The Gospel in Dickens
Click the image to order my book!

« 'Little Dorrit,' part five | Main | Further thoughts on 'Little Dorrit' »

April 26, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Now that's dedication, Paul! :-) To answer your question about Mrs. Clennam: In the miniseries, she died right away (presumably from shock and stress); in the book, she lingered for some time -- a couple of years, I think -- in a catatonic state before dying.

I have just watched the final episoded twice. It seems they were Arthur's baby-booties/shoes in the wooden box, surely too small to be dancers shoes as you wrote? That makes sense. The box was Arthur's treasure as it turned out.
But what happened to Amy Little Dorrit's inheritance? It is not mentioned again. We know that Dad Dorrit and Arthur and everyone invested in crooked Bank, but where was the legacy from the grandfather Gilbert Clennam invested in trust for Amy? It is not mentioned. If the legacy was to come to her, why did she say "I have nothing" to Arthur, when it was her father Dorrit's fortune which was lost in the failed bank, nothing ever said about her own legacy entrusted to her from Gilbert Clennam.?

Another puzzling anomaly: final episode when Amy and Arthur are in Marshalsea discussing their love, Arthur says a line I am almost twice your age. Were they not born on the same day according to Dickens' story? this clearly does not make sense, is it an error of the script-writer?
The glaring omission from the ending, as questioned by me in previous post is: what happened to Amy's "legacy" fortune, which is never explained. The legacy which existed in the Will or codicil of Gilbert Clennam, but never resolved, as she announced herself penniless.
It's beyond comprehension, Scriptwriter.

No, they weren't born on the same day. If I remember correctly, she was born right around the time that he was leaving for China.

And yes, they left the legacy for Amy out of the miniseries. Confusing, I know!

Thankyou for confirming my impression re the legacy being not addressed. Rather sloppy for an otherwise top miniseries, what a letdown of an ending. Thankyou for taking the time to inform me of things. This is wonderful of you.

Happy to help!

In the legal world, if someone dies "intestate" (with no will), the items are distributed "per stirpes"...the way I understand it, because Fredrick Dorrit had no heirs, next the inheritance would go to Fredrick's parents (presumed deceased), and then next the inheritance would go to his brother - or maybe to Amy Dorrit because that is what the bequest specified. (I am no lawyer.) But that is how the inheritance MIGHT have gotten to Amy.

Omg THANK YOU for explaining this; I wa.s so confused toward the end. Imagine my discomfort watching Amy and Arthur fall in love because I thought the whole time that Amy was the love child. And to get to the end and learn the twist only to be left befuddled as to who Amy's real parents were...I couldn't t enjoy the most romantic part of the whole movie because I was grossed out thinking Amy was kissing her half brother. The movie did a poor job of explaining Amy's connection to the family. I searched and searched and finally found this post that explained the whole thing. Now I can go to sleep.

P.s. It's crazy how Mrs. Clemens felt more affection to Amy than the child than Arthur. It makes sense to me why the filmmakers felt they had to change her motive...making the affair between Arthur's father and biological mother and extramarital event as opposed to the novel's premarital one. Had it remained the latter, those of us watching two centuries later would have only been left with a WTF response. I mean, having a baby out of wedlock is no big deal these days, but an extramarital love child? Now THATS a scandle.

I just watched the whole miniseries and I think there is domestic violence implied when Pet says that marriage isn't at all what she expected. If not violence, at least some pretty unpleasant experiences for her in bed. Henry is so inconsiderate, despite his claims of love for Pet, that her new attitude toward him and marraige can't entirely be explained by the Frenchman's presence or Henry's insistence on his enjoyment of the Frenchman's company.

Also, I, too was confused by the explanation of the family secret and have found the explanation here very, very helpful. The loose ends at the end of the story, and the seeming evaporation of Amy's legacy, bothered me, but not as much as wondering about poor Pet's future with awful Henry. The look on his face when he sees his new baby said it all. He is too self-absorbed to be a decent father, or husband once his wife has the demands of motherhood placed on her.

Another's anomaly. In the miniseries, near the end, Aurthur says he got a letter from his real mother and that she loves him. I thought she had died in the asylum.??

Love all of this! Thank you so much!

Sorry, I seem to have found this spot rather late. I have been in the process of preparing a monograph relating to all the medical conditions described by CD.
Very interesting conversation. Yes, I agree that amongst all Dickens' works, Little Dorrit is full of surprises and mysteries.

