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44 - Sexuality

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 August 2012

Holly Furneaux
Affiliation:
University of Leicester
Sally Ledger
Affiliation:
Birkbeck College, University of London
Holly Furneaux
Affiliation:
University of Leicester
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Summary

Dickens and sexuality is a relatively recent conceptual combination. For many years the sex in Dickens's own life and in his fiction and journalism was disavowed in a widespread sanitising of his public image neatly symbolised by the use of Dickens and Catherine's bedroom at their house in Broadstairs for a display of Victorian christening gowns. A timeline of scholarly and popular perceptions of Dickens's presentation of the erotic presents a pronounced, magnified form of the broader critical trajectory of thinking about the Victorians and sex. Shortly after Dickens's death, Wilkie Collins voiced his dissent to the already powerful image of Dickensian piety, repudiating the idea, still propounded to some extent today, that Dickens's fiction entirely avoids discussion of adult sexuality. Collins responded angrily in the margins of his copy of John Forster's influential biography of Dickens to Forster's statement that there is scarcely a page of Dickens's work that ‘might not be put into the hand of a child’:

If it is true, which it is not, it would imply the condemnation of Dickens's books as works of art, it would declare him to be guilty of deliberately presenting to his readers a false reflection of human life. If this wretched English claptrap means anything it means the novelist is forbidden to touch on the sexual relations which literally swarm about him, and influence the lives of millions of his fellow creatures [, restricting fiction to] those relations licensed by … the ceremony called marriage.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2011

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References

Collins, Philip, The Critical Heritage (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1971), 549Google Scholar
Marsh, Joss Lutz, ‘Good Mrs Brown's Connections: Sexuality and Story Telling in Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son’, ELH, 58 (1991), 405–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cohen, William, Sex Scandal: The Private Parts of Victorian Fiction (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996)Google Scholar

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  • Sexuality
  • Edited by Sally Ledger, Birkbeck College, University of London, Holly Furneaux, University of Leicester
  • Book: Charles Dickens in Context
  • Online publication: 05 August 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511975493.046
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  • Sexuality
  • Edited by Sally Ledger, Birkbeck College, University of London, Holly Furneaux, University of Leicester
  • Book: Charles Dickens in Context
  • Online publication: 05 August 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511975493.046
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Sexuality
  • Edited by Sally Ledger, Birkbeck College, University of London, Holly Furneaux, University of Leicester
  • Book: Charles Dickens in Context
  • Online publication: 05 August 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511975493.046
Available formats
×