218 Pages
Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more

Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition


Gain access to the library to view online
Learn more
218 Pages


A study of the ‘sentimental’ in Dickens’s novels, placing it in the context of the eighteenth-century tradition of Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Goldsmith, Sheridan and Lamb.

‘Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition’ is a timely study of the ‘sentimental’ in Dickens’s novels, which places them in the context of the tradition of Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Goldsmith, Sheridan and Lamb. This study re-evaluates Dickens’s presentation of emotion – first within the eighteenth-century tradition and then within the dissimilar nineteenth-century tradition – as part of a complex literary heritage that enables him to critique nineteenth-century society.

The book sheds light on the construction of feelings and of the ‘good heart’, ideas which resonate with current critical debates about literary ‘affect’. As the text argues, such an analysis reveals sentimentalism to be a crucial element in fully understanding the achievement of Dickens and his contemporaries.

The first chapter of the book outlines the sentimentalist tradition in English literature from the Middle Ages onwards. The second and third chapters then examine Dickens’s eighteenth-century inheritance in the works of Sterne, Fielding, Goldsmith and Sheridan, whilst Chapter Four explores Dickens’s inheritance from Charles Lamb and his acting in sentimental plays by Bulwer Lytton and Wilkie Collins. Chapter Five analyses three early novels, including ‘Nicholas Nickleby’, revealing the extremism of post-Romantic sentimentalism. In Chapter Six, three later novels including ‘Dombey and Son’ are reread in terms of Dickens’s changing use of sentimentalist rhetoric to achieve remarkably subversive effects. The final chapter then looks at other examples of nineteenth-century sentimental writing, and at the ‘afterlife’ of the mode in the past two centuries.

Introduction; Chapter 1: Dickens and the Sentimentalist Tradition; Chapter 2: Sentimentalism and its Discontents in the Eighteenth-Century Novel: Fielding, Richardson and Sterne; Chapter 3: Sentimentalism and its Discontents in Eighteenth-Century Drama: Goldsmith and Sheridan; Chapter 4: Dickens and Nineteenth-Century Drama; Chapter 5: The Early Novels and ‘The Vicar of Wakefield’; Chapter 6: The Later Novels; Conclusion: The Afterlife of Sentimentalism



Published by
Published 15 August 2012
Reads 0
EAN13 9780857289070
Language English
Document size 1 MB

Legal information: rental price per page 0.008€. This information is given for information only in accordance with current legislation.


Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition
Anthem NineteenthCentury Series
TheAnthem NineteenthCentury Seriesincorporates a broad range of titles within the fields of literature and culture, comprising an excellent collection of interdisciplinary academic texts. The series aims to promote the most challenging and original work being undertaken in the field, and encourages an approach that fosters connections between areas including history, science, religion and literary theory. Our titles have earned an excellent reputation for the originality and rigour of their scholarship, and our commitment to high quality production.
Series Editor
Robert DouglasFairhurst – Oxford University, UK
Editorial Board
Seamus Perry – Oxford University, UK Archie Burnett – Boston University, USA Michael O’Neill – Durham University, UK Dinah Birch – University of Liverpool, UK Clare Pettitt – King’s College London, UK Linda K. Hughes – Texas Christian University, USA Jo McDonagh – King’s College London, UK Simon J. James – Durham University, UK Kirstie Blair – University of Glasgow, UK Adrian Poole – University of Cambridge, UK JanMelissa Schramm – University of Cambridge, UK Heather Glen – University of Cambridge, UK Angela Leighton – University of Cambridge, UK Christopher Decker – University of Nevada, USA
Dickens and the Sentimental Tradition
Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Lamb
Valerie Purton
Anthem Press An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company www.anthempress.com
This edition first published in UK and USA 2012 by ANTHEM PRESS 7576 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK and 244 Madison Ave. #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
Copyright © Valerie Purton 2012
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
Cover image © Christie’s Images Limited 2012
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library CataloguinginPublication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress CataloginginPublication Data Purton, Valerie. Dickens and the sentimental tradition : Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, Goldsmith, Sheridan, Lamb / Valerie Purton.  p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 9780857284181 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Dickens, Charles, 1812–1870–Criticism and interpretation. 2. English literature–18th century–History and criticism. 3. Sentimentalism in literature. I. Title. PR4592.S44.P87 2012 823’.8–dc23 2012021806
ISBN13: 978 0 85728 418 1 (Hbk) ISBN10: 0 85728 418 5 (Hbk)
This title is also available as an eBook.
For Harry, Ford and Kisa
A Note on the Text
ix xi
Introduction xiii Chapter 1 Dickens and the Sentimentalist Tradition 1 Chapter 2 Sentimentalism and its Discontents in the EighteenthCentury Novel: Fielding, Richardson and Sterne 19 ‘There was more of pleasantry in the conceit, of seeing how an ass would eat a macaroon – than of benevolence in giving him one.’ Chapter 3 Sentimentalism and its Discontents in EighteenthCentury Drama: Goldsmith and Sheridan 45 ‘Humanity, Sir, is a jewel. I love humanity.’ Chapter 4 Dickens and NineteenthCentury Drama 69 We would indict our very dreams.’ Chapter 5 The Early Novels andWakefieldThe Vicar of  91 ‘Everything in our lives, whether of good or evil, affects us most by contrast.’ Chapter 6 The Later Novels 121 ‘What the Waves were always saying’ Conclusion The Afterlife of Sentimentalism 151 ‘Who will write the history of tears?’
Notes BibliographyIndex
161 179 185
My work on Dickens and sentimentalism began when I was an undergraduate at Newnham College, Cambridge and continued under the guidance of Norman Page at the University of Alberta, Canada. I completed my PhD on the subject under the supervision of Angus Wilson, Lorna Sage and Victor Sage at the University of East Anglia. To all of my teachers I owe a great debt of gratitude. A readership at Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge has given me the opportunity to bring my work uptodate. I am indebted to Michael Slater for commissioning me to editDombey and Sonfor the Everyman series. I would also like to thank my sister Joan Williams for proofreading and copyediting, far beyond the call of sisterly duty; Jane and Bill Barry for translating German secondary sources; my Anglia Ruskin University students, especially Kathy Rees, Juliet Binns and AnneLouise Russell, for many helpful discussions; and most of all my family, Campbell Purton, Dinah, James, Ford and Kisa Robertshaw, Harry Neale and Tom Purton for making it all worthwhile. The Dickensianand Orion Press, publishers of theEveryman Dickens, have kindly given permission for the reproduction of sections of Chapters 4 and 6 which originally appeared in their pages; I am grateful to Christie’s for allowing me to use a reproduction of ‘What Are the Wild Waves Saying?’ by Charles Nicholls (1831–1903) as part of the cover design.