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Manufacturing Novels:

Charies Dickens on
the Hearth in Coketown
Elizabeth Starr

In an unsigned 1855 Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine essay celebrating


the "great and well-deserved reputation" of Charles Dickens, Margaret
Oliphant pauses to consider the famous author's latest offering. Compared
to his otherwise organic, "full and many-toned conception of human life,
its motives and its practices," Hard Times hits a metallic note: "The book is
more palpably a made book than any of the many manufactured articles we
have lately seen."' Using the royal "we" of the weary critic who has become
all too familiar with such products, Oliphant's statement evokes Thomas
Carlyle's objections to an increasingly commercial literary marketplace
in "Signs of the Times" (1829): "Literature, too, has its Paternoster-row
mechanism, its Trade-dinners, its Editorial conclaves, and huge subter-
ranean, puffing bellows; so that books are not only printed, but, in a great
measure, written and sold, by machinery."^ Acting as a component of that
literary machine, our reviewer shapes perceptions of "Charles Dickens"
by setting his industrial novel apart from the rest of his work. Oliphant
also perceptively hits on one of the novel's most provocative and abiding
concerns as, in the midst of its efforts to protest the statistical abuses and
inhumanity of industrial modernity. Hard Times explores the compatibility
of literary work and manufacturing.
In panning Hard Times, Oliphant was joining the critical chorus in
response to a novel which excited many pronouncements. Attempting
to define genres and fields of expertise in the mid-nineteenth century,
reviewers repeatedly lament, as The Rambler does, that "It is a thousand
pities that Mr. Dickens does not confine himself to amusing his read-
ers, instead of wandering out of his depth in trying to instruct them."^
Oliphant's distaste for the clunky mechanics of Dickens's novel to some
extent resides in her similar assertion that "fiction breaks down when it is
bound within these certain limits, and compelled to prove and to substan-
tiate a theory," one of many critical assessments that have become part of a
familiar story about this novel's rocky reception and eventual réévaluation."

Texas Studies in Literature and Language, Vol. 51, No. 3, Fall 2009
© 2009 by the University of Texas Press, P.O. Box 7819, Austin, TX 78713-7819
318 Elizabeth Starr

By introducing the language of manufacturing, however, Oliphant's re-


view usefully foregrounds Hard Times's own apprehensions about purpose
and the exercise of influence in a reading, working metropolis. Surpris-
ingly, given her concerns, the critic does not have much to say about
the character in Hard Times whose wedding wears "a manufacturing as-
pect";^ yet Oliphant's review can also, I will argue, help us make sense of
Louisa Gradgrind Bounderby, the figure who embodies Hard Times's own
worst fears and most deeply cherished hopes about urban readers and
literary products.
Hard Times's representation of the legitimate role of fiction in an urban
setting challenges nineteenth-century critics like Oliphant who assume
that the novel as a genre should be deñned against industry. Efram Sicher
says as much when he asserts that "Hard Times is a novel about writing
a novel in a utilitarian urban society where the novel plays a diminish-
ing role and may soon have no more right to existence than in Plato's
Republic."* Yet lest we read Dickens's work as a heroic attempt to revamp
a literary institution, Oliphant's review reminds us that Hard Times was
asserting the use-value of a genre that was still establishing its cultural
credentials and could be accused of being already too immersed in com-
merce. Like Jennifer Ruth, I am suggesting that we should acknowledge
Dickens's willingness to represent writing as continuous with industrial
forms of labor, though in the case of Hard Times, the novel reflecfs Dickens's
working through of the effects of literary labor rather than a representa-
tion of the work of writing itself.^ Robert Colby takes a similar approach
as he argues that during the Victorian period, "the epoch of the novel's
struggle for prestige," writers embraced "fiction with a purpose" as a way
to establish the value of their work.' As the critical response illustrates,
however, rather than taking the novel's purpose and usefulness as a given.
Hard Times immediately excited concerns about fiction's undue influence
or participation in social questions.
The novel itself grapples with many of the concerns Oliphant raises
about didacticism and "making." While Dickens is traditionally read as be-
ing hypocritical in this respect, dismissing the didacticism of others while
applying it heavily himself. Hard Times holds up to scrutiny the relation-
ship between its own purpose and the purposes of other fexts that claim a
use-value within urban economies. In harboring serious reservations about
writers' and social engineers' efforts to shape a public according to their
own ideas of what is good or expedient, the novel can seem to distance it-
self from social problem-solving altogether. Rosemarie Bodenheimer takes
the novel to task for critiquing "every attempt at social reform fhaf can be
imagined within a capitalist society that conceives of people in classes and
groups," and Sylvère Monod asserts that in Hard Times Dickens does not fit
the profile of "a full-fledged social novelist" who would be more invested
Dickens in Coketown 319

