Dickens Update 21; Book 2: Issue 18

In Chapter XXVII, The Pupil of the Marshalsea, changes are taking place in Arthur’s vision of the world: “…it was not remarkable that everything his memory turned upon should should bring him round again to Little Dorrit.” “Until it seemed to him as if he met the reward of having wandered away from her, and suffered anything to come between him and his remembrance of her virtue.” John Chivery brings Arthur some furniture and invites him for tea in his (John’s) own apartment.
See picture to the right.Mr John Chivery's tea table Bk 2 ChXXVIII p752 Gradually John reveals how Arthur has brought back his memories of Amy and eventually he and Arthur sort things out. John explains that he has done what he has for Arthur because of his feelings for Amy. Arthur admits to not knowing that Amy loved him and his reaction is that of “a man who has been awakened from sleep, and stupified by intelligence beyond his full comprehension. ” Back in his room Arthur finds this love “more bewildering to him than is misery, far.”

An entertaining tibbit from Dickens: “It further happened that Mrs. Plornnish, not being philosophical, was intelligible.”

The Plornishes verify what John Chivery had told Arthur about Amy’s love for him.

In Chapter XXVIII, An Appearance in the Marshalsea, Arthur has a visit from a Barnacle who asks him not to come back and bother the folks at the Circumlocution Office and also discusses Mr. Merdle and how someone else will soon come along and repeat Mr. Merdle’s fiasco. Then Mr. Rugg drops in on Arthur and, later, Mr. Cavelletto (Jean Baptist) along with Pancks and a mysterious “military” man( Rigaud-Lagnier-Blandois).Inthe Old Room Bk2 ChXXVIIIp772 Arthur insists Rigaud explain what he has been up to and Rigaud insists on a bottle of wine which Pancks gets. Rigaud will not tell his specific business but sends a note to Mrs. Clennam who agrees to meet him in a week’s time. Rigaud will stay in a hotel with Cavelletto to guard him.  Arthur feels worse than ever.

In Chapter XXIX, A Plea in the Marshalsea, Arthur experiences  “an agonised impatience with the prison” and “felt it a labor to draw his breath in it”. This changed to “a desolate calm” and “settled down in the despondency of a low, slow fever.” While he is in a serious deteriorated state, Little Dorrit visits. She has brought Maggy with her. Amy had just returned the previous day and enquired of Mrs. Plornish about Arthur. He tells her he has “thought of you, Little Dorrit, every day, every hour, every minute since” he has been in the Marshalsea. Amy fixes up the room, sends Maggy for more provisions and sets about making the room a curtain. Amy offer him the money she will inherit but he cannot accept. John come to check on Arthur in the night and to tell him he had escorted Amy to her hotel. He had promised Amy to care for Arthur and passed him a message the gist of which was that she sent her “undying love”. A delightful ending for Issue 18 and, of course, leaves the reader wanting even more resolution.


Dickens Update #20; Book 2: Issue 17

In ChapterXXIII, Mistress Affery Makes a Conditional Promise Respecting Her Dreams, Arthur decides to seek Affery’s help since his mother will not help him.  Mr. Casby and Flora are at his mother’s house for tea. Arthur asks to speak privately with his mother and tells her that Rigaud had been in jail for murder. He is neither pleasantly nor wisely treated by his mother so he still needed to speak with Affery. He gets Flora to ask Affery to show her the house as Flora remembers parts of the house from visiting there with Arthur when they were young. A knock at the door takes Flintwinch away and Arthur ask Affery what is going on in the house. Affery tells him that only when he has the upper hand over Jeremiah and his mother will she tell him what is in her dream.

In Chapter XXIV, The Evening of a Long Day, the story returns to Mr. Merdle: “A baronetcy was spoken of with confidence; a peerage was frequently mentioned.”  News comes of the death of Dorrit and his brother Frederick. An extended scene takes place  Fanny and Edmund when they discuss Amy’s return. Mr. Merdle calls and requests a pen knife from Fanny, a tortoise shell pen knife.

