Study Guide

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 13

By Charles Dickens

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Book 1, Chapter 13


  • Arthur goes off to Mr. Casby's house. Turns out he's the father of Flora Casby, Arthur's long-ago love.
  • Casby is the definition of "don't judge a book by its cover."  In his case, he's a great-looking, seemingly deep and wise book who's shallow and sort of dumb on the inside.
  • He's been asked several times to pose for paintings of Biblical patriarchs. In reality, he's basically a slumlord.
  • In the Casby house, Arthur is full of nostalgia... until he sees Flora, who is now old and pudgy and very silly and still trying to act like she's 18.
  • She speaks in a hilarious rush of words that Dickens doesn't punctuate – really long run-on sentences with pauses only to breathe.
  • Basically, the story is that when Arthur was 20, he and Flora were engaged. But Mrs. Clennam wasn't having any of it. She made them break off the engagement and shipped Arthur off to China.
  • Many years later Flora married another guy, who then died. She's now a widow, and she's still carrying a torch for Arthur.
  • Arthur, meanwhile, is beyond shocked to see what she's like now, and his sweet memories of her are totally erased by the new reality. It's pretty sad.
  • They have dinner.
  • At dinner Casby's assistant Pancks talks about trying to get rent money out of the residents of Bleeding Heart Yard.
  • Also at dinner, Flora introduces Arthur to Mr. F's Aunt, her dead husband's relative who now lives with her. Mr. F's Aunt is a senile old lady who immediately hates Arthur and starts saying horrible things to and about him.
  • Arthur's reaction is a little strange – he is totally terrified of this old woman, who to the reader is mostly just funny. Maybe feeling a little guilty, are we Arthur?
  • After dinner Arthur and Pancks leave, and Pancks tells Arthur that the whole point of life is to work nonstop.
  • Work, work, work. Money, money, money. That's what capitalism is all about. We're sensing some irony here. Or at least a hint of disapproval. Shmoop's betting Dickens doesn't want us to agree with old Pancks.
  • Pancks goes off and Arthur walks home.
  • On the way, he runs into a crowd at the scene of an accident. Some foreigner has been run over by a horse and carriage. 
  • (Brain snack: in the 19th century, there were no traffic rules of any kind.  People and horses just kind of mushed through the roads and tried their best to avoid each other.)
  • The foreigner turns out to be... Cavalletto!
  • Arthur gets him water and helpfully translates what's happening into Italian.
  • Cavalletto is taken to a hospital. The doctors say that although his leg has a bunch of fractures, it should heal OK and doesn't need to be amputated. Everyone breathes a sigh of relief. (Yikes! Let's thank our lucky stars that modern medicine means way fewer leg amputations.)
  • Arthur leaves Cavalletto his card, promises to visit, and goes home.
  • At home he is totally sad about the huge disappointment that is Flora. He realizes that he now has no positive memories at all from his childhood.
  • Just then, in comes... Little Dorrit!

Little Dorrit Book 1, Chapter 13 Study Group

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