Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-684899dbb8-gbqfq Total loading time: 0.268 Render date: 2022-05-23T06:09:18.252Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true }

Chapter 5 - The Early Novels and The Vicar of Wakefield

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2012

Get access

Summary

‘Everything in our lives, whether of good or evil, affects us most by contrast.’

The plots of Dickens's early novels are all structured around the preservation of sentimental values – the good heart, innocence, benevolence – in a changing and potentially dangerous world. This seems initially to involve a very severe segregation of good from evil. Sentimental characters and scenes are cordoned off from the darker forces in each novel in a way critics have assumed to be simplistic and unchallenging. This chapter will seek to show, however, that even in these early novels Dickens is prepared to take risks, both ethical and stylistic, to critique the sentimental values he is at pains to propagate. I shall refer briefly to The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist before turning to the three novels which are most germane to my examination of the sentimentalist tradition, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop and Martin Chuzzlewit. I begin however, with some brief comments on Dickens's own favourite novel, The Vicar of Wakefield.

The Vicar of Wakefield

Oliver Goldsmith's masterpiece was a great influence on the sentimentalism of Dickens's early novels and a particularly powerful presence behind The Battle of Life – indeed, Dickens suggested that his characters in that most untypical Christmas book should be depicted in the illustrations ‘in the coats and gowns of dear old Goldsmith's day’. Goldsmith's masterpiece, said Dickens, is a book ‘of which I think it is not too much to say that it has perhaps done more good in the world, and instructed more kinds of people in virtue, than any other fiction ever written’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition
Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Lamb
, pp. 91 - 120
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

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 Dropbox.

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.

Available formats
×