"What nimble fingers you have," said Flora, "but are you sure you are well?". . . "Oh yes, indeed!" Flora put her feet upon the fender, and settled herself for a thorough good romantic disclosure. — Book I, chap. 24, "Fortune-Telling." Sixties' illustrator James Mahoney's twenty-first illustration for Charles Dickens's Little Dorrit, Household Edition, 1875. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels, 9.3 cm high x 13.8 cm wide. The Chapman and Hall woodcut is identical to that in the New York (Harper and Brothers) edition. In the original serial illustrations, Phiz depicts Little Dorrit, leaning out of her window in the Marshalsea, about to tell Maggy a fairy tale, The Story of the Princess, having introduced Flora Finching with Mr. F's Aunt earlier in Mr. F's Aunt Conducted into Retirement (Book One, Chapter 13). An arrested juvenile, Flora appears again in Rigour of Mr. F's Aunt (Book Two, Chapter 9) as a rather empty-headed, somewhat overweight middle-aged woman in ringlets. Mahoney's realistic interpretation of her is somewhat kinder than Dickens's characterisation of her as vacuous, materialistic, and empty-headed, serving as Amy's foil — the false wit to Amy's true wit. Mahoney's illustration fails to convey her gushing romanticism.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL.]

Passage Illustrated

"You industrious little fairy," returned Flora, taking, in another cup of tea, another of the doses prescribed by her medical man, 'there's not the slightest hurry and it's better that we should begin by being confidential about our mutual friend — too cold a word for me at least I don't mean that, very proper expression mutual friend — than become through mere formalities not you but me like the Spartan boy with the fox biting him, which I hope you'll excuse my bringing up for of all the tiresome boys that will go tumbling into every sort of company that boy's the tiresomest."

Little Dorrit, her face very pale, sat down again to listen. "Hadn't I better work the while?" she asked. "I can work and attend too. I would rather, if I may."

Her earnestness was so expressive of her being uneasy without her work, that Flora answered, "Well my dear whatever you like best," and produced a basket of white handkerchiefs. Little Dorrit gladly put it by her side, took out her little pocket-housewife, threaded the needle, and began to hem.

"What nimble fingers you have," said Flora, "but are you sure you are well?"

"Oh yes, indeed!"

Flora put her feet upon the fender, and settled herself for a thorough good romantic disclosure. She started off at score, tossing her head, sighing in the most demonstrative manner, making a great deal of use of her eyebrows, and occasionally, but not often, glancing at the quiet face that bent over the work.

"You must know my dear," said Flora, "but that I have no doubt you know already not only because I have already thrown it out in a general way but because I feel I carry it stamped in burning what's his names upon my brow that before I was introduced to the late Mr F. I had been engaged to Arthur Clennam — Mr. Clennam in public where reserve is necessary Arthur here — we were all in all to one another it was the morning of life it was bliss it was frenzy it was everything else of that sort in the highest degree, when rent asunder we turned to stone in which capacity Arthur went to China and I became the statue bride of the late Mr. F."

Flora, uttering these words in a deep voice, enjoyed herself immensely." — Book One, "Poverty"; Ch. 24, "Fortune-Telling."

Flora Finching and Little Dorrit in the original, Diamond, and Household Editions, 1855-1867

Left: Darley's 1863 frontispiece of the scene in which Mr. Dorrit learns of his inheritance, Joyful Tidings (Volume 2). Right: Sol Eytinge, Junior's interpretation of the demented Mr. F's Aunt and Flora Finching, Flora and Mr. F.'s Aunt (1867). [Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Above: Phiz's original serial illustration of the Dorrit sisters before their father's coming into his inheritance, Miss Dorrit and Little Dorrit (Book I, Ch. 20; May 1856). [Click on the image to enlarge it.]


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Last modified 29 November 2015