I also agree that Andrew Davies ought not to have changed the ending, which in a way I consider a sacrilege as it ruins what CD had intended. I say so because CD's mastery and genius leaves no room for his narrative to be tampered with. Will come back with a few issues/questions later.

Thanks Gina for your detailed explanation. I've watched the BBC adaption a few times and was also confused and left with the impression that Amy and Arthur were half-brother and half-sister. Couldn't quite see that the Georgians would be happy reading about such an incestuous relationship in a newspaper serial. It also raised the equally confounding question of why Mr Dorritt would claim Amy as his daughter if she was of no relationship to him at all.
So pleased I now understand the complexities of the characters' backgrounds much better.

Just getting to your site in May 2016! I was always baffled by the financial doings in Little Dorrit. I have been confused since mini series! I am so glad I now have some answers. I could have read the book, but I was not that interested.

Hi Marilyn -- glad we could help! But I do recommend the book as well. It's REALLY good. :-) Thanks for stopping by.

I just finished the book, Little Dorrit. I have not seen the miniseries yet. I'm confused by a couplw of things in the book. 1
Why does the house explode? That was bizarre. 2. What was making the sounds Affery was so afraid of? It seemed Dickens made so much of this and then just dropped it and never explained it, other than Affery's comment that Arthur's mother was still alive in the house somewhere.

Ruth, the answers to your questions actually go together. The house was very old, neglected, and literally falling to pieces -- that was the source of the noises, and that was the reason it eventually crumbled to the ground.

I always have to read your excellent post after watching it, and this is the third time. :) It seems like it would've been simpler if Davies had used the original plot, but through a flashback sequence instead of a verbal explanation.

That said, this series has aged well. I only wish the BBC would make more like it! I'm starting to feel like the days of great adaptations are past. It's not to say that there aren't anachronisms in Little Dorrit (definitely some), but overall it's of a better caliber IMHO than some of their newer dramas.

Arthur's mother was Lizzy. Don't you have read little dorrit in detail.

So glad you're still enjoying it, Marian! :-)

Rebecca, no, I don't believe we ever learn Arthur's mother's name. The only people who discuss her -- Mrs. Clennam, Jeremiah, Affery, and Blandois -- never refer to her by name.

Andrew Davies's screenwriting — excellent in most respects — fell down IMO by failing to explain what happened to Amy's legacy. Not having read the novel, I couldn't understand why she was left (albeit happily) penniless until Doyce arrived. I am enormously grateful to blbarnitz for explaining everything. And of course many thanks to Gina for the blog!

Just watched this. Confused like everyone else. Thanks for youre explaination. So glad they weren't brother and sister. We were afraid. There were great actors here: the fat girl, Amy's dad, and Mr. Sparklesby. I must read the book!.

I've just finished watching the Andrew Davies miniseries on DVD. I had worked out that Arthur was not the child of Mrs Clennam and that he and Amy were not related, though I didn't make the connection via Frederick. The thing that puzzled me was, why did Miss Wade have the box with the shoes (or bootees) and letter from Arthur's mother? I read the book many years ago but don't remember this bit at all.

Blandois gave it to her for safekeeping.

I'm much later then anyone else on here, but I just watched all of little dorrit online and was so confused at the ending that I googled the plot explanation to understand the ending and why Arthur's grandpa or uncle in the book, would leave little Amy dorrit any money at all. Unless she was his grand-daughter or niece in the book, making her half sister to Arthur. I thought as a lot of people sis that Arthur n Amy had the same mom, but not giving birth so far apart as 20 years. Less, like 10 years maybe. So as many others were, I was confused as to how they could marry, after knowing all the truths of their lives. I know people used to marry their cousins or further distant relations (which is icky enough), but not half siblings I hope. I'm glad that this blog explains everything and that any and Arthur aren't related at all. But still end up wealthy, in spite of Mr.dorrit losing his fortune, and the house of clenham literally falling. I had wondered about the money left over that would've still gone to Arthur as Mr. Clenham's son. Now that someone said the 2nd twin flintwich stole it n ran off to Amsterdam, plus any burning the will of money left to her, her 2nd smaller fortune lost. But if the dorrit estate was still accumulating money wouldn't there be something left for her n siblings? I guess not if her dad was so foolish to move literally every type of funding they had to the merdles scam. I remember something the queen said in another favorite of mine. "The white queen" Did you really expect me to keep all my jewels in 1 basket? She was talking about both her son's the princes, not money. But the concept is the same. She had sense enough to remove 1 son n hide him away for safe keeping since she couldn't hide both. When people came to kill her son's, they got 1 Prince and an imposter. Mr. Dorrit should've done the same with his money. As they say, never put all your eggs in one basket. In case that basket falls, they all break. Sound advice in whatever you're trying to protect.

