The Circumlocution Office
I have found a debtor in the Marshalsea prison of the name Dorrit, who has been there many years. I wish to investigate his confused affairs, so far as to ascertain whether it may not be possible, after this lapse of time, to ameliorate his unhappy condition. The name of Mr Tite Barnacle has been mentioned to me as representing some highly influential interest among his creditors. Am I correctly informed?
It being one of the principles of the Circumlocution Office never, on any account whatever to give a straightforward answer, Mr Barnacle said, 'Possibly.'
'On behalf of the Crown, may I ask, or as a private individual? 'The Circumlocution Department, sir, 'Mr Barnacle replied, may have possibly recommended - possibly - I cannot say - that some public claim against the insolvent estated of a firm or copartnership to which this person may have belonged, should be enforced. 'The question may have been, in the course of official business, referred to the Circumlocution Department for its consideration. The Department may have either originated, or confirmed , a Minute making that recommendation'
'I assume this to be the case, then'
'The Circumlocution Department,' said Mr Barnacle, is not responsible for any gentleman's assumptions.'
'May I inquire how I can obtain official information as to the real state of the case?'
'It is competent,' said Mr Barnacle, 'to any member of the - Public,' mentioning that obscure body with reluctance, as his natural enemy, 'to memorialise the Circumlocution Department. such formalities as are required to be observed in so doing, may be known on application to the proper branch of that department.'
Which is the proper branch?'
'I must refer you, returned Mr Barnacle, ringing the bell,' to the department itself for a formal answer to that inquiry.'
'Excuse me mentioning - '
'The Department is accessible to the - Public,' Mr Barnacle was always checked a little by that word of impertinent signification. 'If the - Public approaches it according to the official forms, the - public has itself to blame.'
Mr Barnacle made him a severe bow, as a wounded man of a gentlemanly residence. All rolled into one; and he made Mr Barnacle a bow, and was shut in Mews Street by the flabby footman.
Having got to this pass, he resolved as an exercise in perseverance, to betake himself again to the Circumlocution Office, and try what satisfaction he could get there. So he went back to the Circumlocution Office, and once more sent up his card to Barnacle Junior by a messenger who took it very ill indeed that he should come back again, and who was eating mashed potatoes and gravy behind a partition by the hall fire
He was admitted to the presence of Barnacle Junior, and found that young gentleman singeing his knees now, and gaping his weary way on to four o'clock.
'I say. Look here. You stick to us in a devil of a manner,' said Barnacle Junior, looking over his shoulder.
'I want of know - '
'Look here. Upon my soul you mustn't come into the place saying you want to know, you know,' remonstrated Barnacle Junior, turning about and putting up the eye-glass.
I want to know,' said Arthur Clennam, who had made up his mind to persistence in one short form of words, 'the precise nature of the claim of the Crown against a prisoner for debt named Dorrit.'
'I say. Look here. You really are going it at a great pace, you know. Egad you haven't got an appointment,' said Barnacle Junior, as if the thing were growing serious.