in injustice and reform.' The novel's representation of social engagement


is often ambivalent. Despite the difficulties it offers, however. Hard Times is
not simply a harsh portrayal of misguided reformers, surrender in the face
of a bleak vision of industrialization, or retreat into a romanticized notion
of fancy. Instead, I will argue. Hard Times explores some fairly troubling
consequences of its own usefulness, anticipating the objections of its most
rigorous critics while coming to terms with a compromised vision of au-
thorship's contributions to the working world.
Louisa's own compromised development as a middle-class wom-
an caught up in a web of interested schemes allows Hard Times to work
through some of these anxieties surrounding the uses of literature. The
novel responds by instructing a damaged subject in the value and practice
of a distinctly literary form of domestic work that audiences had learned
to associate with Dickensian authorship. In this way, Louisa serves as an
example of what Amanda Anderson identifies as morally stunted "nega-
tive characters" like Miss Wade, who, Anderson argues, allow Dickens "to
work out concerns with omniscience and detachment" in Little Dorrit.^°
While Louisa is repeatedly associated with the hearth, Dickens's favored
place in the homes of readers, no one would suggest that she plays the part
of the typical domestic missionary; critical assessments of Louisa vary, but
none accord her this kind of heroine status. In her influential examination
of Dickens's use of the hearth as both an oppositional stance and a means
of maintaining his insider status as a successful and infiuential male writer,
Jean Ferguson Carr argues that Louisa is ultimately only able "to indicate
a lack, an incompleteness."" At best a missed opportunity for feminist
critique, Louisa repeatedly figures as a stunted character who ends badly.
Patricia E. Johnson speculates that "Louisa's scarring past prevents her
from marrying again or ever having children"; Katherine A. Retan notes
that "Louisa's pride and resentment signify her kinship with Dickens's
fallen women, and her close connection with both social and sexual unrest
disqualifies her for the role of angel in the middle-class household"; and
David Cowles concurs: "Though her fate is less harsh than those of Nancy,
Little Em'ly, or, more to the point, Edith Dombey, Dickens describes what
is denied Louisa in such undesirable terms that it is difficult not to see her
state as a punishment."'^ I wish to offer a counterpoint both specifically
to critical assessments of Louisa and more broadly to the way we read
Dickens's representation of literary work in Hard Times. Ultimately, I will
argue, Louisa's fall and recuperation to an unconventional form of domes-
ticity—a hearth in Coketown—enables Dickens to portray authorship as a
productive component of urban industry.
Oliphant may have been thefirstof many critics who have drawn atten-
tion to the particular self-consciousness of Hard Times. In labeling the novel
a "made" book and a "manufactured article," Oliphant is not objecting to
320 Elizabeth Starr

industry as a subject forfiction;in fact, the critic suggests that she would have
welcomed "a story, certainly sad—perhaps tragical—^but true, of the unfor-
tunate relationship between masters and men wJiich produced the strike of
Preston; andtirasmost legitimate subject... might have well employed the
highest powers."" The problem, she asserts, is that this is a portrait of the
author rather than a portrait of industrialization. Being "made" involves
revealing the hand of the maker. In Hard Times, the more properly retiring
"author of Pickwick, of Copperfield, of Bleak House" makes way for the celebrity
"Charles Dickens" who steps too clearly into the foreground: "Mr, Dickens
has unveiled Jiimself from that personal obscurity which softens so grace-
fully the presence of a great writer."^'* Contemporary critics often describe the
novel, written during what Hilary Schor has characterized as "this decade,
when Dickens was to command his greatest sales and to reach a wider sphere
of commitment in all of his literary endeavors," in similar terms. When
Bodenheimer identifies it, along with Felix Holt, as one of the "metafictioris
of industrialism," or Sicher makes the claim that "[t]he novel quesfions its
own practice nowhere more than Hard Times, where the tensions of Work
and Art, or Fact and Fancy, provide an exemplary self-reading,"'^ they affirm
Oliphant's assessment.
The initial appearance in Household Words clearly compounded
Oliphant's sense of authorial visibility in Hard Times. While previous novels
had demonstrated the author's commitment to fiction's social uses. Hard
Times, written at the suggestion of the Household Words publishers, is overt-
ly framed by Dickens's mingled commitment to social commentary and
circulation. Graham Storey, KatJileen Tillotson, and Angus Easson note that
after a two-month Juatus from Household Words in wJiich he was working
on the final chapters of Bleak House, "Dickens was urged by his 'printers
and co-partners', Bradbury & Evans, Forster, and Wills, to contribute a se-
rial" which "more than doubled the circulation of the journal, and the sales
of the volume were much higher than expected."'* Rhetorically, novel and
periodical are closely related; the mission of Household Words to "tenderly
cherish that light of Eancy which is inherent in the human breast" clearly
portends the language of Hard Times.^'^ In her review, Oliphant herself links
the objectionable novel and "the very poor platitudes which scarcely could
reach any public, one would tJiink, save for that 'conducted by Charles
Dickens' on the top of the page,"'*
In the first number of Household Words, the celebrity status of "Charles
Dickens" that raises Oliphant's objections is particularly on display, but so
is the figure of the writer as a worker in the world. Dickens often presented
himself as a liminal figure able to move between domestic and public spac-
es. Dramatizing its famous editor as "[t]he hand that writes these faltering
lines, happily associated with some Household Words before to-day," the
Dickens in Coketown 321

periodical's "Preliminary Word" positions the authorial Dickens as such


an intermediary:

We aspire to live in the Household affections, and to be numbered


among the Household thoughts, of our readers. We hope to be the
comrade and friend of many thousands of people, of both sexes, and
of all ages and conditions, on whose faces we may never look. We seek
to bring into innumerable homes, from the stirring world around us,
the knowledge of many social wonders, good and evil, that are not cal-
culated to render any of us less ardently persevering in ourselves, less
tolerant in one another, less faithful in the progress of mankind, less
thankful for the privilege of living in this summer-dawn of time,''

