The Gospel in Dickens
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« 'Little Dorrit,' part five | Main | Further thoughts on 'Little Dorrit' »

April 26, 2009


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Thank you sooo much for this wonderful clarification

Maybe Mrs. Clennam let everything go to rot on purpose, as a way to erase every bit of her husband’s legacy because she hated him so much for what he did, or his past with another woman, or whatever. Jealousy makes people do terrible things. Obviously she couldn’t erase Arthur but I don’t think it would be a stretch to say she was probably a terribly abusive woman to the boy Arthur. Just my two cents on the “why didn’t she keep up the house” question.

Thank you for your blog. The one thing I just can't figure out, is why Arthur's grandfather never left him a penny.

There is a section of the Chapter between Mrs. Clennam, Rigaud, Jeremiah and Affery where Mrs. Clennam talks about the pocket watch. It gets rather dense and I lost track of where we are in time during this explanation, thus it wasn't clear to me if Mrs. Clennam is talking about finding the pocket watch in the past or present day. Can anyone find this passage and take a crack at explaining it to me?

This is the passage I do not fully understand. If someone can please help me with it, I'd greatly appreciate it?

She laid her wrathful hand upon the watch on the table.

‘No! “Do not forget.” The initials of those words are within here now, and were within here then. I was appointed to find the old letter that referred to them, and that told me what they meant, and whose work they were, and why they were worked, lying with this watch in his secret drawer. But for that appointment there would have been no discovery. “Do not forget.” It spoke to me like a voice from an angry cloud. Do not forget the deadly sin, do not forget the appointed discovery, do not forget the appointed suffering. I did not forget. Was it my own wrong I remembered? Mine! I was but a servant and a minister. What power could I have over them, but that they were bound in the bonds of their sin, and delivered to me!’

More than forty years had passed over the grey head of this determined woman, since the time she recalled. More than forty years of strife and struggle with the whisper that, by whatever name she called her vindictive pride and rage, nothing through all eternity could change their nature. Yet, gone those more than forty years, and come this Nemesis now looking her in the face, she still abided by her old impiety—still reversed the order of Creation, and breathed her own breath into a clay image of her Creator. Verily, verily, travellers have seen many monstrous idols in many countries; but no human eyes have ever seen more daring, gross, and shocking images of the Divine nature than we creatures of the dust make in our own likenesses, of our own bad passions.

Michele, I take it to mean that she's talking about discovering it in the past.

So I’m not the only one to stream LD in these unprecedented times, I see. ;)
Thanks for the blog. I’ve watched LD before and as a fan of Davies & cast, I was thrilled to rewatch. I’m lowkey relieved, however, to see so many people discussing Pet, Henry & Junior’s fate as well as Amy & Arthur’s links. I’m cool with people fading into death at the drop of a hat, but the economics are troubling.

I wanna know:

What did “set it right” and “do not forget” mean? Just give Amy her money?
How come Arthur gets nothing from Grandpa Gilbert?
How the hell did Flauntwantch survive?
Does Pancks end in Mashalsea?
How and when and by whose hand does Casby get taken down?
Does the Italian dear Rigaud/Blandois for basically no reason?
Where is the woman to heal sweet John Chivery’s heart?
And is there anyone in literature better at naming characters than Charlie Dickens?

It's been 8 years since the last comment and 12 years since the series aired - but if anyone is still checking this, can you explain who Blandois/Rigaud stabbed in order to get the box containing Mrs. Clennam's secrets?? I'm surprised no one seems to be talking about this. It looked like he stabbed Flintwinch, and then Rigaud was quite shocked to see Flintwinch alive later at the house, but as far as I saw they never have any explanation. I was eagerly awaiting some reveal of a twin brother who sometimes took his place but no such reveal came. Since no one else seems to be talking about it I'm starting to think I hallucinated the whole scene. Haha. Well if someone is around to answer, I'd appreciate it!

There is a twin brother, Alex. It's been a while since I watched the miniseries (I've actually been thinking of a rewatch), but I thought they did explain that. Could you have missed a scene, perhaps?

Currently the BBC series with Claire Foy is on the free channel PLEX available on Roku TV. -- November 2020.

Not sure if this thread is still active! I just watched the Little Dorrit series. I enjoyed it very much, but sure did leave me a bit confused. I was so confused that googled “what was Mrs Clenam’s secret?” which ( much to my amazement) led me to this page. So glad to have my questions answered and to know I was not alone in my confusion 😂

Yes, we still get people dropping by to try to figure out that ending! :-) Glad to be of service!

