Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1873. The wood-engraving by the Dalziels occurs on p. 73 in the Chapman & Hall volume, with the running head . 9.5 cm high x 13.8 cm wide, framed.(See page 74.) — Book I, chap. 13, "Patriarchal." Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's thirteenth illustration for Charles Dickens's
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When his knock at the bright brass knocker of obsolete shapebrought a woman-servant to the door, those faded scents in truth saluted him like wintry breath that had a faint remembrance in it of the bygone spring. He stepped into the sober, silent, air-tight houseone might have fancied it to have been stifled by Mutes in the Eastern manner— and the door, closing again, seemed to shut outsound and motion. The furniture was formal, grave, and quaker-like, but well-kept; and had as prepossessing an aspect as anything, from a human creature to a wooden stool, that is meant for much use and is preserved for little, can ever wear. There was a grave clock, ticking somewhere up the staircase; and there was a songless bird in the same direction, pecking at his cage, as if he were ticking too. The parlour-fire ticked in the grate. There was only one person on the parlour-hearth, and the loud watch in his pocket ticked audibly.
The servant-maid had ticked the two words "Mr. Clennam" so softlythat she had not been heard; and he consequently stood, within thedoor she had closed, unnoticed. The figure of a man advanced in life, whose smooth grey eyebrows seemed to move to the ticking as the fire-light flickered on them, sat in an arm-chair, with his list shoes on the rug, and his thumbs slowly revolving over one another. This was old Christopher Casby — recognisable at a glance — as unchanged in twenty years and upward as his own solid furniture — as little touched by the influence of the varying seasons as the old rose-leaves and old lavender in his porcelain jars. — Book the First, "Poverty," Chapter 13, "Patriarchal," p. 74.
The accompanying caption is somewhat longer in the Harper & Bros. edition: Mr. F.'s Aunt is conducted into Retirement (March 1856), by revealing Casby's reception of Arthur Clennam after an absence of twenty years.— Book 1, chap. xiii. The Mahoney illustration of 1873 supplements the original serial engraving,
Mr. Christopher Casby, the father of Arthur Clennam's former sweetheart, Flora (now, the widow Mrs. Finching), has not changed one bit during Arthur's twenty-year absence in China. Arthur's quest for information about the Dorrits has taken him to Bleeding Heart Yard, one of Mr. Casby's rental properties — and part of rent-collector Pancks's route on rent-day. Clennam's staying to dinner affords him the opportunity to study his adolescent sweetheart, now twenty years older but still flirtatious, loquacious, and vacuous — and now more than a little overweight. Shown in the original 1857 steel-engraving, the widow's "legacy," the demented, elderly aunt of her deceased husband, guards Flora jealousy, scaring away prospective suitors such as Arthur Clennam with her erratic behaviour, non-sequiturs, and insults. Rather than merely repeat or reinterpret the Phiz illustration for this chapter, Mahoney selects the earlier interview between Casby and Clennam to instensify the melancholy mood as the protagonist re-visits a past that he cannot recapture and as youthful feeling that he cannot reconstitute. Arthur Clennam no longer sees the capitalist, Mr. Casby, as a prospective father-in-law, but as an unscrupulous slum-landlord whose benign appearance belies his true, grasping nature.
The "Last of the Patriarchs," as Casby likes to style himself, appears to be a benign Quaker, but in fact is cold-hearted slum landlord who employs Pancks to squeeze the tenants and act as his stalking-horse — a relationship not unlike that between Fascination Fledgeby the capitalist and his front-man, Riah, in Our Mutual Friend. And, like Fledgeby, Casby gets the comeuppance he so justly deserves.
Mr. F.'s Aunt, Casby and Pancks from this chapter and later in other early editions, 1856 to 1910
Left: The third frontispiece in the New York "Household Edition" volumes, Gilbert's engraving of Mr. F.'s Aunt demanding that a startled Arthur eat her crust, "He's too proud a chap to eat it . . ." (1863). Centre: Eytinge, Junior's dual study of the fatuous former sweetheart and her vinegary aunt-by-marriage, Flora and Mr. F.'s Aunt (1867). Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's dual study of the two Victorian men of business, the rent-collector Pancks and the capitalist and slum landlord Casby, Casby and Pancks. Right: The Harry Furniss characterisation of the awkward dinner at Casby's, Mr. F.'s Aunt (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: The Harry Furniss characterisation of the awkward dinner at Casby's, Mr. F.'s Aunt (1910). [Click on images to enlarge them.]
Above: Phiz's original illustration of the awkward dinner in the Casby mansion, Mr. F.'s Aunt is conducted into Retirement (February 1856). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]
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Last modified 21 April 2016