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The Plotting of Our Mutual Friend

The Plotting of Our Mutual Friend

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The Plotting of "Our Mutual Friend"Author(s): Ernest BollSource:
Modern Philology,
Vol. 42, No. 2 (Nov., 1944), pp. 96-122Published by:
Stable URL:
Accessed: 05/03/2011 10:52
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THEPLOTTINGOFOUR MUTUAL FRIEND
ERNEST BOLL
HEmanuscriptofOurmutual
friend1
consistsofleaves ofbluish-tintedletter-paper,sevenbynineinches,pastedonapaper backingtofill twoleather-boundvolumes.Thefinal notesfrom which thenovel wasdevelopedwerewrittenonthe same kind ofpaperbutwerepastedwiththegreaterdimensionbreadth-wiseand havebeenbound intothefirst volumeinacontinuoussequenceto formaprefatory
survey.2
Theleavesonwhichthenoteswerewritten were foldedinhalf across the nar-rowerdimensionexactlylikeletter-paper.Onwhatwould bethe outside backofeachleaf ofthis foldedletter-paperDickensmadehis first notesforthe wholenumber;then onthe outside frontheoutlinedthatnumberby chapterdivisions.There arenineteen of these foldedleaves,oneforeach number.Theyare sospreadoutontheirbackingthattheoutsidebackof theleafis atthereader's left andtheoutsidefront at hisright.Thefirstgeneralnotesforthe last numberweresocopiousthattheyranoverto the inside back of theleaf,andthatpagebecomes visible whenthe leafis turnedbecause thebackingthatwould have hiddenthe written sectionwascut out.TheinterestofanystudentofDickens,oreven ofthegeneral reader,inthese firstcoherent formulationsof thepatternofthe novel can be assumed.They givepar-tialanswers to sucheverlasting questionsas: Whatwerethe headlineimagesthatsprang upbefore Dickens's mindwheninspiration begantoworkin him?Whatgropingsdid hisimaginationevolveinitsreach after interestandplausibility?HowconsciouslydidDickensworkathiscraft,thatis,howresponsiblean artistwashe? Towhat detaildidhekeephishanduponthedesignhewovemonthafter month?Andwhatwere his own feel-ingstoward various elementsofthede-signastheydevelopedunder his hand?Theanswersto thesequestionsaregiveninanumberofways.Theheadlineimagesarejottednotesofplaces demandingtheybe usedas back-groundsfordramaticactions,offiguresthatcould be elaborated toaccumulatesuspense,ofgestures havingadeeply pen-etrativepower,ofwordsspokenaloudorinthemindtomark themood of a sceneor thenerveofamotive,oftagphrasescondensingthe traitsofpersonalities,ofbits ofsense-descriptionthat wouldlightupawholesetting.So LeafI(b)callsfortheopeningof thenovel tobe "betweenthebridges,"thatis,between SouthwarkBridgeandLondonBridge;and LeafXVI(b) givesthedirec-tion, "Openat Plashwater WeirMillLock,andprepareforthe attackuponEugene."Anoteonthe frontof LeafIsketches"the maninhisboat,watchingthetide,"andone onthe backreads,"Itintow."Aboxednoteon LeafX(f)catches thegistofasceneindescribing
IIam indebtedto thetrusteesoftheDrexelInstituteofTechnology,whogavemepermissiontomakethisstudy,andalsotothecontroller,Dr.W.Ralph Wagenseller,and to thesecretary,Mr.C. T.Bach,whoarrangedformycontinued examina-tionofthemanuscript.InOctober, 1944,themanu-scriptbecame thepropertyofDr. A. S.W.Rosenbach,ofPhiladelphia.
2
See F. G.Kitton,The novelsofCharlesDickens(London,1897),foran accountoftheearliestjottingsforOurmutualfriendinthenotebookofDickens,andforexcerptsfromlettersrelatingtotheinceptionofvariousthemes;see also Mrs. J.ComynsCarr,Reminiscences(London,1926),foratranscriptofthenotebook,which contains notesfornovelsfromLittle
DorrittoOur mutualfriend.
[MODERN PHILOLOGY,
November,1944]96
 
