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.

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