Chapter XXV, The Chief Butler Resigns the Seals of Office, centers around a dinner party help at the great Physician’s at which people try to find out if Merdle has been offered a peerage. All the guests leave and the doorbell rings: a man asks the Butler to come around the next street to the warm-baths where a scrap of paper with the Physician’s name and address had been found. A body awaited in one of the baths and a letter. Physician takes the news to Mrs. Merdle. The Chief Butler resigns because “Mr. Merdle never was the gentleman, and no ungentlemanly act on Mr. Merdle’s part would surprise me [him].” Dickens presents a fascinating analysis of Mr. Merdle’s fall from grace.

In Chapter XXVI, Reaping the Whirlwind, the Bank fails, Pancks rushes to Arthur’s office: “Mr. Pancks took hold of himself by the hair of his head, and tore it in desperation at the spectacle.” Pancks goes to get Mr. Rugg in Pentonville. Arthur faces jail in the Marshalsea and is met by Mr. Chivery and his son John who eventually takes Arthur to Mr. Dorrit’s old room where Arthur is reduced to sobbing. And so ends Issue 17: a dramatic close to a difficult section in which Mr. Merdle takes his life and Arthur is reduced to penury. One can be sure the readers were anxious to receive the next issue.

Family Matters/Expectations of Grandpa Jack

Jack (my grandfather) was born in August of 1889. He grew up on Spencer Street and his mother was Rosie  and his father was Joseph : Rose was born in Wayne County, Michigan in 1868 and Joseph was born in 1866 in Harrington, Oxford County, Ontario. They were married September 4, 1888.  Jack (officially John) had a sister Mary who died as an infant and a sister Lilly born 2 years after him who died in 1928. His brother Thomas Henry was born in 1895 and died in 1941. Jack’s father, Joseph, lived until 1946, longer than three of his children. Rose died in 1954. Jack married Mary Ellen on August 15, 1914.

I never heard much about the courting except the story about how the couple would go ice skating at the arena. Mary Ellen used to talk about how Jack/John would walk all the way from his home to her house, a distance of probably close to two miles, then they would go to the arena, probably another 3/4 ths of a mile and then he would walk her home and then walk home himself. I cannot remember hearing any other stories like this.

John’s father Joseph worked for the CFM (Canadian or Canada Furniture Manufacturers or Manufacturing)which was later taken over by Wood and Mosaic and Jack also worked there for a time. For one year, Joseph was transferred to work in Fenelon Falls, Ontario and Jack went with him.Fenelon Falls 2 Ever after that time, Jack took his mother and father to Fenelon Falls every year by automobile and after they died, he continued to go himself every year. He kept the picture at right on his dresser and after Jack’s death his grandson kept it on his dresser and then passed it to Jack’s granddaughter (me) when he died in February 2007. Now it sits on my dresser. On his trips, Jack made a regular stop at Lindsay, Ontario at a restaurant where the owners expected his visit. In Fenelon Falls he always visited “Mac” and Harry in the haberdashery shop which was right beside the lock.  Below right there is a picture of the bottom of an ashtray autographed in 1947 by the men who ran the haberdashery shop.ashtray 1 Jack’s children, Mary Ellen and his son Bob’s wife were passengers on some of the trips  and later his son Donald and Don’s wife Florence and a granddaughter (myself) and grandson of his youngest daughter would accompany Jack on the annual day trip.

I have heard my mother say that Jack’s mother Rosie was something of a tyrant. She was a very short woman who was sturdy but not overweight. Her eyes were piercing now that I think about it and she wore her iron gray hair in a bun on the top of the head. After his father died in 1946, Jack visited his mother regularly several evenings a week and always once on a weekend. They would sit in the kitchen. I was often there but can’t summon up any of the conversations. The little house had a trap door in the kitchen and my grandfather would sometimes have to go down and check something, perhaps a furnace or the plumbing? I don’t recall if he cut the grass there or not but I suspect he did. His nephew Jack was there some of the time but he was not viewed in a positive light as I recall. There were conversations about nephew Jack’s mother Lil who was married to Jack’s brother Tom who died the year I was born. There seemed to be considerable concern about both Lil and Jack. Looking back I wish I had been more curious about the conversations.

