways, when the Plasterer called out, “I say!—sir!” and came back to him.

“It ain’t much,” said the Plasterer, putting some putting a little pile of halfpence in his hand, “but it’s well meant.”

The Father of the Marshalsea had never been offered tribute in copper yet. His children often had, and with his perfect acquiescence it had gone into the common purse, [?????] to buy meat that he had eaten, and drink that he had drunk; but fustian splashed with white lime, bestowing halfpence on him, front to front, was [??? he had ???] new.

“How dare you!” he said to the man, and feebly burst into tears.

The mere plasterer plasterer turned him turned him round and [????????] towards the wall that his face might not be seen; and the action was so delicate, and the man was so penetrated with repentance, and asked pardon so honestly, that [????] he could [?????????????] make him no less acknowledgment than, “I know you meant it kindly. Say no more.”

“Bless your soul, sir,” cried said urged the plasterer, “I did indeed. I’d do more by you than the rest of ‘em do, I fancy.”

“What would you do?” he asked the Father of the Marshalsea.

“I’d come I'd come back to see you, after I was I was let out.”

[Pray do it!] said “Give me back the money again,” said the other, eagerly “and I’ll keep it, and never spend it. Thank you for it, [??? ??? ???] you with all my heart thank you! I shall see you again?”

“If I live a week you shall.”

They shook hands and parted. The collegians, assembled in Symposium that night assembled in Symposium in the Snuggery that night, marvelled what had happened to their Father that night; he walked so late in the shadows of the yard, and seemed so out of spirits downcast.

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Vol.1 f.059 recto (Ms. Chapter 6, later renumbered as 7)

Vol.1 f.059 recto (Ms. Chapter 6, later renumbered as 7)

Chapter VI The Child of the Marshalsea

The little girl baby [????] {???? ?????] the Marshalsea [??? ????] the Marshalsea, younger [????] who had [????] their whose first draught of [????? ??? ???????] her first [????] [????? ???] air had been tinctured with Doctor Haggage’s brandy, was handed down among the generations of collegians, like the tradition of their common parent. In the earlier stages of her existence, she was handed down in a literal and prosaic sense; it being almost a part of the entrance footing of every new collegian to nurse the child who had been born in the college.

“By rights,” remarked the turnkey when she was first shown to him, “I ought to be her godfather.”

The debtor irresolutely thought of it for a minute, and said, “Perhaps you wouldn’t object to really being her godfather?”

“Oh! I don’t object,” replied the turnkey, “if you don’t.”

Thus it came to pass that she was christened one Sunday afternoon, when the turnkey, being relieved, was off the lock; and that the turnkey went up to the font of Saint George’s Church, and promised and vowed and renounced on her behalf, as he himself related when he came back, “like a good ‘un.”

This invested the turnkey with a new proprietary share in the child, over and above his former official one. When she began to walk and talk, he became fond of her; bought a little arm-chair and stood it by the high fender of the lodge fire-place; liked to have her company when he was on the lock; and used to bribe her with cheap toys to come and talk to him. The child, for her part, soon grew so fond of the turnkey that she would come climbing up the lodge-steps of her own accord at all hours of the day. When she fell asleep in the little armchair by the high fender, the turnkey would cover her with his pocket-handkerchief; and when she sat in it dressing and undressing a doll which soon came to be unlike dolls on the other side of the lock, and to bear a horrible family resemblance to Mrs Bangham—he would contemplate her from the top of his stool with exceeding gentleness. Witnessing these things, the collegians would express an opinion that the turnkey, who was a bachelor, had been cut out by nature for a family man. But the turnkey thanked them, and said, “No, on the whole it was enough to see other people’s children there.”

At what period of her early life the little creature began to perceive that it was not the habit of all the world to live locked up in narrow yards surrounded by high walls with spikes at the top, would be a difficult question to settle. But she was a very, very little creature indeed, when she had somehow gained the knowledge that her clasp of her father’s hand was to be always loosened at the door which the great key opened; and that while her own light steps were free to pass beyond [LD Proofs Vol.1 f.066] it, his feet must never cross that line. A pitiful and plaintive look, with which she had begun to regard him when she was still extremely young, was perhaps a part of this discovery.

With a pitiful and plaintive look for everything, indeed, but with something in it for only him that was like protection, this Child of the Marshalsea and the child of the Father of the Marshalsea, sat by her friend the turnkey in the lodge, kept the family room, or wandered about the prison-yard, for the first eight years of her life. With a pitiful and plaintive look for her wayward sister; for her idle brother; for the high blank walls; for the faded crowd they shut in; for the

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Vol.1 f.060 recto

Vol.1 f.060 recto

games of [???] the prison children as they whooped and ran, and played at hide-and-seek, and made the iron bars of the inner gateway “Home.”

Wistful and wondering, she would sit in summer weather by the high fender in the lodge, looking up at the sky through the barred window until [?? ?a??ing] [?????????? ?? ??s] [??? ??????? ??? ?????] bars of light [?????] would arise [???????????] when she turned [??? ???] her eyes away, between her and her friend and [???? ????] she would see him through a grating too.

