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Little Dorrit

Preface
I have been occupied with this story, during many working hours of two years. I
must have been very ill employed, if I could not leave its merits and demerits as a
whole, to express themselves on its being read as a whole. But, as it is not
unreasonable to suppose that I may have held its threads with a more continuous
attention than anyone else can have given them during its desultory publication,
it is not unreasonable to ask that the weaving may be looked at in its completed
state, and with the pattern finished.
If I might offer any apology for so exaggerated a fiction as the Barnacles and the
Circumlocution Office, I would seek it in the common experience of an
Englishman, without presuming to mention the unimportant fact of my having
done that violence to good manners, in the days of a Russian war, and of a Court
of Inquiry at Chelsea. If I might make so bold as to defend that extravagant
conception, Mr Merdle, I would hint that it originated after the Railroad-share
epoch, in the times of a certain Irish bank, and of one or two other equally
laudable enterprises. If I were to plead anything in mitigation of the preposterous
fancy that a bad design will sometimes claim to be a good and an expressly
religious design, it would be the curious coincidence that it has been brought to
its climax in these pages, in the days of the 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 nothing like them was ever known in this land. Some of my readers may
have an interest in being informed whether or no any 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. I found the outer front courtyard, often mentioned
here, metamorphosed into a butter shop; and I then almost gave up every brick
of the jail for lost. Wandering, however, down a certain adjacent 'Angel Court,
leading to Bermondsey', I came to 'Marshalsea Place:' the houses in which 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 became Little Dorrit's biographer. The
smallest boy I ever conversed with, carrying the largest baby I ever saw, offered
a supernaturally intelligent explanation of the locality in its old uses, and was very
nearly correct. How this young Newton (for such I judge him to be) came by his
information, I don't know; he was a quarter of a century too young to know
anything about it of himself. I pointed to the window of the room where Little
Dorrit was born, and where her father lived so long, and asked him what was the
name of the lodger who tenanted that apartment at present? He said, 'Tom
Pythick.' I asked him who was Tom Pythick? and he said, 'Joe Pythick's uncle.'
A little further on, I found the older and smaller wall, which used to enclose the
pent-up inner prison where nobody was put, except for ceremony. But,
whosoever goes into Marshalsea Place, turning out of Angel Court, leading to
Bermondsey, will find his feet on the very paving-stones of the extinct
Marshalsea jail; will see its narrow yard to the right and to the left, very little
altered if at all, except that the walls were lowered when the place got free; will
 
 
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