Jack (my grandfather) was a worrier. Did this stem from his father’s relationship with him or from his mother’s way of being. His nephew had not been very successful in his life and Jack felt a responsibility there. Both his sister-in-law and his nephew lived in the little family cottage for a chunk of time. Was that home mortgage free? My grandfather was always the one who did repairs and/or called a plumber etc. No one there had transportation but I don’t remember whether my grandfather took his mother for groceries or to the doctor or dentist. When his family was older and during the war years he took groceries every week to his daughter-in-law’s row house where she was raising five youngsters. So doubtless he saw that his mother got to a grocery store too.

When his boys grew up, he drove them to the barracks set up in the Canadian National Exhibition grounds in Toronto when they had leave to come home. His oldest daughter probably needed help although she had a full time job and her husband went overseas after 1942. His son Bob was in the air force and his wife and children received the groceries mentioned in the above paragraph every week. His youngest daughter, my mother, came home to live with her two children after the war ended. And his own mother lived until 1954. So Jack had his hands full taking responsibility for and care of a large number of people. Jack picking cherriesAt home he dug and planted a very large garden, raised a batch of chickens every year, selling eggs and killing the chickens for food as needed, and cut his own grass with a push mower. No wonder the screen door didn’t get fixed sometimes! Viewed like this it is impossible to begrudge him the night out at the Masonic Lodge  which was the only break he had from all these responsibilities, not to mention the stresses and strains of a job as a floor supervisor in a large textile factory. Those meetings and polishing the automobile he owned after the war were his greatest pleasures.

It is so easy with hindsight to look back at our grandparents (and our parents of course) and make judgments about how they were and what they did and then, when we ourselves get older and take stock, we realize or should realize how heavy the demands of family (extended family) sat upon the shoulders of men like my grandfather. His mother didn’t have the option of a retirement home or a nursing home, his sister-in-law and nephew did not have access to the wide range of social services we take for granted, the only automobile in the extended family was that of my grandfather.  He suffered from serious migraines in his later years and became pretty difficult at times. Interestingly enough, he never stopped calling his own living children on Sundays and, as a grandchild who had lived in his home although now married with a child of my own, I received a long distance call every Sunday evening. The bar he set for himself was very high but he reached it.

Dickens Update #19; Book 2: Issue 16

In Chapter XIX The Storming of the Castle in the Air, Dorrit arrives home unexpectedly late and finds Amy and Frederick (Dorrit’s brother ) having a quiet evening and Frederick chatting about the difference Amy has made in his life. The reader learns that Mrs. Merdle is going home and she will have a “great farewell Assembly” and a dinner. Unexpected After Dinner Speech Bk 2 ChXIX p 671At the dinner, Mr. Dorrit has a spell of confusion and makes a speech about the Marshalsea using his old title Father of the Marshalsea. The guests gradually move to other rooms and Amy “got him into a coach…and got him home.” “And from that hour his poor maimed spirit, only remembering the place where it had broken its wings, cancelled the dream…and knew nothing beyond the Marshalsea.”He did not remember Mrs. General. He treated Amy as he always had and she “would have laid down her own life to restore him.” Mr. Dorrit appears to have all the symptoms of dementia and/or Alzheimer’s.

Amy cares for her father for ten days. “Sometimes she was so worn out that for a few minutes they The Night Bk2 Ch XX p677would slumber together.” “Quietly, quietly , all the lines of the great Castle melted (reference to chapter title) , one after another.  Quietly, quietly, the ruled and cross-ruled countenance on which they were traced, became fair and blank. Quietly, quietly, the reflected marks of the prison bars and of the zig-zag iron on the wall-top, faded away. Quietly, quietly, the face subsided into a far younger likeness of her own than she had ever seen under the grey hair, and sank to rest.” Amy went to rest and Frederick remained with William. “One figure reposed upon the bed. The other, kneeling on the floor, drooped over it(right); the arms easily and peacefully resting on the coverlet; the face bowed down, so that the lips touched the hand over which with its last breath it had bent. The two brothers were before their Father; far beyond the twilight judgments of this world; high above its mists and obscurities.”

In Chapter XX Introducing the Next, Clennam arrives at Calais with an address from Mr. Pancks and asks to see “the English lady”. In a back room on the first floor, there is a man. “Monsieur Blandois.” said Clennam. “A door of communication with another room was opened” and Miss Wade entered”. Arthur used the name Blandois because Miss Wade would not have seen him otherwise. He was actually seeking information about Blandois. All he learns is that Blandois had dealings with Mr. Gowan – things start to come full circle – MIss Wade expresses hatred for Minnie (Pet Meagles) because of her treatment of Tattycoram (Harriet) who then comes in the room and Dickens sorts out the story of Harriet’s disappearance. Arthur returns to England and reads the sheets of paper Miss Wade has given him.