“Thinking of the fields,” the turnkey said once, after watching her, “ain’t you?”

“Where are they?” she inquired.

“Why, they’re—over there, my dear,” said the turnkey, with a vague flourish of his key. “Just about there.”

“Does anybody open them, and shut them? Are they locked?”

The turnkey was discomfited. “Well,” he said. “Not in general.”

“Are they very pretty, Bob?” She called him Bob, by his own particular request and instruction.

“Lovely. Full of flowers. There’s buttercups, and there’s daisies, and there’s”—the turnkey hesitated, being short of floral nomenclature—"there’s dandelions, and all manner of games.”

“Is it very pleasant to be there, Bob?”

“Prime,” said the turnkey.

“Was father ever there?”

“Hem!” coughed the turnkey. “O yes, he was there, sometimes.”

“Is he sorry not to be there now?”

“N-not particular,” said the turnkey.

“Nor any of the people?” she asked, glancing at the listless crowd within. “O are you quite sure and certain, Bob?”

At this difficult point of the conversation, Bob gave in and changed the subject to hard-bake: always his last resource when he found his little friend getting him into a political, social, or theological corner. But this was the origin of a series of Sunday excursions that these two curious companions made together. They used to issue from the lodge on alternate Sunday afternoons with great gravity, bound for some meadows or green lanes that had been elaborately appointed by the turnkey in the course of the week; and there she picked grass and flowers to bring home, while he smoked his pipe. Afterwards, there were tea-gardens, shrimps, ale, and other delicacies and then they would come back hand in hand unless she was more than usually tired and had fallen asleep on his shoulder.

In those early days the turnkey first profoundly began to consider a question which cost him so much mental labour that it remained undetermined on the day of his death. He decided to will and bequeath his little property of savings to his godchild, and the point arose how could it be so “tied up” as that only she should have the benefit of it? His experience on the lock gave him such an acute perception of the enormous difficulty of “tying up” money with any approach to tightness, and contrariwise of the remarkable ease with which it got loose that through a series of years he regularly propounded this knotty point to every new insolvent agent and other professional gentleman who passed in and out.

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Vol.1 f.061 recto

Vol.1 f.061 recto

18 “Supposing,” he would say, [stating that] stating the case with[the] his key on the [??????] professional gentleman’s waistcoat; “supposing [you] a man wanted to leave [you] his property to [an unmarried] a young female, and wanted to tie it up so that nobody else should ever be able to make a grab at it; how would you tie up that property?”

“Settle it strictly on herself,” the professional gentleman would [offer??] complacently answer.

“But look here,” quoth the turnkey. “[suppose] Supposing she had, a say a brother, [?????] say a father, say a husband, [????] who would be likely to make a grab at that property [when] [a ?????] when she came into it—how about that?”

“It would be settled on herself, [and] [but?]and they would have no more legal [right to it??] [claim ??? it than youclaim on it than you,” would be the professional [???] answer.

“Stop a bit,” said the turnkey. “Supposing she was tender-hearted, and [w????]they came over her. Where’s your law for tying it up then?”

[???? could stop the ??? ???] The [???????] deepest character whom the turnkey [c??????] sounded, [could not?] was unable to produce his [???] law for tying such a knot as that. [H???] So, the turnkey thought about it all his life, and died intestate after all.

But [his ???? ??? ???? ???? when he died ???????? ????? ???? be of ?????? use of the ???? ????] that was long afterwards, [??? the first] when his god-daughter was [???? ?????? past sixteen. The first[??? dad???????] [life was]half of that space of her life was only just accomplished, when her [?? ???? ??????? ????] her pitiful and plaintive look saw her father a widower. From that time the protection that [??? ????? ??] her wondering [eyes]eyes had expressed [f?? ??? ????? ?????] towards him, became embodied in action, and the Child of the Marshalsea took upon herself a new relation towards the Father.

At first, such a baby could do [no] little more than [????]sit with him, deserting her [?????] livelier [????] place by the high fender, and quietly watching him [???? after dark]. But this [watching? ??] made her so far necessary to him that he became accustomed to her, and [?????? her] began to miss her?] to be sensible of missing her when she was not there. Through this [???????] little gate, she passed [????t ??????] out of [???????????????] childhood [???? ?????] [?????? ??????? she had ??????] into the [?????? ???????] care. [?????] [??????]laden world.

What [the] her pitiful look saw at that early time in [the?] her father, [w??? ????] in her sister, [????? ??] in her brother, [was??] in the jail; how much, [???? of]or how little of the [wicked??]wretched truth it pleased God to [???? to her] [???? ??????]make visible to her; lies hidden with many mysteries. It is enough that [she was ????? and in fact ????] [she had ???? ???? ???]she was inspired to [????] be [???? ???? ??? that key?] be something which was not what the rest were, and [??] to be that something, different and laborious, for the sake of the rest. Inspired? Yes. Shall we [talk to???] [????] speak of the inspiration of a poet or a priest [f????] priest, and not [f????] of the heart [?????????]impelled by love and [?? ??? the ??y s ?????] self-devotion to the lowliest work in [?????????] the lowliest way of life! [d????? the if ?? often ??? the work and ????]