...and here we are years later, still charmed by this wonderful story and completely in love with the casting of Claire Foy and Matthew MacFadyen to tell it to us!

I wonder what the connection between Mr. Casby and Mrs. Clennam was?... I suppose, on the surface, it was Casby’s desire to break up the budding relationship between his daughter and a man of “questionable” parentage? If it WAS questionable, how did he know? Was there some deeper relationship between him and Mrs. Clennam (who probably leapt at the chance for Arthur to be sent away to China for 20 years by Mr. Casby)... Arthur being a constant source of embarrassment to her false piety and vindictive religiosity.

Love Dickens.

Thanks for all of the interesting input. I too was confused and your comments helped a lot. I’d like to add that it’s helpful to remember that most, if not all, of Dickens's novels were originally published as serials in newspapers. Little Dorrit was no exception. It was published in installments that ran between 1855 and 1857. That undoubtedly accounts for the length of the bound novel. It also accounts for inconsistencies over time. It’s highly unlikely that Dickens had plotted out the entire story before he started writing the individual installments.

Dickens fans eagerly looked forward to each installment and let Dickens's publishers know what they did and didn’t like. I’m quite sure that Dickens tailored each installment to fan demand. Regarding the relationship between Arthur Clennam and Little Dorrit, it may well be that Dickens had originally intended them to be half brother and sister, but his fans wanted them to fall in love and marry. In that case, Dickens would have had to devise what turned out to be a convoluted and not entirely plausible plot shift.

Being a writer myself, I’m also quite sure that Dickens succumbed to deadline procrastination and found himself dashing off the required number of pages at the last minute. It’s entirely possible that in the rush to publish he didn’t reread previous installments and relied on memory to carry the plot forward. As we all know, memory is not entirely reliable, particularly when it covers installments that span two years.

Well, many years later, I’ve bought the dvd of the BBC series and just watched it. I absolutely loved it until the final episode which left me bewildered. Mainly because I’ve read the book - though it was quite a long time ago - and was certain that things didn’t happen quite as Andrew Davies presented them! So I googled a who, what question and came upon your very informative blog. I can’t understand why writers of series and films feel they need to change another writer’s story. Very silly. But I agree that Dicken’s explanation left me scratching my head too! Still love both the book and the BBC series...

What fun reading this tonight after, like so many previous commenters, I searched for clarity regarding the secret. Even though the French accent employed
by Andy Serkin made for difficulty understanding a convoluted
exposition, the joy of watching his portrayal outweighed the confusion it caused. Great comments too from posters here over the years.

So glad to have found this in 2021! I've read a lot of Dickens and several of his novels multiple times, but never 'Little Dorrit'. I only just watched the BBC/Masterpiece adaptation and needed a clearer understanding of Mrs. Clennam's secret, which you have provided brilliantly. I will only add that I have figured out when Amy declares to Arthur that she is poor, too, it is true because Mrs. Clennam hid Gilbert's codicil and by so doing denied Amy any inheritance. That is why Mrs. Clennam asks for Amy's forgiveness.

Well, I think it's hilarious and charming how many people continue to seek out clarification on this ending and find this blog post (myself included). I appreciated the breakdown and have enjoyed perusing the comments as well :)

I REALLY didnt want to have to read the book to clear up if they were brother and sister or not. thank you so so much for the explaination!!!

The Clemons house looked like it once had been a fabric shop, so it would make since that their business in China was silk fabrics etc.

Silk from China would have been very sought after and they could have sold it everywhere. I guess I’m going to have to read the book because it bothers me that on his death bed in China and not before, Arthur’s father wanted to make something right. Why didn’t he make it right before? I guess there would have been no need for a book.
All the unknowns and the people I can’t figure how they fit in or why is driving me crazy.

Thank you for this enlightening blog Gina...After recently watching the mini series in Australia and having just read all the comments here, I was relieved to see that I wasn’t the only one left confused by the scriptwriter/s re Amy/Arthur/various family relationships, respective Wills and inheritances. One book of Dickens I have not read - however, Mrs Clennam shares similarities to Miss Haversham (Great Expectations) and whilst Dickens’ novels containt consistent tropes, he would not have given Mrs Clennam the quick death of the mini series scriptwriter; rather have her, post confession, in earthly purgatory. Dickens’ personal view of the Law, Government Departments (Circumlocution Office), religious piety/hypocrisy, quick rich money schemers and the brutal social conditions (at both ends of the spectrum) ensures that his novels remain as relevant today as yesteryear. A great teller of stories. (Appreciation also to blbarnitz for the economic and monetary information.)

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