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    Preface To The 1857 Edition

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    Chapter 1
    PREFACE TO THE 1857 EDITION

    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 look upon rooms in which the debtors lived; and will stand
    among the crowding ghosts of many miserable years.

    In the Preface to Bleak House I remarked that I had never had so
    many readers. In the Preface to its next successor, Little Dorrit,
    I have still to repeat the same words. Deeply sensible of the
    affection and confidence that have grown up between us, I add to
    this Preface, as I added to that, May we meet again!

    London
    May 1857
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