With no earthly friend to [?? ?????? ??????] help her, or so much as [??? ????] to see [???? ???? ?????????]her, but the one so strangely assorted; with no knowledge even of the [?????? f????? ?????? ?????? ????? of life] common daily [???? ????] tone and habits of the common members of the free community who are not shut up in prisons; born and [??] bred in a social condition, false even with a reference to the falsest condition outside the walls; [and ???? life is ?????] drinking from [??? ??????] infancy [?]of a well whose waters had their own peculiar [????????] stain, [and]their own unwholesome [????????] and unnatural taste; the Child of the Marshalsea began her womanly life.

No matter through what [????? ???? ??????] mistakes and [what] discouragements, what [???? faith of?] ridicule (not unkindly meant, but deeply felt) of her youth and little [of ???? ???? ???] figure, what [humble] humble [felt??] consciousness of her own babyhood and want of strength, even in the [???????][??????] matter of lifting and carrying; through [what] how much weariness and hopelessness, and how many secret tears; she drudged [?????] on, until [????? ??? ?????? ???? ????] recognised[???? ???? ???? and ???] [?????????] as useful, [??? ????????] even indispensable. [The] That time came. She [?????] took the place of eldest of the three, in all things but precedence [and face??]; was the head of the [f?????] fallen family; and bore, [????????] in her own [??? ???]heart, its anxieties and shames.

At thirteen, she could read and keep accounts, that is could put down in words and figures[?????]

[LD Proofs Vol.1 f.068]

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Vol.1 f.062 recto

Vol.1 f.062 recto

how much the bare necessaries that they wanted would cost, and how much less they had to buy them with. She had been, by snatches of a few weeks at a time, to an evening school outside, and got her sister and brother sent to day-schools by desultory starts, [??????] during three or four years. There was no instruction for any of them at home; but she knew well—no one better—that a [?????] man so [??????????] broken as to be the Father of the Marshalsea, [??????? and ??? father remain the] could be no father of to his own children.

To this Besides these means scanty means of education improvement, she added another resource of her own contriving. There came [???] to the prison, as a Collegian [???] Instructor Once, among the heterogeneous crowd of collegians inmates, there appeared a Dancing Master. Her sister had a great desire to learn the Dancing-Master’s art, and seemed to have a taste that way. At thirteen years old, the Child of the Marshalsea When the dancing-master had [???] them [??? ???] presented herself to the Dancing-Master, with a little bag in her hand, and preferred her humble petition. [??? sister's behalf.]

“If you please, I was born here, sir.” if you please if you please."

Really, my dear “Oh! You are the young lady, are you?” said the dancing-master, surveying the small figure and uplifted face.

“Yes, sir.”

“And what can I do for you?” said the dancing-master.

“Nothing for me, sir, thank you,” anxiously undrawing [?? ????] the strings of the little bag; “but if, while you stay here, you could be so kind as to teach my sister cheap—”

“My child, I’ll teach her for nothing,” said the dancing-master, shutting up the bag [???] again shutting up the bag. He was as good-natured a dancing-master as ever danced to the Insolvent Court, and he kept his word. The sister was so apt a pupil, and the dancing-master had such abundant leisure to bestow upon her (for it took him a matter of ten weeks to go round the middle set to his creditors, lead off, turn the Commissioners, and move off again, and [??? the ???] right and left back to his professional pursuits), that he made [amazing?] wonderful progress was made. The college indeed Indeed the dancing-master was so proud of it, and so wishful to display it before he left to a few select among friends among the collegians, that at six o’clock on a certain summer fine morning, an appointment was made a minuet de la cour came off in the yard—the college-rooms being of too confined proportions for the purpose—in which the dancing-master completely so much ground [???] was taken, covered and the steps were so conscientiously executed, that the dancing-master, having to play the kit besides, was [???] thoroughly blown.

The success of this beginning, which did not [????] the worth led to the dancing-master’s continuing his instruction [??????] after his release, emboldened the poor child to try again. She watched and waited months for a seamstress. At last In the fulness of time a milliner was reported to have come in came in, and to her she repaired on her own behalf.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am,” she said, looking timidly round the door of the milliner, whom she found in tears and in bed: “but I was born here.”

Everybody seemed to hear of her as the [????] of their [?????] as soon as they arrived; for the milliner sat up in bed, drying her eyes, and said, just as the dancing-master had said:

“Oh! You are the child, are you?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I am sorry I haven’t got anything for you,” said the milliner, shaking her head.

“It’s not that, ma’am. If you please I want to learn needle-work.” work if you would

Why should you do that “Why should you do that,” returned the milliner, “with me before you? It has not done me much good.”

[???] please “Nothing—whatever it is—seems to have done anybody much good who comes here,” she

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