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Chapter 6 - The Later Novels

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2012

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Summary

‘What the Waves were always saying’

The sentimental bond between Dickens and his implied (and actual) readership provides the real emotional heart of each of the great novels. It involves, as I shall argue in this chapter, several key aspects of the nineteenth-century sentimentalist tradition, including its evolution from eighteenth-century moralising to individual emotional sympathy, and its confusion between the theatrical and public on the one hand and the Romantic and private on the other. The unique closeness of Dickens and his readers is so generally accepted (even by critics who object to it) that I feel obliged to include Virginia Woolf 's perverse comment to prove my point through the blatant inappropriateness of hers:

Of all the great writers Dickens is both the least personally charming and the least personally present in his books. No-one has ever loved Dickens as he loves Shakespeare or Scott.

Robert Garis provides one example of a much more common response:

I have phrased my answer to Dickens's dilemma in direct discourse because one tends to feel a warm personal attachment to the manager of the Dickens theatre.

Benjamin Jowett, who delivered the sermon at Dickens's funeral service, expressed the same sense of attachment on behalf of the first generation of Dickens's readers:

[N]o-one was ever so much beloved or so much mourned. Men seem to have lost, not a great writer only, but one whom they had personally known.

Type
Chapter
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Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition
Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Lamb
, pp. 121 - 150
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2012

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  • The Later Novels
  • Valerie Purton
  • Book: Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition
  • Online publication: 05 November 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.7135/UPO9780857289070.008
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  • The Later Novels
  • Valerie Purton
  • Book: Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition
  • Online publication: 05 November 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.7135/UPO9780857289070.008
Available formats
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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.

  • The Later Novels
  • Valerie Purton
  • Book: Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition
  • Online publication: 05 November 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.7135/UPO9780857289070.008
Available formats
×