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3 - Mass Production: Impossible London's Criminal Subjects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2018

Ted Geier
Affiliation:
Ashford University
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Summary

There can be no doubt but that the love of money was the pre-dominant feeling in Sweeney Todd's intellectual organization and that, by the amount it would bring him, or the amount it would deprive him of, he measured everything.

With such a man, then, no question of morality or ordinary feeling could arise, and there can be no doubt but that he would quite willingly have sacrificed the whole human race, if, by doing so, he could have achieved any of the objects of his ambition.

And so on his road homeward, he probably made up his mind to plunge still deeper into criminality; and perchance to indulge in acts that a man not already so deeply versed in iniquity would have shrunk from with the most positive terror.

And by a strange style of reasoning, such men as Sweeney Todd reconcile themselves to the most heinous crimes upon the ground of what they call policy.

The abject experience of London – in London, for London, through London, despite London, chewed up and spit out by London – ties literary culture across a very long nineteenth century to an even longer lineage in Defoe and others who remarked on its cultural habits in prior centuries. This multi-period history is likewise a cross-genre exploration in which the very grounds of the literary often factor – authorship, style, innovation and reception are but a few of the considerations. London, with its ghastly horrors, also becomes a character in its own right in works such as Poe's ‘Man of the Crowd’, through Dickens's works and the popular penny fictions produced in London's presses, as well as in Bram Stoker's Dracula and later works. This lineage shows a recurring fascination with the mysterious, dark depths of the city's condensed streets and routines. These stories were fed by a rich history of crime fiction – urban and rural – and owed a considerable debt to eighteenthcentury nonfiction accounts of famous criminals executed in London like Jack Sheppard.

Type
Chapter
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Meat Markets
The Cultural History of Bloody London
, pp. 119 - 167
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2017

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