The Duty of the State

  • Philip Collins


Wordsworth’s lines, declaimed and transcribed by a generation of orators and pamphleteers, and proving at least as influential (it has been argued) as the educational writings of the economists and political philosophers, may remind us that Dickens was not a pioneer in using literature for educational propaganda.1 Rather, he was the first important novelist to do so, just as, in putting children into novels, he was doing for prose fiction what Wordsworth and others had already done for poetry and the essay. Nor was Wordsworth’s a lone voice: in 1808, six years before The Excursion, the first of the great religious societies was established, to promote the education of the poor, the Royal Lancasterian Society (later renamed the British and Foreign), soon followed by the Church of England National Society. A few years later, Brougham introduced into Parliament the first of his Education Bills. During the 1830s, when Dickens began writing, Parliament rejected four more Education Bills, but in 1833 took its first tentative step towards financing popular education by voting £20,000 in aid of the School Societies; and the same decade saw the establishment of the Committee of Council for Education (which grew into the Board and the Ministry), the Inspectorate, the first real training colleges in Britain, and an impressively-sponsored propagandist body, the Central Society for Education.


Education Bill Training College Moral Courage Popular Education Official Person 
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  1. 1.
    Wordsworth, Excursion, IX, 293–301; H. C. Barnard, Short History of English Education (1947), 52. For Matthew Arnold these lines typified the bad Wordsworth beloved of Social Science Congresses (Essays in Criticism, 1941 edn, II, 108), but for Dickens’s readers they were ‘indeed worthy to become Household words’ (HW, 25 May 1850, I, 213).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Thomas Guthrie, Seed-time and Harvest of Ragged Schools (1860), 49; David Stow, The Training System, V.Google Scholar
  3. 11.
    CC, III (CB, 57); John Butt, ‘A Christmas Carol: its Origin and Design’, Dick, LI (1954), 15–18; Fielding, Charles Dickens, 129.Google Scholar
  4. 12.
    Haunted Man, III (CB, 378), quoted by the following — Ragged School Union Magazine, I (1849), 29; Alexander M’Neel Caird, The Cry of the Children (1849), 15;Google Scholar
  5. Mary Carpenter, Reformatory Schools (1851), 59;Google Scholar
  6. John MacGregor, Ragged Schools (1852), 31;Google Scholar
  7. Thomas Beggs, Inquiry into Juvenile Depravity (1849), 15.Google Scholar
  8. 13.
    PP, 1847 Preface (CP, 256); Carlyle, Chartism (1839), Chapter X (Miscellaneous Essays, 1888, VI, 175–80); Kay-Shuttleworth, Recent Measures for the promotion of education in England (1839), reprinted in his Four Periods, 188. All historians of English education offer summaries of the Parliamentary campaign for an education system, and the sectarian difficulties: see, e.g., Charles Birchenough, History of Elementary Education (1930), Chapters I–III; Brian Simon, Studies in the History of Education (1960);Google Scholar
  9. G. F. A. Best, ‘The Religious Difficulties of National Education in England, 1800–70’, Cambridge Historical Journal, XII (1956), 155–73.Google Scholar
  10. 17.
    For examples, see Forster, 281; MacGregor, Ragged Schools, 32, and Rev C. J. Whitmore, Ragged School Union Quarterly Record, II (1877), 97–8 (accounts reprinted in Dick, LV [1959], 104–6, and LVI [1960], 185–6).Google Scholar
  11. 21.
    Cockshut, 59; R. G. G. Price, A History of ‘Punch’ (1957), 46–7.Google Scholar
  12. The educational policies of Punch are summarised in Alice Woods, Educational Experiments in England (1920), 3–11.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    Speeches, 291–2. On Dickens’s interest in this school, see Forster, 674, and Samuel Smiles, George Moore, Merchant and Philanthropist (1879), 197–202.Google Scholar
  14. 30.
    Charles McNaught, ‘Did Dickens go to Fairlop?’, Dick, XV (1919), 146. This article also records his visits to the Dissenting School, Gordon Street, Stepney, and the Stepney Union School.Google Scholar
  15. 36.
    ‘London Pauper Children’, HW, 31 August 1850, I, 549–52; cf ‘A Day at the Pauper Palace’, ibid, 13 July 1850, 361–4. These pauper-school developments are summarised by Bartley, Schools for the People, 272–96: see also A. F. Young and E. T. Ashton, British Social Work in the Nineteenth Century (1956), 134–48.Google Scholar
  16. 53.
    RSUM, XIII (1861), 143; Mary Carpenter, Juvenile Delinquents (1853), 10–11. In this and other books, Miss Carpenter commends Dickens and his periodicals. Her Reformatory Schools (1851) was warmly reviewed in HW, 30 August 1851, III, 544–9.Google Scholar
  17. 57.
    Letter dated 1 February 1844, in C. J. Montague, Sixty Years in Waifdom; or, the Ragged School Movement in English History (1904), 363–4 (here corrected from the MS, John Kirk House). I must thank Mr C. W. Richards, Assistant Secretary of the Shaftesbury Society, for showing me this MS, and lending me various Ragged School Union records. Starey describes the early days of Field Lane in two letters to Thomas Wright (Wright, Dickens, 164–9). See also the interesting retrospect, ‘Field Lane : its People — its Dwellings — its Ditch — its Schools’, Ragged School Union Quarterly Record, II (1877), 41–59.Google Scholar
  18. 58.
    John MacGregor, Ragged Schools (1852), 22.Google Scholar
  19. MacGregor was a prominent and colourful figure in the Ragged School Union, but Dickens had not yet met him in 1869: which shows how little contact he had with the official side of the Union (Edwin Hodder, John MacGregor, 2nd edn, 1894, 356).Google Scholar
  20. 61.
    Edwin Hodder, Life of Shaftesbury (1886), I, 487: cf III, 298, for his fine encomion on Dickens, despite his semi-paganism (as Shaftesbury regarded it). For Dickens on Shaftesbury, see Speeches, 43, 132; Forster, 194, 540; ‘The Sunday Screw’, HW, 22 June 1850 (MP, 242). On the Band of Hope, or ‘Infant Bonds of Joy’, see BH, VIII, 101; ‘Whole Hogs’ and ‘Frauds on the Fairies’, HW, 23 August 1851, 1 October 1853 (MP, 323, 408) ; OMF, IV, iv, 667.Google Scholar
  21. 62.
    Number-Plan, printed by Ernest Boll, ‘The Plotting of Our Mutual Friend’, Modern Philology, XLII (1944), 96–122. This identification of Charley Hexam’s school has not been noted before; Dr Manning (p 59) wrongly guesses that a National School was intended. The Baptist organ, The Freeman, called it ‘a wretched attempt to caricature a Sunday School’ (Kent, Dickens and Religion, 55–6).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 66.
    Eleanor E. Christian, ‘Recollections of Dickens’, Temple Bar, LXXXII (1888), 482.Google Scholar
  23. 73.
    Edwin Chadwick, Two Papers submitted to the [Newcastle] Commission (1862), 6.Google Scholar
  24. 74.
    C. P. Snow, Science and Government, 1961, 66.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Philip Collins 1963

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Collins
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LeicesterUK

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