Drawing readers' attention to their position within the "Household," the


editor stresses his own circulation as an intimate of "many thousands of
people," Household Words, as Carr argues, "insisted on the interpénétra-
tion" of public and private spheres,^" and here Dickens describes himself as
working in both of them. The content of the periodical itself roved between
pieces on the world outside Britain and essays uncovering the curiosities
residing within the newly familiar urban metropolis. The middle-class
home, by contrast, (as distinguished from the frequent subject of less idyllic
working-class dwellings) served as the destination for these essays. Sharing
valuable knowledge of "the stirring world," the writer will also carefully
edit and present this information so as to safely maintain the innocence and
civility of this domestic sphere.
In spelling out its intention to teach readers to feel at home in a larger
world, "A Preliminary Word" also projects the writer onto a distinctly in-
dustrial landscape. Noting that "[tjhe mightier inventions of this age are
not, to our thinking, all material, but have a kind of souls in their stu-
pendous bodies which may find expression in Household Words," Dickens
aspires to equip readers with "new associations with the Power that bears
him onward; with the habitations and the ways of life of crowds of his
fellow creatures among whom he passes like the wind; even with the
towering chimneys he may see, spirting [sic] out fire and smoke upon
the prospect," In addition to bringing the industrial landscape home, the
writer's supreme task, the Household Words manifesto claims, is to shape
this landscape, smoothing concourse between classes and "to teach the
hardest workers at this whirling wheel of toil, that their lot is not neces-
sarily a moody, brutal fact, excluded from the sympathies and graces of
imagination," Household Words does, at least provisionally, attempt to pres-
ent a model of authorship that is continuous with "this whirling wheel of
toil," as, drawing attention to "what an ambition it is to be admitted into
322 Elizabeth Starr

many homes with affection and confidence," the author emphasizes the
toil of writing. Envisioning his audience, he claims,

conjures up, in hours of solitary labour . . . the solemn hopes which


it awakens in the labourer's breast, that he may be free from self-
reproach in looking back at last upon his work, and that his name
may be remembered in his race in time to come, and borne by the dear
objects of his love with pride.^'
'f
Employing terms of "labour" three times in one sentence, the premiere of
Household Words serves as an opportunity for Dickens to fashion authorship
as work. Critics have debated how, and to what extent, Dickens's writing
for the periodical can be applied to his literary efforts, and Nicholas Coles
discusses the critical response to the novel as he attempts to explain the
seemingly radical differences between Dickens's perspectives on industrial
modernity in hisfictionand nonfiction, his journalistic reformist "optimism"
versus his authorial "despair."^ In this instance, Dickens's editorial bridge
between the world of work and writing, "the towering chimneys" and "the
harmless laughter and the gentle tears of many hearths," presages the ambi-
tions of Hard Times.
The self-consciousness Oliphant identifies manifests itself in the
novel's efforts to make reading visible. While Hard Times begins in a
schoolroom and immediately criticizes the utilitarian affront to imagi-
nation and play, attention quickly shifts to the damage reading sustains
under the educational purview of Gradgrind and M'Choakumchild. Be-
fore we meet the Gradgrind children, we learn what they haven't read.
Playfully suggesting that their education has been directed by an ogre,
for example, the narrator stresses the fact that Louisa and Tom lack the
cultural capital of more fortunate children who would know about such
a fanciful creature. The Gradgrinds prove to be ignorant of a rich range
of narratives and entertainments. Obligingly, the narrator tidily provides
a short list, specifying Jane Taylor's "Twinkle, twinkle, little star" (1806),
"The House that Jack Built," (1755) and Henry Pielding's "The Life of Tom
Thumb the Great" (1730), a play which Dickens mentions staging at the
"schoolroom at Tavistock House" in December 1853, a month before he
began work on the first installment of the novel." By footnoting dates of
publication, the Norton Critical Edition of Hard Times helps to stress how
these works, while not the latest bestsellers, were texts in circulation rather
than, as they might seem to twenty-first century readers, timeless narra-
tives of childhood (11). Making ogres of those who would keep them in
the dark, the narrator reminds his audience of the lively market avail-
able to a young middle class. As children denied these pleasures, Louisa
and Tom are introduced to us as the primary targets for a Gradgrindian
Dickens in Coketown 323

