The Novelist in the Market Place: Dickens and Mrs Gaskell
The years of the mid to late nineteenth century are normally regarded as the high-water mark of the novel form. A genre which had struggled to establish itself as a serious literary expression, in the face of scorn and suspicion, now acquired a predominance in both popular and artistic terms. The nineteenth century is also the period of the overwhelming dominance of the three-volume novel which set a standard for fiction in length, price and quality until its sudden capitulation to economic pressures in the 1890s. Because in the nineteenth century socio-cultural evidence becomes so much more prolific and reliable there is a problem in a general book of this kind as to what material is most relevant. To help the reader the evidence has been organised under the categories used in the ‘communication model’ of fiction set out in the first chapter. The propositions are then developed in relation to two novels, Oliver Twist and Mary Barton.
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