The Novelist in the Market Place: Dickens and Mrs Gaskell

  • J. A. Bull


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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  1. 1.
    Eric Hobsbawm, Industry and Empire (Penguin edn, 1969), p. 84.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. F. C. Harrison, The Early Victorians (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1971), p. 113.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    See Kathleen Tillotson, Novels of the 1840s (Oxford University Press, 1961) and also Gillian Beer, ‘Carlyle and May Barton, problems of utterance’ in The Sociology of Literature: 1848 (University of Essex, 1978) pp. 242–55.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Andrew Blake, ‘The place of fiction in Victorian literary culture’ Literature and History (Autumn 1985), pp. 203–16.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Burton M. Wheeler, ‘The text and plan of Oliver Twist’, Dickens Studies Annual, 12 (AMS Press, 1983), pp. 41–63.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See J. A. V. Chapple and A. Pollard (eds), The Letters of Mrs Gaskell (Manchester University Press, 1966), p. 250.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    David Musselwhite, ‘The novel as narcotic’, in The Sociology of Literature: 1848 (University of Essex, 1978), pp. 207–24.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© J. A. Bull 1988

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  • J. A. Bull

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