THEPLOTTINGOF"OUR MUTUALFRIEND"
97BradleyHeadstoneduringhisinterviewwithLizzieHexaminSt.Peter'schurch-yardinCornhill:"His handuponthecop-ing.Wrenchingatit while hespeaks."OnLeafV(f)Lizzie's callinto the unanswer-ingdarknessstrikes thetragictone ofHexam's death:"'Father,was thatyoucallingme?'"The moodofBettyHig-den'sdeath alsoismarkedbyaspokenphrase,on LeafXIII(f):"'Now liftme,mydear'";asis thatofJohnny'sdeath,onLeafVIII(f)bytheremark,"'a kissforthe booferlady.'"Riderhood is shownina noteon LeafXVI(f) beginningtosuspectthe behaviorofBradleyHead-stone:"'Whydressed like me?'"Thenthere arethetagphrasesthatlabelpersonalities.TheVeneeringsarefirstidentified,on LeafI(b), bytheques-tion"Who is their oldestfriend?"andthen(f)bythenote:"Theentirelynewpeople.Everythingnew. Grandfathernew,iftheyhadone."Abit ofvividsense-descriptionthatwasto introduce the dramaticsceneofRiderhood's resuscitationinthe SixJollyFellowship-Porters'pubis foundonLeafXI(f):"The litterbumpingat the door."Ahappy metaphorout ofrailway prac-ticeisjottedon Leaf XIII(f):"Stationsshuttingtheirgreen eyesandopeningtheirredonesastheylet theBooferlady goby."Ofespecialinterest are thetraces ofDickensexperimentinguntilhe found theexactlysatisfyingnamesofhispeople.LeafI(f)revealsthatthe trial nameforHexam wasHexham,andthat Hexam'sdaughterwas namedJennybefore thenameLizziewasgivenher.ThenameJenny,however,held onstronglytoDickens'smind asthe namefor MissHexam;themanuscriptcontains anum-berofslipsin whichthenameJennywaswrittenfirst,beforeit became naturalforDickens to writethename asLizzie thefirsttime. The same leaf showsLight-wood's nametohavebeenAlfredbeforeMortimerproducedthesatisfyingring.On LeafII(f)wenotice thatWeggwasfirstS.Wegg,thenSolomon,andfinallySilas.Mr.Boffin wascalledTeddybeforehebecameNicodemus,andso, bycon-traction,Noddy.Leaf VI(b)shows thatMissPeecher wasat first namedPitcher;anditalso(f)displaysthejugglingofsyllablesthatproducedtheschoolmas-ter'sname:AmosHeadstone,AmosDead-stone,BradleyDeadstone, BradleyHead-stone.Proofs of Dickens'sclose controlovertheweavingofthestory,ofhisfeelingofresponsibilityovereverymovementofhisimaginaryshuttle,face thereader atmanypoints alongtheplanofthe wholenovel. We canhearhimas the writertalkingover theprogressofthestorywithhiscriticalanddirectingother-self,thatmerelywatchedwhilehe feltandwrote;butsometimes thewriter listenswhilethedirectingselfdictates curtor-ders.Itwas ahappy combination,ahap-pydivision oftasks, which, performedbyathoroughlyunitedself,mighthavebeenimpossibleofaccomplishment.How oftenthedirectingselfordersthewriterto:"Laythegroundcarefully"or "Work outthestorytowards...."or "Leadupgradually
.
.."or"Work the
..
..."or"Workin.... ."or "Relievebymaking....."or "Workroundto. .. "or "Workoutthe.
..
."
or "Make the most of
'
...,"Workupand on..
. .
,"or"Leadupto.
.
.,"and the like. Andthenthere are thequestionsthehesitatingwriterasksofhisalmostalwaysunhesi-tatingcritic.On LeafII(b):"OntheDust-ground? Certainly."OnLeaf IIagain (f):"Silas?Yes." OnLeaf IV(b):"TakeupWrayburn-and Lightwood?Yes.AndbringoutEugene."Once thecriticchangedhismind,froma "No" to a

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