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(Within Toobworld, her life was chronicled by Dickens as both of them share the same reality.)
The Meagles took her from an orphanage and raised her to be Pet's maid and companion. This sad young woman is not Pet's equal, but she is certainly her shadow and double, always in the background pointing out the cracks in this seemingly super-happy, super-normal family.
In some ways, it's hard not to agree with the many unfair things about Tattycoram's situation that Miss Wade points out. The Meagleses did give her a crazy name that marks her as different, and the whole we'll-adopt-you-to-become-our-servant thing is kind of questionable. (Although back then, it's way better than whatever horrors Tattycoram would have been exposed to at the orphanage.)
On the other hand, like many of the novel's doubles and shadow characters, Tattycoram seems to be a symbolic acting-out of whatever unseemly emotions Pet might have. Since she is already a social pariah, Tattycoram gets to be angry and bitter and miserable about her life, unlike Pet, who is responsible for much of her parents' happiness and so tends to remain super chipper. Tattycoram also gets a real escape from this life – not the polite kind of escape that Pet talks about when she tells Arthur why she's getting married, but an actual destructive rampage of running away.
From the source:
He spoke to a handsome girl with lustrous dark hair and eyes, and very neatly dressed, who replied with a half curtsey as she passed off in the train of Mrs Meagles and Pet. They crossed the bare scorched terrace all three together, and disappeared through a staring white archway. Mr Meagles's companion, a grave dark man of forty, still stood looking towards this archway after they were gone; until Mr Meagles tapped him on the arm.
'I beg your pardon,' said he, starting.
'Not at all,' said Mr Meagles.
They took one silent turn backward and forward in the shade of the wall, getting, at the height on which the quarantine barracks are placed, what cool refreshment of sea breeze there was at seven in the morning. Mr Meagles's companion resumed the conversation.
'May I ask you,' he said, 'what is the name of—'
Tattycoram?' Mr Meagles struck in. 'I have not the least idea.'
Tattycoram?' Mr Meagles struck in. 'I have not the least idea.'
'I thought,' said the other, 'that—'
'Tattycoram?' suggested Mr Meagles again.
'Thank you—that Tattycoram was a name; and I have several times wondered at the oddity of it.' 'Why, the fact is,' said Mr Meagles, 'Mrs Meagles and myself are, you see, practical people.'
'That you have frequently mentioned in the course of the agreeable and interesting conversations we have had together, walking up and down on these stones,' said the other, with a half smile breaking through the gravity of his dark face.
'Practical people. So one day, five or six years ago now, when we took Pet to church at the Foundling—you have heard of the Foundling Hospital in London? Similar to the Institution for the Found Children in Paris?'
'I have seen it.'
'Well! One day when we took Pet to church there to hear the music—because, as practical people, it is the business of our lives to show her everything that we think can please her—Mother (my usual name for Mrs Meagles) began to cry so, that it was necessary to take her out. "What's the matter, Mother?" said I, when we had brought her a little round: "you are frightening Pet, my dear." "Yes, I know that, Father," says Mother, "but I think it's through my loving her so much, that it ever came into my head." "That ever what came into your head, Mother?" "O dear, dear!" cried Mother, breaking out again, "when I saw all those children ranged tier above tier, and appealing from the father none of them has ever known on earth, to the great Father of us all in Heaven, I thought, does any wretched mother ever come here, and look among those young faces, wondering which is the poor child she brought into this forlorn world, never through all its life to know her love, her kiss, her face, her voice, even her name!" Now that was practical in Mother, and I told her so. I said, "Mother, that's what I call practical in you, my dear."'
The other, not unmoved, assented.
'So I said next day: Now, Mother, I have a proposition to make that I think you'll approve of. Let us take one of those same little children to be a little maid to Pet. We are practical people. So if we should find her temper a little defective, or any of her ways a little wide of ours, we shall know what we have to take into account. We shall know what an immense deduction must be made from all the influences and experiences that have formed us—no parents, no child-brother or sister, no individuality of home, no Glass Slipper, or Fairy Godmother. And that's the way we came by Tattycoram.'
'And the name itself—'
'By George!' said Mr Meagles, 'I was forgetting the name itself. Why, she was called in the Institution, Harriet Beadle—an arbitrary name, of course. Now, Harriet we changed into Hattey, and then into Tatty, because, as practical people, we thought even a playful name might be a new thing to her, and might have a softening and affectionate kind of effect, don't you see? As to Beadle, that I needn't say was wholly out of the question. If there is anything that is not to be tolerated on any terms, anything that is a type of Jack-in-office insolence and absurdity, anything that represents in coats, waistcoats, and big sticks our English holding on by nonsense after every one has found it out, it is a beadle. You haven't seen a beadle lately?'
'As an Englishman who has been more than twenty years in China, no.'
'Then,' said Mr Meagles, laying his forefinger on his companion's breast with great animation, don't you see a beadle, now, if you can help it. Whenever I see a beadle in full fig, coming down a street on a Sunday at the head of a charity school, I am obliged to turn and run away, or I should hit him. The name of Beadle being out of the question, and the originator of the Institution for these poor foundlings having been a blessed creature of the name of Coram, we gave that name to Pet's little maid. At one time she was Tatty, and at one time she was Coram, until we got into a way of mixing the two names together, and now she is always Tattycoram.'
Even though Black History Month has ended, we have one last "Black Friday" entry for the ASOTV showcase - in order to make up for the omission that first week of February. The fairy tale theme was running while I was in Florida.