Since this is the book featured in this year’s Dickens Universe at the UC Santa Cruz, I have just finished reading it for the first time since the miniseries came out, and possibly for the first time in the eight or so readings actually understood what Dickens did regarding the codicil and all of the money issues. William, Fanny, and Tip all invested with Mr. Merdle, so they lost all of their money along with Arthur and what Pancks lost. That part was pretty easy. And Flintwinch ran off with as much money from Clennam & Co that he could get his hands on. What remains unclear is how Mrs. Clennam lived for three years after the collapse of the house, and what relationship Arthur and Amy had with her (we know they took care of Fanny’s children and Tip also until he died of dissipation). We must assume that she had little or no money left over, so that Arthur and Amy would live solely on the reasonable (perhaps even generous) income Arthur would earn in the future as part of Doyce & Clennam. There’s no getting around the issue of the codicil being crazy, or of Miss Wade hiring Rigaud to spy on the Gowans or many of Flora’s unexpected intrusions into the plot—they’re just nuts, but what are you going to do? Flora is simply one of Dickens’s best-ever creations, so no matter how she gets on stage, it’s worth it. I also love the miniseries in spite of some of its problems, primarily because Matthew Macfadyen, while not Dickens’s vision of Clennam, is dreamy. Now I have to rewatch the 1988 movie, particularly for the delightful portrayal of Flora by the formidable Miriam Margolyes.

Arthur's father married in some way not recognized by his uncle or the bride the uncle chose for his nephew. It could have been private vows, vows in a church that the strict sect did not recognize -- t did not matter, the uncle was controlling his nephew's life, and the nephew did not simply emigrate or do what his son finally did, separate himself from the family business. The marriage disliked by the uncle happened well before Arthur's father caved in to his uncle Gilbert's demands to marry a woman from that strict religious sect. The baby Arthur was already born! The uncle learned of the first wife and the baby only when he (uncle Gilbert Clennam) added a second bride to the scene. The uncle and the new wife were both cruel people. Why not let the nephew stay married to the wife of his choice? There would be no novel then; their rigidity in who rules the family is the start of the plot. The Mrs Clennam of the story is harsh and jealous, and claims it is all in her bible. Likely it is not there, it her jealousy and anger at being second choice and having no child that she carried that drives her. She will raise the child to make the mother of the child miserable. The uncle relented on his own harshness a few years later when he wrote the codicil to his will. The novel does not say exactly when that happened, the codicil, but it was kept secret by Mrs Clennam a long time. She never relented of her jealousy until she was being blackmailed, so she told the story to avoid the blackmail.

A Dickens blog - awesome!I would add to the discussion about the house becoming dilapidated\ collapsing. I took it to represent the life of lies Arthur's "mother" had built, and become a prisoner in. Her guilt, despite declaring she was right before God, left her paralyzed and her surroundings rotting from the moment the farce began. Dickens never let realism interfere with a message. When she accepted guilt, that world literally collapsed. I disagree with those who say she never repented but told the truth because too stubborn to be blackmailed. She had reached out to help Little Dorrit and knelt before her to ask forgiveness. Despite my love of Dickens, her dying and going to God redeemed rather than lingering on was a better ending.

Thanks for the explanation. I was Totally confused at the end of the mini series

I'm surprised that all these posts refer to the 2008 PBS mini-series and none of them talk about the 1987 movie. In many ways, I preferred the movie to the mini-series: I like the castings much better and I liked the approach the movie took of telling the story twice, once from Arthur's viewpoint and then again from Amy's viewpoint. While the ending of the mini-series was much less confusing than the movie's (which really didn't explain ANYTHING), it was still confusing! I really appreciate the complete explanation here...I have seen the movie 3 times and the mini-series once and STILL didn't begin to understand the actual "secret". I must read the book one day!

Thanks for commenting, Gary! As a matter of fact, I did review the 1987 movie -- but I'm afraid you may not like what I had to say:

Thanks so much Gina for explaining the connection between the Clennams and the Dorrits. Love Andrew Davies' adaptations to bits but that was particularly badly handled. Also, just wanted to add for those who asked about whether 1000 guineas was a lot of money, yes it was. The book is written in the 1850s. If 1000 guineas=1050 pounds, in today's money, 1050 pounds would be more than 130,000 pounds. And money went a lot further back then as cost of living and income taxes were so much lower. A good nutshell of info on Victorian cost of living here:

I binge watched this today on Amazon, as I'm trying to get over a cold, nothing beats a cold quite like a day of costume drama. But I was completely lost as to what was in those letters, and what on earth the secret was, so thanks so much!