policy of utilitarian reason that is applied more broadly to urban working-


class audiences.^"*
When Mr. Gradgrind finds his children gaping at the circus, that rep-
resentative supplier of urban entertainments, his suspicions quickly turn
to literature. "'I should as soon have expected to find my children read-
ing poetry'" (17), he asserts, and speculates, '"Whether Louisa or Thomas
can have been reading anything? Whether, in spite of all precautions, any
idle story-book can have got into the house?'" (18). Gradgrind's concerns
about the kinds of texts Dickens finds easiest to champion, fanciful sto-
ries written for children, serve as a first step in the novel's representation
of the urban metropolis as a market for fiction. Here the narrator seems
to have fun with Gradgrind's fears, though he will later suggest that the
utilitarian is right to take reading seriously. This attention to the reading
that Louisa and Tom could (and should) have been doing is in fact crucial
preparation for the leap the narrator will make when he suggestively won-
ders in chapter 5, "The Key-Note," if "there was any analogy between the
case of the Coketown population and the case of the little Gradgrinds?"
(22). Five chapters before the introduction of the working-class character
Stephen Blackpool, the little Gradgrinds' plight represents the great body
of working-class readers.
As one of the many "palpably . . . made" characters in Dickens's nov-
el, Louisa stands in for the working and reading population of Coketown
which Dickens presents as being similarly used and abused. First and fore-
most, of course, she is her father's "favourite child" (80), "the pride of
his heart and the triumph of his sysfem" (165). Characfers in Hard Times,
particularly young or working-class characters, are offen compared to
manufactured products as the novel addresses the position of humanity
within industry. Yet to a greater degree than Tom and Bitzer, those other
Gradgrindian creations, Louisa is the subject of many efforfs to guide, di-
rect, and control her actions. Described early in the novel as a "light with
nothing to rest upon, a fire with nothing to burn, a starved imagination
keeping life in itself somehow" (14), Louisa represents what can happen
to a vulnerable population left open to the purposes of others, and the
dangers when this population inevitably resists such efforts.
Johnson argues that we are right to see correspondences between Louisa
and Stephen Blackpool: "As Stephen is shown to be fuel for the system of
producfion, so Louisa is fuel for the system of marriage and reproduction.
The most potenfially explosive connection that Dickens makes in Hard Times
is the structural parallel that he implicitly draws between the factory system
and the patriarchal family."^ There is no doubt that Stephen stands in for the
working-class population in Coketown; he makes powerful asserfions about
how workers are treated as "'figures in a soom, or machines,'" and warns
the industrialist Bounderby that denying workers humanity leads to "'their
324 Elizabeth Starr

want o' sitch humanly feelins in their dealins wi' yo'" (116). In Johnson's
reading ultimately both characters become subsumed by these systems, but
interestingly enough, of the two she finds Louisa to be the more threaten-
ing. This is so, I would suggest, because Louisa actually proves to be more
directly linked to potentially dangerous urban audiences than Stephen does.
Rather than merely serving as Stephen's counterpart, Louisa becomes a rep-
resentative of working-class readers in her own right.
In chapter 8, noting that he will "strike the key-note again" (41), the
narrator draws attention to the degree to which literate working-class pop-
ulations, like the Gradgrind children, are targets of efforts to control and
direct their reading practices. As Dickens's narrator makes the initial con-
nection between the Gradgrind children and "the Coketown population"
explicit, his attention turns to the "considerable population of babies" on
the streets. These "babies," Dickens will argue, are readers subject to the
misguided efforts of authorities to supply "[t]hese portentous infants"
with a diet of markedly purposeful literature. Harriet Martineau's Illustra-
tions of Political Economy, which were, Eleanor Courtemanche reminds us,
commercially successful and influential models for novels like Hard Times,
surface as "leaden little books . .. showing how the good grown-up baby
invariably got in the Savings-bank, and the bad grown-up baby invariably
got transported" (41-42),^* indicating Hard Times's discomfort with texts
that foreground their own usefulness. In a climafe in which, as Richard
Altick has established, working-class education was seen in light of practi-
cal applications "to strengthen the English social structure, not to enrich
people's intellectual or emotional lives,"^^ Dickens will argue for the value
of less clearly practical reading.
Gradgrind frets about what he sees as unproductive, even subver-
sive, reading as texts emerge as a part of the urban landscape: "There was
a library in Coketown, to which general access was easy. Mr. Gradgrind
greatly tormented his mind about what the people read in this library"
(42).^* Filtering his approval through Gradgrind's apprehensions, the nar-
rator portrays reading as a functional respite from factory labor:

It was a disheartening circumstance, but a melancholy fact, that even


these readers persisted in wondering. They wondered about hu-
man nature, human passions, human hopes and fears, the struggles,
triumphs and defeats, the cares and joys and sorrows of men and
women, more or less like themselves, and about children, more or less
like their own. They took De Foe to their bosoms, instead of Euclid,
and seemed to be on the whole more comforted by Goldsmith than by
Cocker. Mr. Gradgrind was for ever working, in print and out of print,
at this eccentric sum, and he never could make out how it yielded this
unaccountable product. (42)
Dickens in Coketown 325

