by Charles Dickens
Little Dorrit Wealth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Book.Chapter.Paragraph)
The affairs of this debtor [Mr. Dorrit] were perplexed by a partnership, of which he knew no more than that he had invested money in it; by legal matters of assignment and settlement, conveyance here and conveyance there, suspicion of unlawful preference of creditors in this direction, and of mysterious spiriting away of property in that; and as nobody on the face of the earth could be more incapable of explaining any single item in the heap of confusion than the debtor himself, nothing comprehensible could be made of his case. To question him in detail, and endeavour to reconcile his answers; to closet him with accountants and sharp practitioners, learned in the wiles of insolvency and bankruptcy; was only to put the case out at compound interest and incomprehensibility. The irresolute fingers fluttered more and more ineffectually about the trembling lip on every such occasion, and the sharpest practitioners gave him up as a hopeless job. (1.6.30)
In theory, with money should come responsibility and understanding, but in practice there's no such thing. This is how Merdle was able to con as many people as he did for as long as he did.
In those early days, the turnkey first began profoundly to consider a question which cost him so much mental labour, that it remained undetermined on the day of his death. He decided to will and bequeath his little property of savings to his godchild, and the point arose how could it be so 'tied up' as that only she should have the benefit of it? His experience on the lock gave him such an acute perception of the enormous difficulty of 'tying up' money with any approach to tightness, and contrariwise of the remarkable ease with which it got loose, that through a series of years he regularly propounded this knotty point to every new insolvent agent and other professional gentleman who passed in and out.
'Supposing,' he would say, stating the case with his key on the professional gentleman's waistcoat; 'supposing a man wanted to leave his property to a young female, and wanted to tie it up so that nobody else should ever be able to make a grab at it; how would you tie up that property?'
'Settle it strictly on herself,' the professional gentleman would complacently answer.
'But look here,' quoth the turnkey. 'Supposing she had, say a brother, say a father, say a husband, who would be likely to make a grab at that property when she came into it--how about that?'
'It would be settled on herself, and they would have no more legal claim on it than you,' would be the professional answer.
'Stop a bit,' said the turnkey. 'Supposing she was tender-hearted, and they came over her. Where's your law for tying it up then?'
The deepest character whom the turnkey sounded, was unable to produce his law for tying such a knot as that. So, the turnkey thought about it all his life, and died intestate after all. (1.7.23-29)
This is a fascinating idea – to leave money to someone in such a way that even her feelings of love wouldn't be able redistribute it. Would this have been a good idea in Amy's case? What would she have done with an inheritance set up the way the turnkey would like?
'Adieu, Miss Dorrit, with best wishes,' said Mrs. Merdle. 'If we could only come to a Millennium, or something of that sort, I for one might have the pleasure of knowing a number of charming and talented persons from whom I am at present excluded. A more primitive state of society would be delicious to me. There used to be a poem when I learnt lessons, something about Lo the poor Indians whose something mind! If a few thousand persons moving in Society, could only go and be Indians, I would put my name down directly; but as, moving in Society, we can't be Indians, unfortunately--Good morning!' (1.20.72)
Mrs. Merdle is always paying a lot of lip service to this idea that she has no control over the social conditions she lives under. What's funny is her thought that if she was part of an aboriginal tribe she would somehow be a more egalitarian person, when in fact, the novel demonstrates that people set up cliques and social rank wherever they find themselves.