In the BBC mini-series Little Dorrit there is a scene in which Mrs. General tells Amy the correct opinions which she is to express concerning the sites that she and other English tourists visit on the European mainland. Amy asks why she should not just give her honest opinions of these things. Mrs. General reacts with astonishment and tells Amy that society is not the place for unburdening oneself.

That’s how I remember it, anyhow. But I cannot find that scene in the book now. Am I right about the scene? Where is it in the book? Or, failing that, where does the book attribute this view to Mrs. General, that the purpose of conversation in society is simply to repeat fashionable opinions?


Could this be the fragment you are thinking of? It is in Book The Second: Riches, chapter 5: Something Right Somewhere.

‘Mr Dorrit,’ returned Mrs General, ‘I have conversed with Amy several times since we have been residing here, on the general subject of the formation of a demeanour. She has expressed herself to me as wondering exceedingly at Venice. I have mentioned to her that it is better not to wonder. I have pointed out to her that the celebrated Mr Eustace, the classical tourist, did not think much of it; and that he compared the Rialto, greatly to its disadvantage, with Westminster and Blackfriars Bridges. I need not add, after what you have said, that I have not yet found my arguments successful. You do me the honour to ask me what to advise. It always appears to me (if this should prove to be a baseless assumption, I shall be pardoned), that Mr Dorrit has been accustomed to exercise influence over the minds of others.’

Mrs. General doesn't actually tell Amy in this scene that society is not the place for unburdening oneself (although it wouldn't have been out of place), but it does mention that it is better not to wonder about Venice all that much.

  • Thanks, that's same sentiment I'm remembering. It may be the book's closest approximation of this memory. But it's so strange: I've re-watched the television series now, streaming at Amazon, and that scene that I remember so vividly is not there. I wonder if it's in some other cut of this series, or if I've imported the scene from some other book or film. The series has several very nice shots of Amy's fascination, and of the natural scenery or architecture that impresses her; and then of Mrs. General rattling off the received wisdom from books that she takes with her everywhere. – Chaim Jul 3 '20 at 17:02

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