While Gradgrind might find it to be "a melancholy fact," the narrator em-
phasizes the presence of a reading public that prefers novels. Allowing the
working classes to choose, the library serves not only as a provider of com-
fort and companionship, but also as a site of resistance. In a chapter that
begins with Mr, Gradgrind's command to his daughter, '"Louisa, never
wonder!'" (41), the library is an oppositional space from wJiich readers
can step outside the narrow confines of Gradgrindian social policy and do
just that. This vision of peaceful rebellion will prove central to the novel's
sense of its own usefulness, enacting Dickens's satisfaction in 1852 at the
dedication of the Manchester Free Library in a letter to Angela Burdett-
Coutts: "I wish you could have seen the opening of the Free Library for the
people, at Manchester today. Such a noble effort, so wisely and modestly
made; so wonderfully calculated to keep one part of that awful machine,
a greaf working town, in harmony with the other,"^' The library's emer-
gence at this point might seem mere self-congratulation before the novel
turns to the relationship between the little Gradgrinds. Yet rather than
simply moving from one plot line to another. Hard Times uses the shift fo
Louisa as a means of exploring troubling issues with direct consequences
for Coketown readers.
After raising the specter of working-class reading, this chapter de-
scribes the efforts of several characters to make Louisa useful, Louisa's
entrance into the marketplace leaves her open to many stratagems, with
motivations running the gamut from her father's well-intentioned reform
to James Harthouse's prurient self-interest. Even seen through the eyes
of her utilitarian father, Louisa's growing value is sigrufied through her
burgeorung sexuality: "She was a child now, of fifteen or sixteen; but at no
distant day would seem to become a woman all at once she was pretty"
(14), Once others begin to profit from her actions, Louisa quickly moves
from being treated like a child to being treated like a commodity.
Mr, Gradgrind suggests that her decision to marry Mr, Bounderby is
a purely logical equation, '"Confining yourself rigidly to Fact, the ques-
tion of Facf you state to yourself is: Does Mr, Bounderby ask me to marry
Jiim? Yes, he does. The sole remaining question then is: Shall I marry Jiim?
I think notJiing could be plainer than that"' (77), but Louisa understands
the situation more fully, Tom has already presented both more sentimental
and mercenary reasons for accepting Bounderby's offer, suggesting that
Louisa's marriage could have several beneficial effects. Along with get-
ting to see each other more often, Tom asserts: "'It would do me a great
deal of good if you were to make up your mind to I know what. Loo, It
would be a splendid tJiing for me. It would be uncommonly jolly!'" (74).
Tom knows, of course, that Louisa's future husband will take Jum into his
business and treat him more gingerly than the average employee. Louisa's
decision, then, is a result not simply of her tendency to make a rational
326 Elizabeth Starr

choice in favor of an unobjectionable mate, as she has already perceptively


registered the differences between Bounderby and her father (44). Instead,
her choice is a result of Tom's repeated assertions that she might help him
"manage and smoothe" (44) his wealthy benefactor. The deal is "made"
for Tom's and Bounderby's mutual benefit, and Bounderby has been treat-
ing Louisa like a piece of property from the beginning of the novel. This is
a wedding with a purpose, and the novel anticipates the language of
Oliphant's review: "Love,.. on all occasions during the period of betrothal,
took a manufacturing aspect. Dresses were made, jewelry was made, cakes
and gloves were made, settlements were made, and an extensive assort-
ment of Facts did appropriate honour to the coritract" (83). Book the first
ends with this accumulation of goods and Tom's congratulations: "'What a
game girl you are, to be such a first-rate sister. Loo!,,, An't is uncommonly
jolly now!'" (85), Louisa has sold herself and neither sibling attempts to
mystify the transaction.
If Louisa seems an easy mark first for Tom and then for the lazily
seductive James Harthouse, it is because several characters make the mis-
take that Dickens warns against: they see Louisa as a blank slate that can
be written to their specifications,'" Like the social engineers and writers
Dickens's narrator criticizes, these characters assume that their charges,
whether they be a seemingly malleable Louisa or a seemingly malleable
working class, will simply absorb the content with which they are sup-
plied. This is certainly true of Tom, who sees his sister as "'a regular girl'"
(104), as empty as one of the "little vessels" in M'Choakumchild's school-
room. As he explains to the observant James Harthouse: "'A girl can get
on anywhere. She has settled down to the life, and she don't mind. It does
just as w^ell as another'" (104). Insofar as Louisa proves to be different than
other girls, as Tom admits, "'Besides, though Loo is a girl, she's not a com-
mon sort of girl. She can shut herself up within herself, and think'" (104),
proof of an inner life only makes Louisa better suited to adapting to the
role Tom has written for her,
James Harthouse, who is at least intelligent enough to be baffled by
Louisa, notes what seems to be a similar form of blankness in the absence
of domesticity in Bounderby's home:

No graceful little adornment, no fanciful little device, however trivial,


anywhere expressed her influence. Cheerless and comfortless, boastfully
and doggedly rich, there the room stared at its present occupants, un-
softened and unrelieved by the least trace of any womanly occupation.
As Mr. Bounderby stood in the midst of his household goods, so those
unrelenting divinities occupied their places around Mr, Bounderby, and
they were worthy of one another, and well matched, (99)
Dickens in Coketown 327

The things accumulated for this marriage stand out prominently, sur-
rounding Bounderby with signs of capitalist accumulation without the
benefit of the domestic work that would mystify these transactions by
"softening" or "relieving" the price tags on these "household goods" (99).
Like the landscape of Coketown outside, which seems to mark the absence
of working-class inhabitants, the harsh landscape inside Bounderby's "red
brick dwelling" leaves no trace of Louisa. Harthouse's assumption that
Louisa would be receptive to his own guidance is perceptive insofar as
there is no content to Louisa's domestic life, and her home registers the
degree to which the "private" sphere has been bought and sold. Louisa is
accordingly drawn in by the reassurance she finds in Harthouse's jaded
views: "Everything being hollow and worthless, she had missed noth-
ing and sacrificed nothing" (127). Harthouse tells himself that he has no
specific purpose while the narrator describes Louisa's actions under his
infiuence as a new trajectory: "Step by step, onward and downward, to-
wards some end" (127). At this point, readers might begin to worry about
Louisa's willingness to be guided.
Louisa's oddly vacuous presence both contributes to the tension and
makes her a particularly useful character through which Dickens can ad-
dress authorial anxieties about the workings of infiuence. The narrator
reassures readers that Louisa is deeper than Harthouse or Tom can fathom,
and we can never be quite sure what Louisa is thinking or what she might
do next. A particularly vivid example of the complexities Louisa offers
surfaces as she calmly considers Bounderby's proposal:

