Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens

Produced by Jo Churcher


By Charles Dickens


Preface to the 1857 Edition

BOOK THE FIRST: POVERTY 1. Sun and Shadow 2. Fellow Travellers 3. Home 4. Mrs Flintwinch has a Dream 5. Family Affairs 6. The Father of the Marshalsea 7. The Child of the Marshalsea 8. The Lock 9. little Mother 10. Containing the whole Science of Government 11. Let Loose 12. Bleeding Heart Yard 13. Patriarchal 14. Little Dorrit's Party 15. Mrs Flintwinch has another Dream 16. Nobody's Weakness 17. Nobody's Rival 18. Little Dorrit's Lover 19. The Father of the Marshalsea in two or three Relations 20. Moving in Society 21. Mr Merdle's Complaint 22. A Puzzle 23. Machinery in Motion 24. Fortune-Telling 25. Conspirators and Others 26. Nobody's State of Mind 27. Five-and-Twenty 28. Nobody's Disappearance 29. Mrs Flintwinch goes on Dreaming 30. The Word of a Gentleman 31. Spirit 32. More Fortune-Telling 33. Mrs Merdle's Complaint 34. A Shoal of Barnacles 35. What was behind Mr Pancks on Little Dorrit's Hand 36. The Marshalsea becomes an Orphan


1. Fellow Travellers 2. Mrs General 3. On the Road 4. A Letter from Little Dorrit 5. Something Wrong Somewhere 6. Something Right Somewhere 7. Mostly, Prunes and Prism 8. The Dowager Mrs Gowan is reminded that 'It Never Does' 9. Appearance and Disappearance 10. The Dreams of Mrs Flintwinch thicken 11. A Letter from Little Dorrit 12. In which a Great Patriotic Conference is holden 13. The Progress of an Epidemic 14. Taking Advice 15. No just Cause or Impediment why these Two Persons should not be joined together 16. Getting on 17. Missing 18. A Castle in the Air 19. The Storming of the Castle in the Air 20. Introduces the next 21. The History of a Self-Tormentor 22. Who Passes by this Road so late? 23. Mistress Affery makes a Conditional Promise, respecting her Dreams 24. The Evening of a Long Day 25. The Chief Butler Resigns the Seals of Office 26. Reaping the Whirlwind 27. The Pupil of the Marshalsea 28. An Appearance in the Marshalsea 29. A Plea in the Marshalsea 30. Closing in 31. Closed 32. Going 33. Going! 34. Gone


I have been occupied with this story, during many working hours of twoyears. I must have been very ill employed, if I could not leave itsmerits and demerits as a whole, to express themselves on its being readas a whole. But, as it is not unreasonable to suppose that I may haveheld its threads with a more continuous attention than anyone else canhave given them during its desultory publication, it is not unreasonableto ask that the weaving may be looked at in its completed state, andwith the pattern finished.

If I might offer any apology for so exaggerated a fiction as theBarnacles and the Circumlocution Office, I would seek it in thecommon experience of an Englishman, without presuming to mention theunimportant fact of my having done that violence to good manners, in thedays of a Russian war, and of a Court of Inquiry at Chelsea. If I mightmake so bold as to defend that extravagant conception, Mr Merdle, Iwould hint that it originated after the Railroad-share epoch, in thetimes of a certain Irish bank, and of one or two other equallylaudable enterprises. If I were to plead anything in mitigation of thepreposterous fancy that a bad design will sometimes claim to be a goodand an expressly religious design, it would be the curious coincidencethat it has been brought to its climax in these pages, in the days ofthe public examination of late Directors of a Royal British Bank. But,I submit myself to suffer judgment to go by default on all these counts,if need be, and to accept the assurance (on good authority) that nothinglike them was ever known in this land.

Some of my readers may have an interest in being informed whether or noany portions of the Marshalsea Prison are yet standing. I did not know,myself, until the sixth of this present month, when I went to look. Ifound the outer front courtyard, often mentioned here, metamorphosedinto a butter shop; and I then almost gave up every brick of the jailfor lost. Wandering, however, down a certain adjacent 'Angel Court,leading to Bermondsey', I came to 'Marshalsea Place:' the houses inwhich I recognised, not only as the great block of the former prison,but as preserving the rooms that arose in my mind's-eye when I becameLittle Dorrit's biographer. The smallest boy I ever conversed with,carrying the largest baby I ever saw, offered a supernaturallyintelligent explanation of the locality in its old uses, and was verynearly correct. How this young Newton (for such I judge him to be) cameby his information, I don't know; he was a quarter of a century tooyoung to know anything about it of himself. I pointed to the window ofthe room where Little Dorrit was born, and where her father lived solong, and asked him what was the name of the lodger who tenanted thatapartment at present? He said, 'Tom Pythick.' I asked him who was TomPythick? and he said, 'Joe Pythick's uncle.'

A little further on, I found the older and smaller wall, which usedto enclose the pent-up inner prison where nobody was put, except forceremony. But, whosoever goes into Marshalsea Place, turning out ofAngel Court, leading to Bermondsey, will find his feet on the verypaving-stones of the extinct Marshalsea jail; will see its narrow yardto the right and to the left, very little altered if at all, except thatthe walls were lowered when the place got free; will look upon roomsin which the debtors lived; and will stand among the crowding ghosts ofmany miserable years.

In the Preface to Bleak House I remarked that I had never had so manyreaders. In the Preface to its next successor, Little Dorrit, I havestill to repeat the same words. Deeply sensible of the affection andconfidence that have grown up between us, I add to this Preface, as Iadded to that, May we meet again!

London May 1857

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