Derek Jacobi, Alec Guinness & Sarah Pickering
"Little Dorrit" was published in monthly installments between 1855 and 1857. It contains numerous subtle criticisms of the government and society of Dickens' time: notably in the so-called "Circumlocution Office" that satirises government bodies in the Victorian age whose officials did nothing, slowly, and are represented in the character of Barnacles. William Dorrit is a man who has been imprisoned in the Marshalsea prison for debtors for so long that he has gained the nickname 'The Father of Marshalsea'. His suffering and indignity in the prison is made less painful by the adoration of his youngest daughter, Amy (the "Little Dorrit" of the title), though less so by daughter Fanny and son Tip. The hero of the tale is Arthur Clenham, a middle-aged man for whom Little Dorrit feels a great passion that he does not immediately requite. The story follows their luck in receiving a fortune and becoming affluent and - with the clear exception of Little Dorrit - arrogant.
It also shows how outside prison walls there can exist equally confining prisons of our own making, particularly due to aspiration. Clenham ends up in the debtor's prison where Little Dorrit looks after him and there emerges an interesting but complex mystery concerning Clenham's gloomy and religious mother, her partner, conspiracy and a will that has not benefited its rightful beneficiaries. As ever in Dickens, there is a cast of intriguing secondary characters such as the decent Pancks and Merdle the swindling banker.