It seemed as if, first in her own fire within the house, and then in the
fiery haze without, she tried to discover what kind of woof Old Time,
that greatest and longest-established Spinner of all, would weave
from the threads he had already spun into a woman. (75)

On the one hand, this passage illustrates how Louisa is associated with the
hearths that evoke Dickens's authorial relationship with the middle-class
audiences he so effectively cultivated and represented. Staring into fires is
not the same thing as enjoying their warmth, though, and she is linked to
"the fiery haze" of the more unmanageable industrial fires of Coketown
as well. This passage also illustrates how elusive Louisa's fate and interior
life remain, for as we are encouraged to wonder about it, we are ultimately
told nothing about what she is thinking or what will happen to her. The
implied author tells us that it may seem "as if . . . she tried to discover"
what "Old Time" has in store, but when we look closer, we have no ac-
cess. If we can trust appearances, Louisa's musings, filtered through the
authorial point of view, suggest that she is manufactured after all, a spun
328 Elizabeth Starr

product. But the kind and quality of fabric remain unclear, as we are told
that Old Time's "factory is a secret place, his work is noiseless, and his
Hands are mutes" (75). In fact, this passage indicates the extent to which
Louisa's fate is meant to be a source of anxiety for readers.
As Mrs. Sparsit joins in the game of influence, the idea of Louisa's
malleability takes on comic effect. While she considers herself to be merely
watching, Mrs. Sparsit constructs a narrative, the "mighty Staircase, with
a dark pit of shame and ruin at the bottom ... down those stairs, from day
to day and hour to hour, she saw Louisa coming" (153), that verges on
creative visualization. Sparsit proves to be a very active observer, pointing
Louisa's behavior out to Bounderby, privately construing events to fit her
vision, and ultimately paying a considerable price for a front-row seat at
the scene of Louisa's seduction. Ultimately, of course, Mrs. Sparsit's vision
is memorable but futile. The chapters that end book the second, "Lower
and Lower," and "Down," accentuate the hoped-for movement of her plot,
and Louisa does in fact end the book "lying, an insensible heap" at her
father's feet. Unfortunately for Mrs. Sparsit, however, Louisa's escape to
her father allows her to evade all well-laid plans as she proves capable of
considerable powers of resistance, fulfilling the novel's direst warnings to
those who would attempt their own forms of manipulation.
In one respect, the comic portrayal of the plotter, first as "[a] lady . . .
not to be suspected of dropping over the banister or sliding down them,
yet her facility of locomofion suggested the idea" (146), then as the pa-
thetically foiled "limp and streaming" figure covered in grass stains and
caterpillars, emphasizes the ridiculousness of Sparsit's agenda. Influencing
Louisa, however, becomes a complicated affair that makes fools of all those
who attempt it. Louisa, like the working-class population of Coketown,
proves to be dangerously unpredictable, and none of Louisa's mentors get
what they want from her. As it remains unclear how Louisa will respond to
Harthouse's persuasive efforts, however, the sustained tension is also real.
Brought to the brink of betraying nineteenth-century moral sensibilities,
Louisa stands in front of her father and presents him "'with the garden that
should have bloomed once, in this great wilderness here!'" (163). Book the
second ends with a doubly harrowing spectacle: on the one hand, Gradgrind
is forced to face "the pride of his heart and the triumph of his system"
(165) crumpled in a heap; on the other, readers attuned to the expectations
of proper middle-class Victorian heroine status are faced with the specter
of their "'hardened'" and '"spoiled"' (165) ingénue. The language of the
novel places Louisa's plight in the same terms as that of the inhabitants of
Cokefown. As she confronts her father, Louisa's plea—"'Now, father, you
have brought me to this. Save me by some other means!'" (165)—haunt-
ingly echoes the narrator's pointed suggestion about the working classes:
"Supposing we were to reserve our arithmetic for material objects, and to
Dickens in Coketown 329

govern these awful unknown quantities by other means!" (56). The nov-
el then uses the link between Louisa and Coketown as "awful unknown
quantities" as a source of sustained dramatic tension that shapes both plot
lines: Louisa and urban inhabitants may seem to be malleable, but they are
also resistant, and readers can't know for sure whether these qualities will
have good or dire consequences.
Like Louisa, the narrator tells us, the urban population actively exer-
cises its power of resistance. Despite the "severely workful" appearance of
Coketown, and despite its "eighteen denominations" (21), working-class
residents don't attend the churches that were built for them, instead stealthi-
ly nurturing their own forms of entertainment. They drink, they take opium,
and "resort to low haunts, hidden from the public eye, where they heard
low singing and saw low dancing, and mayhap joined in it" (22). Though
hardly as horrified by these facts as Coketown officials, the narrator of Hard
Times warns that the current state of urban audiences is a matter for concern.
He condemns those who suggest that the working classes "were a bad lot
altogether, gentleman" (22), but the narrator also states that the suppres-
sion of fancy "struggling on in convulsions" as well as "the craving . . . for
some physical relief... must and would be satisfied by aright, or must and
would inevitably go wrong" (23). In the case of Coketown residents, as with
Louisa, bodies left with no healthy outlets for imaginative growth or expres-
sion surface as potentially dangerous, distorted figures.
Louisa's plight helps to foreground concerns about purposes at work
in the literary marketplace and to delineate the dire consequences of the
abuse of growing populations of young and working-class readers. At the
same time. Hard Times holds out hope that these audiences, like Louisa,
share a desire to be domesticated as the purveyor of healthy amusements
imagines his contribution to maintaining "that awful machine, a great
working town."^^ Making his famous plea for the reasonable inclusion of
urban entertainment, the narrator of Hard Times puts himself on the side
of fairly shady company:

