Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-568f69f84b-56sbs Total loading time: 0.165 Render date: 2021-09-19T03:31:48.800Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }

Dickens's Sublime Artifact

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 October 2008


John Ruskin's Seven Lamps of Architecture was among the books that Charles Dickens read at the seaside resort of Broadstairs during the summer of 1851. In November of that same year he commenced his great novel about the city, Bleak House (Forster 505). This work began the period of Dickens's last creative outpouring, in which he wrote the remarkable series of books that have sometimes been referred to as the dark novels. The connection between these events may be found in one of the central chapters of The Seven Lamps, “The Lamp of Power.” There Ruskin identifies the sublime in architecture as “a severe, and in many cases mysterious majesty, which we remember with an undiminished awe, like that felt at the presence and operation of some great Spiritual Power” (100). It is important for Ruskin that the architectural sublime – since it is based in a human construction – resembles but is not equivalent to the operation of a “great Spiritual Power.” In Modern Painters, he also located “the first step” of the sublime in “human power,” explicitly placing the origin of this inherently superhuman quality within humanity itself (128).

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1986

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.)


Bagehot, Walter. “Charles Dickens.” Literary Studies, vol. II. Ed. Hutton, Richard Holt. 3 vols. New York: Longmans, 1905.Google Scholar
Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Ed. Holquist, Michael. Trans. Emerson, Caryl and Holquist, Michael. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.Google Scholar
Bloom, Harold. The Anxiety of Influence. New York: Oxford UP, 1973.Google Scholar
Burke, Edmund. On the Sublime and the Beautiful. New York: Collier and Son, 1900.Google Scholar
Cooke, Michael. The Romantic Will. New Haven: Yale UP, 1976.Google Scholar
Dickens, Charles. Bleak House. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1956.Google Scholar
Dickens, Charles. “The City of the Absent.” Uncommercial Traveller. Vol. 21 of The Complete Works of Charles Dickens. 30 vols. New York: George D. Sproul, 1902.Google Scholar
Dickens, Charles. Dombey and Son. New York: Oxford UP, 1982.Google Scholar
Dickens, Charles. Hard Times. New York: Norton Critical Edition, 1966.Google Scholar
Dickens, Charles. Little Dorrit. Middlesex: Penguin, 1967.Google Scholar
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Crime and Punishment. New York: Norton Critical Edition, 1975.Google Scholar
Forster, John. The Life of Charles Dickens. Ed. Ley, J. W. T.. New York: Doubleday, 1928.Google Scholar
Garrett, Peter K.The Victorian Multiplot Novel. New Haven: Yale UP, 1980.Google Scholar
Hertz, Neil. “The Notion of Blockage in the Literature of the Sublime.” The End of the Line. New York: Columbia UP, 1985.Google Scholar
Hollington, Michael. Dickens and the Grotesque. Totowa: Barnes and Noble Books, 1984.Google Scholar
Kant, Immanuel. Critique of Judgement. Trans. Hernard, J.H.. New York: Hafner Publishing Co., 1951.Google Scholar
Kroeber, Karl. “Romantic Historicism: The Temporal Sublime.” Images of Romanticism. New Haven: Yale UP, 1978.Google Scholar
Marcus, Steven. Dickens from Pickwick to Dombey. New York: Simon, 1968.Google Scholar
Miller, J. Hillis. Charles Dickens: The World of His Novels. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1958.Google Scholar
Mitchell, W. J. T.Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1986.Google Scholar
Monk, Samuel H. “The Sublime: Burke's Enquiry.” Romanticism and Consciousness. Ed. Bloom, Harold. New York: Norton, 1970.Google Scholar
Morris, David. “Gothic Sublimity.” New Literary History: 299320.Google Scholar
Murdoch, Iris. “The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited.” Yale Review. Vol. 49 (1959): 247–71.Google Scholar
New Literary History. Vol. XVI, “The Sublime and the Beautiful: Reconsiderations.” Ed. Cohen, Ralph. Winter 1985.Google Scholar
Paulson, Ronald. “Versions of a Human Sublime.” New Literary History: 427–37.Google Scholar
Ruskin, John. The Works of John Ruskin. Ed. Cook, E. T. and Wedderburn, Alexander. 39 vols. London: George Allen, 1903.Google Scholar
Schiller, Friedrich von. On the Sublime. Trans. Elias, Julius A.. New York: Ungar, 1966.Google Scholar
Schwarzbach, F. S.Dickens and the City. London: Athlone Press, 1979.Google Scholar
Shapiro, Gary. “From the Sublime to the Political: Some Historical Notes.” New Literary History: 213–36.Google Scholar
Stewart, Garrett. Dickens and the Trials of the Imagination. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1974.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Weiskel, Thomas. The Romantic Sublime: Studies in the Structure of Psychology and Transcendence. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1976.Google Scholar
Welsh, Alexander. The City of Dickens. Oxford: Clarendon, 1971.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wilton, Andrew. “Sublime or Ridiculous? Turner and the Problem of the Historical Figure.” New Literary History: 323–76.Google Scholar
Wolf, Bryan J. “A Grammar of the Sublime, or Intertextuality Triumphant in Church, Turner, and Cole.” New Literary History: 321–42.Google Scholar
Wordsworth, William. The Prelude. 1850 ed. Ed. de Selincourt, Ernest. London: Oxford UP, 1928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure 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 sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ 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.

Dickens's Sublime Artifact
Available formats

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and 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 <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Dickens's Sublime Artifact
Available formats

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and 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 <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Dickens's Sublime Artifact
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *