Little Dorrit HTML version

Mr Merdle's Complaint
Upon that establishment of state, the Merdle establishment in Harley Street,
Cavendish Square, there was the shadow of no more common wall than the
fronts of other establishments of state on the opposite side of the street. Like
unexceptionable Society, the opposing rows of houses in Harley Street were very
grim with one another. Indeed, the mansions and their inhabitants were so much
alike in that respect, that the people were often to be found drawn up on opposite
sides of dinner-tables, in the shade of their own loftiness, staring at the other side
of the way with the dullness of the houses.
Everybody knows how like the street the two dinner-rows of people who take
their stand by the street will be. The expressionless uniform twenty houses, all to
be knocked at and rung at in the same form, all approachable by the same dull
steps, all fended off by the same pattern of railing, all with the same
impracticable fire- escapes, the same inconvenient fixtures in their heads, and
everything without exception to be taken at a high valuation--who has not dined
with these? The house so drearily out of repair, the occasional bow-window, the
stuccoed house, the newly-fronted house, the corner house with nothing but
angular rooms, the house with the blinds always down, the house with the
hatchment always up, the house where the collector has called for one quarter of
an Idea, and found nobody at home--who has not dined with these? The house
that nobody will take, and is to be had a bargain--who does not know her? The
showy house that was taken for life by the disappointed gentleman, and which
does not suit him at all--who is unacquainted with that haunted habitation?
Harley Street, Cavendish Square, was more than aware of Mr and Mrs Merdle.
Intruders there were in Harley Street, of whom it was not aware; but Mr and Mrs
Merdle it delighted to honour. Society was aware of Mr and Mrs Merdle. Society
had said 'Let us license them; let us know them.'
Mr Merdle was immensely rich; a man of prodigious enterprise; a Midas without
the ears, who turned all he touched to gold. He was in everything good, from
banking to building. He was in Parliament, of course. He was in the City,
necessarily. He was Chairman of this, Trustee of that, President of the other. The
weightiest of men had said to projectors, 'Now, what name have you got? Have
you got Merdle?' And, the reply being in the negative, had said, 'Then I won't look
at you.'
This great and fortunate man had provided that extensive bosom which required
so much room to be unfeeling enough in, with a nest of crimson and gold some
fifteen years before. It was not a bosom to repose upon, but it was a capital
bosom to hang jewels upon. Mr Merdle wanted something to hang jewels upon,
and he bought it for the purpose. Storr and Mortimer might have married on the
same speculation.
Like all his other speculations, it was sound and successful. The jewels showed
to the richest advantage. The bosom moving in Society with the jewels displayed
upon it, attracted general admiration. Society approving, Mr Merdle was satisfied.