IN ITS VERY TITLE, Charles Kingsley’s 1850 novel Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet: An Autobiography hints at a set of questions that the novel itself never manages to answer in a very clear or convincing way: what is the relationship between manual and intellectual labor, between industrial and poetic production, between making a coat and writing a poem? How might the early Victorian imagination conceive of a working tailor who is also a working poet — especially in light of the various actual working-class poets who appeared on the literary scene in the first half of the nineteenth-century, complete with occupational epithets, such as Thomas Cooper, the “shoe-maker poet” (a figure who in many ways provided a model for Kingsley’s fictional protagonist)? And what if, like a fair number of urban artisans, including Cooper himself, the tailor-poet is also a Chartist — as Alton Locke indeed turns out to be? What is the relationship between the Chartist call for reform and for representation of disenfranchised men in the political realm, and the attempts of a fictional working-class man (since the novel’s treatment of gender, as I will argue, is crucial to its treatment of politics and culture) to enter the early Victorian field of literary production? Or why, in the first place, should a novel that treats the “social problem” of class in the hungry forties and the appalling working conditions of the clothes trade do so by way of the literary aspirations of its title character, that is, through a fictional construction of working-class authorship?