Utilitarian economists, skeletons of schoolmasters. Commissioners of


Fact, genteel and used-up infidels, gabblers of many little dog's-eared
creeds, the poor you will have always with you. Cultivate in them,
while there is yet time, the utmost graces of the fancies and affections
to adorn their iives so much in need of ornament; or, in the day of your
triumph, when romance is utterly driven out of their souls, and they
and a bare existence stand face to face. Reality will take a wolfish turn,
and make an end of you! (124-25)

A direct address to utilitarians, schoolmasters, commissioners, infidels,


and gabblers, the argument for the use-value of fiction is that fancy could
330 Elizabeth Starr

keep them in business. As critics have pointed out the conservative bent of
Dickens's politics in Hard Times, they have tried to make sense of the appar-
ent contradictions between this novel and the writer who was elsewhere
more willing to argue for practical reform. Here, Raymond Williams makes
the oft-voiced assertion that Dickens's novel levels a critique without imag-
ining any means for improvement: "we are missing Dickens's point if we
fail to see that in condemning Thomas Gradgrind, the representative fig-
ure, we are invited also to condemn the kind of thinking and the methods
of inquiry and legislation wJiich in fact promoted a large measure of social
and industrial reform,"^^ Dickens's anxieties about the misguided purpos-
es of others lead him to make a deliberately unprogrammatic argument as
Hard Times remains focused on solutions that keep Coketown functioning.
If, as Williams states, "[t]here are no social alternatives to Bounderby and
Gradgrind,"^^ it is because the novel imagines a kind of literary work that
can function within existing conditions.
Just after the final installment of Hard Times had been published,
Charles Dickens's correspondence includes a prickly response engendered
by another woman reader:

I think it possible that I may have considered the powers and purpos-
es of Fiction, a little longer and a little more anxiously and attentively,
than your lady friend. To interest and affect the general mind in behalf
of anything that is clearly wrong—to stimulate and rouse the public
soul to a compassionate or indignant feeling that it must not be—with-
out obtruding any pet theory of cause or cure, and so throwing off
allies as they spring up—I believe to be one of Fiction's highest uses.
And this is the use to which I try to turn it,'"*

In this case rejecting the suggestion from the author of The Slave Trade,
Domestic and Foreign: Why It Exists, and How It May Be Extinguished (1853)
that he should put his fiction to more specific uses, Dickens embraces an
instrumental vision of the "powers and purposes of Fiction," yet remains
wary of "obtruding" too far. Distinguishing Jus own work from the literal
delineation of specific problems or solutions, the author instead attempts
to establish the connection between fiction and the generally beneficial ef-
fects of a properly awakened "public soul" moved to undefined acts of
compassion and feeling rather than enacting the will of the writer. TJiis
letter, demonstrating a similar discomfort with too narrowly purposeful
enterprises, re-enacts the compromises of Hard Times. When a modern
reader like Robert Caserio expresses Jiis own frustration with the critical
suggestion that the presence of the circus in Coketown could be read as
a representation of Dickens's work—"if Sleary's horse-riding is Dickens's
figure for novel-writing, then Dickens is claiming that poor men cannot live
Dickens in Coketown 331

without novels—a hobby-horse of an idea which might not strike poor men
as a claim of much value or interest"'^—^he sounds very like Victorian au-
thorities interested in more clearly productive forms of education than the
mere entertainment reading offered. Within a context in which providing
literary comforts seemed distinctly unproductive. Hard Times's portrait of
authorship is itself radical as an attempt to demonstrate fiction's real uses
for a working world.
Because the domestic triumphs of this novel are usually attributed
to Sissy Jupe, it is no surprise that solutions to the problems of industri-
alization seem hard to come by. Sissy is certainly a force to be reckoned
with. Louisa awakens from the dramatic encounter with her father to
find herself in a room made "cheerful" with a "look of welcome" (166).
Her sister Jane's '"beaming face'" is "'Sissy's doing'" (166), and a chas-
tened Gradgrind admits the value of Sissy's influence: "'Louisa, I have a
misgiving that some change may have been slowly working about me in
this house, by mere love and gratitude; that what the Head had left un-
done and could not do, the Heart may have been doing silently'" (168).
Sissy single-handedly shifts the Gradgrind household from Head to Heart,
shames the despicable James Harthouse into leaving town, reconciles
Rachael's suspicions of Louisa, and arranges for Tom to be hidden within
the circus until Gradgrind can secure his safe passage out of the country.
It makes sense that readers like Catherine Gallagher who identify Sissy as
the central figure of Hard Times see the novel maintaining a conventional
separation of spheres in which public sympathy is redirected into the do-
mestic comforts provided by a guileless angel of the house: "[djespite their
attempts to make social relations personal, to advocate that the relations be-
tween classes become like the cooperative associations of family life, both
novels [Hard Times and North and South] ultimately propose the isolation
of families from the larger society,"^ Coles's reading of the novel's "bleak
conclusions" concurs with Gallagher's: "The values Sissy represents—
generosity, imagination, instinctive understanding, and so on—are shown
in action only within the closed family, and even there they can only partially
repair the damage done by Gradgrind's systematic imposition of Fact," and
Carr similarly notes Sissy's ultimate inability to launch a serious critique:
"The opposition Sissy seems to represent—of imagination, emotion, ques-
tioning of patriarchal discourses—stands like the circus-master's fancy, a
fantastic dream that amuses children but does not displace Gradgrindian
fact."^'' When we focus on the domestically challenged Louisa, however,
what we see is quite different.
As Louisa learns to supplement fire-gazing with an appreciation for
the literary work that Dickens associated with the household hearth, she
gradually takes her place among the working classes. More than any oth-
er character in Hard Times, Louisa is drawn to the benevolent effects of
332 Elizabeth Starr

