Friends of the Dickens Forum,
Marc Voline <[log in to unmask]> has solved Judith Flanders's word
puzzle (see below) and given us a URL to check it. In addition, Menalcus
Lankford has copied out the segment in MED where the word appears: (see
after the Flanders excerpt): (pjm)
See Book Ninth of Forster's Life of Dickens
HINTS FOR BOOKS WRITTEN AND UNWRITTEN
Dickens began the Book of Memoranda for possible use in his work, to
which occasional reference has been made, in January 1855, six months
before the first page of Little Dorrit was written; and I find no
allusion leading me to suppose, except in one very doubtful instance,
that he had made addition to its entries, or been in the habit of
resorting to them, after the date of Our Mutual Friend. It seems to
comprise that interval of ten years in his life.
In it were put down any hints or suggestions that occurred to him. A mere
piece of imagery or fancy, it might be at one time; at another the
outline of a subject or a character; then a bit of description or
dialogue; no order or sequence being observed in any. Titles for stories
were set down too, and groups of names for the actors in them; not the
least curious of the memoranda belonging to this class. More rarely,
entry is made of some oddity of speech; and he has thus preserved in it,
verbatim et literatim, what he declared to have been as startling a
message as he ever received. A confidential servant at Tavistock House,
having conferred on some proposed changes in his bedroom with the party
that was to do the work, delivered this ultimatum to her master. "The
gas-fitter says, sir, that he can't alter the fitting of your gas in your
bed-room without taking up almost the ole of your bed-room floor, and
pulling your room to pieces. He says, of course you can have it done
if you wish, and he'll do it for you and make a good job of it, but he
would have to destroy your room first, and go entirely under the jistes."
Inquiry from Judith Flanders:
Does anyone remember where Dickens reported a gas-fitter coming to
repair a pipe, and saying something about the `jistes' under the
floorboards? I failed to note it, but remember he thought it was very
funny. (And that it then turned up in the mouth of Mrs Billickin in
If anyone has an encyclopaedic memory, I would be very grateful for
the reference. Patrick has very kindly searched vols 1-11 of the
Pilgrim edition, to no avail. I wonder if it was in the Michael
Slater biog? The index isn't leading me anywhere, however...
Place in MED where the word appears:
[ Part 2: "Attached Text" ]
It is in The Mystery of Edwin Drood -- toward the middle of
Chapter 22. I pasted in the surrounding sentences, so they may lose
formatting when this opens, but it's all there.
'Mr. Grewgious,' returned Mrs. Billickin, 'I will not deceive you;
far from it. I HAVE apartments available.' This with the air of adding:
='Convey me to the stake, if you will; but while I live, I will be
'And now, what apartments, ma'am?' asked Mr. Grewgious, cosily.
To tame a certain severity apparent on the part of Mrs. Billickin.
'There is this sitting-room -- which, call it what you will, it is the
front parlour, Miss,' said Mrs. Billickin, impressing Rosa into the
conversation: 'the back parlour being what I cling to and never
part with; and there is two bedrooms at the top of the 'ouse with
gas laid on. I do not tell you that your bedroom floors is firm, for
firm job, he must go right under your jistes, and it were not worth
the outlay as a yearly tenant so to do. The piping is carried above
your jistes, and it is best that it should be made known to you.'
Mr. Grewgious and Rosa exchanged looks of some dismay, though
they had not the least idea what latent horrors this carriage of the
piping might involve. Mrs. Billickin put her hand to her heart, as
having eased it of a load.
'Well! The roof is all right, no doubt,' said Mr. Grewgious, plucking
up a little.