Six years since last comment, is this still active? Our Little Amy is a big star now - playing two queens (Anne Boleyn in “Wolf Hall” and Queen Elizabeth II in “The Crown”), wife of first man on the moon (“First Man”), and the new girl with the dragoon tatoo (“The Girl in the Spider’sWeb”). Claire Foy recent stardom brought me back to this “LD”. I just watched final episode online. I replayed the final scene between Rigad and Mrs Clennam several times trying to understand what the hell was going on! Sounded like Arthur and Amy were bro n sis. Ewwww! Sure glad I found this website to set me straight and save me actually having to read 900 pages of Dickens. But still didn’t understand, as another person commented above, how Amy is not still rich by Gilbert Clennam’s now revealed will, and Arthur not rich by inheritance of his mother’s estate, which presumably would go to him? Thanks!

Victor, in the book, Amy doesn't want the inheritance and gives it up. (Not having seen the miniseries for a while, I don't remember exactly how it happened there.) As for the Clennam estate, I don't think there was much left of it.

So pleased I found your blog explaining the connection between Amy and Arthur. I have just watched the series on BBC iplayer over the last couple of days. When the secret came out I thought 'oh no, She's been in love with her brother all that time'. When they married, I realised I was wrong so I rewound and was no less confused. Decided I needed to Google the answer which brought me to your blog and wonderful explanation. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much. I avisly wTch6ed the miniseries as a box set and ended up completely disappointed and confused abiut the secret. Your clarification is excellent.

Thank you all so much for the clarifications! I, too, was confused about the familial connection between Arthur and Amy, among other things. You have all made sence of a very convoluted story.

Just bingewatched the entire miniseries start to finish! (Snowstorm) Didn't want it to end, so scrounged around online for more and landed nice!
A couple points- the crumbling and finally, selfdestructing house is a wonderful metaphor, one of many you will enjoy if you READ THE BOOK! SURPRISED BY HOW MANY FOLKS here have not read it. Warning, once you start reading Dickens, you cannot stop and your friends will tell you your manner of speaking has changed....:-)
Thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog and the comments. XO

Are there two versions of Little Dorrit one from Amy’s view and authors view?

I agree with Gina.

"I totally didn't understand it tonight in the adaptation and found myself asking, "What? Are they half-brother and -sister? And they're still getting married???" Ugh"

I have only seen the series and I watched the scene with Blandois when he was speaking to Mrs. Clennam and had to rewind it 4 times to try and understand what was going on and still didn't get it so I sought out a defining meaning on the internet! Thank you for this blog! Most interesting!!

In the graveyard adjacent to Rochester Cathedral and directly facing the High Street, is a tombstone from the 1830s bearing the name Dorrett.

I just streamed the Little Dorrit series. I was confused at the end thinking Arthur and Amy were brother and sister. I felt sorry for John and hoped (if Amy and Arthur were siblings) that maybe John and Amy would end up together. I'm so glad I found this web page to clarify things. I love happy endings. I'm a big Charles Dickens fan and have read 6 of his novels and would read the others if I ran across them. Charles Dickens and Catherine Cookson are my all time favorite writers.

Were Amy's inheritance, and the inheritance her father William Dorrit lost one and the same? Or were they two separate inheritances from two different sources?

Randy, good question! They were two different inheritances.

Just listened to BBC Sounds audio version ... loved it ... but had to replay the Mrs Clennam / Amy's mother / Uncle Fred's will etc several times. Then I gave up and Googled it 🤔 ... Thank you 😁👍

I just don’t get it! What is all this about? The cow jumped over the moon or did the moon jump over the cow
Who where Author’s parents ? I think his parents were Gypsies that migrated from Eurasia or maybe they flew down from Uranus. Either way there are many cracks in the story.

Hi Gina! Ty so much for explaining the ending of the mini-series. My wife and I loved it, but also were under the impression that Amy and Arthur were siblings!😬No one seems to have mentioned the heartbreaking performance given by Russ Tovey as John..Poor John! Seems Mr. Tovey and Miss Foy have become quite well known since the mini-series first aired. Also, honorable mention goes to the always brilliant Ruth Jones as silly, anxious Flora. Well done!

Thank you for the Blog it really cleared things up for me after watching the mini series, I was confused and I didn’t read the book.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)