In Chapter XXI The History of a Self-Tormentor. the reader gets Miss Wade’s story which includes a connection with Mr. Gowan. Another circle begins to close for the reader.

In Chapter XXII Who Passes By This Road So Late?, there is an update on Doyce and Clennam: Daniel is going out to the colonies to work on a business venture and he requests that Arthur “abandon” his “invention”. He cautions Arthur about continuing but Arthur resists saying he would be ashamed if he “submitted to be so soon driven out of the field” by the shenahigans that go on in the Circumlocution Office. Doyce leaves for Southampton. Arthur reflects upon his meeting with Rigaud at his mother’s place. In an interview with Mr.Baptist they discover that Blandois and Rigaud are one and the same person. Mr. Baptist determines to find out more about Rigaud/Blandois for Arthur. Thus this issue ends leaving the reader wanting to know more about Rigaud and why he has been visiting Arthur’s mother and what will happen to Amy now that her father and uncle are dead.

End of Issue 16.

Dickens Update #18; Book 2: Issue 15

In Cahapter XV No Just Cause or Impediment Why These Two Persons Should Not Be Joined Together, we learn Mr. Dorrit’s reaction to Fanny’s engagement: “a family connexion of a gratifying nature with Mr. Merdle, the master spirit of the age.”  Mr. Dorrit received Mr. Sparkler’s offer “very much as he would have received three or four half-crowns from him in the days that were gone.” Through correspondence described hilariously by Dickens, Mr. Dorrit and Mr. Merdle reached a “satisfactory understanding” re the marriage.  Mr. Dorrit and Fanny have words about Mrs. General. Mr. Dorrit sends for Mrs. General to inform her of Fanny’s engagement and the diminution of her duties as a result. Fanny makes it clear that she neither asked for nor required Mrs. General’s consent.  Mr. Sparkler returns to England to work.  Fanny says Edmund cannot be trusted to go by himself: “For if it’s possible – and it generally is – to do a foolish thing, he is sure to do it.”  The marriage takes place in Rome. Mr. Dorrit informs Amy how much he wishes her to be married. Mr. Dorrit goes to Florence to join Fanny and Sparkler while Amy remains with Mrs. General.

In Chapter XVI, Getting On, Fanny and Sparkler arrive in Cavendish Square. In the morning Mr. Merdle goes to pay his respects to Mr. Dorrit who is housed in an hotel. Dickens continues his “over the top” descriptions of Mr. Merdle. “O ye sun, moon, and stars, the great man!”Dorrit tells Merdle he has come to arrange “the laying out…in the best way of…my money.” Dorrit goes with Merdle to the city where he will visit his banker. In the days ahead “the name of Dorrit was always a passport to the great presence of Merdle.”

In Chapter XVII Missing, Flora Finching calls on Mr. Dorrit: she saw news in the paper that Mr. Dorrit had arrived from Italy. She reports to Mr. Dorrit the “disappearance” of Rigaud after leaving Mrs. Clennam’s house. Flora asks Mr. Dorrit to make enquiries when he returns to Italy. DorritMIssing and Dreaming Bk2 ChXVIII p653(1) goes to see Clennam and Co. for himself and tells Mrs. Clennam that Rigaud had been in Henry Gowan’s company in Italy. (see picture to right) Mr. Dorrit cannot get any information regarding the business Rigaud had transacted with Mr. Clennam and he goes home much disturbed by his experience.

In Chapter XVIII A Castle in the Air, young John Chivery is waiting for Mr. Dorrit when he returns from his farewell dinner at the Merdles.  John receives a shocking rather unwelcoming reaction from Mr. Dorrit who apologizes and asks after the family and gives John a cheque for 100 pounds to be distributed at the Marshalsea. Next day he left. While in Paris he buys gifts for a woman….hence building his castle in the air. Readers are left in suspense regarding the woman’s identity at the end of Issue 15.