storytelling. Equating her own domestic deficiencies with her inability to


provide homely entertainments, Louisa apologizes to Tom for being inca-
pable of what "other girls" do:

as I get older, and nearer growing up, I often sit wondering here, and
think how unfortunate it is for me that I can't reconcile you to home
better than I am able to do. I don't know what other girls know. I can't
play to you, or sing to you. I can't talk to you so as to lighten your
mind, for I never see any amusing sights or read any amusing books
that it would be a pleasure or a relief to you to talk about, when you
are tired. (43)

In Louisa's mind, domestic work entails supplying the amusements that


engage a familial audience. While this accords with conventional repre-
sentations of a private sphere that eases and distracts from a harsher, male
competitive realm, Louisa's characterization of home life also links healthy
domesticity with urban entertainments like the circus and the library.
Louisa's interest in these domestic entertainments increases as she
comes in contact with Sissy Jupe, and once Sissy lives under the Gradgrind
roof, Louisa encourages her to narrate. Primarily, Louisa is interested in
Sissy's role as her father's entertainer and counselor: "'And you were
his comfort through everything?'" (49). Sissy complies, recounting the
reading practices that earlier excite Louisa's interest and Gradgrind's dis-
pleasure: "'They were the happiest—O, of all the happy times we had
together, sir!'" {40). In response to Louisa's directive questioning. Sissy
represents storytelling as the center of home life. Wearied by his labor as
a circus entertainer, Signor Jupe finds relief for his bruised muscles and
professional concerns in what Sissy has learned to recognize (in proper
Gradgrindian style) as the "wrong books": "'I used to read to him to cheer
his courage, and he was very fond of that'" (49). Sissy reports that her
father's tastes gravitate toward the kind of fiction, "'[a]bout the Fairies,
sir, and the Dwarf, and the Hunchback, and the Gerües'" (41), that Mr.
Gradgrind despises. As her interest accentuates Sissy's "'habit of reading
to her father'" ("'And he liked them?' said Louisa, with her searching gaze
on Sissy all this time'"), Louisa is drawn to the kind of familial reading as-
sociated with popular fiction and Dickens's novels (49).
Pictions provide the domestic comforts Louisa earlier associates with
women's function, as these stories. Sissy maintains, "'kept him, many
times, from what did him real harm. And often and often of a night, he
used to forget all his troubles in wondering whether the Sultan would
let the lady go on with the story, or would have her head cut off before it
was finished'" (49). Simultaneously domestic and exotic, Arabian Nights
is itself, of course, a meta-narrative—a story about storytelling. The tale
Dickens in Coketown 333

of Scheherazade, a new bride who eludes execution as long as her stories


continue to amuse and distract her husband, Arabian Nights draws togeth-
er literary and domestic labor. Scheherazade's storytelling, strategically
suspended at key points to maintain her audience's interest (and to ensure
her own survival), follows the formula of serial fiction and compounds the
heightened self-referentiality of Dickens's novel. In this way, Louisa iden-
tifies the circus family's domestic happiness in a form of entertainment
closely resembling the fictional installments in Household Words.^^
Louisa's rehabilitation moves Hard Times toward a resolution invest-
ed in literary rather than domestic service. If we see Louisa as a conduit
for concerns about working-class readers, then we can imagine the end-
ing Dickens's novel supplies her as a happy one: she may not be a wife
and mother, but she will enact the novel's sympathetic project, serving
the same function that this novel reserves for the library and the works
of popular fiction readers access through them. As the novel ends, Louisa
will gaze into another fire attempting to envision her fate; this fate, the
narrator assures us, will be removed from scenes of conventional domes-
ticity. In Hard Times's "Final," the implied author again toys with readers'
expectations about what will happen to her:

Herself again a wife—a mother—lovingly watchful of her children,


ever careful that they should have a childhood of the mind no less
than a childhood of the body, as knowing it to be even a more beauti-
ful thing, and a possession, any hoarded scrap of which, is a blessing
and happiness to the wisest? Did Louisa see this? Such a thing was
never to be. (222)

The character who in the course of the novel learns the value of domestic
comforts will never practice them in her own home. Rather than reading
this ending as Louisa's tragedy, we should note that the passage locates val-
ue not within motherhood itself, but in the guardianship of "a childhood of
the mind," a task that Louisa will perform, the narrator then suggests, for
"all children" (222). In one paragraph, the narrator sums up Louisa's work
in terms that sound strikingly like the image Dickens projected of him-
self. Though again we can't know if Louisa can see this future, we are told
that she will be "grown learned in childish lore; thinking no innocent and
pretty fancy ever to be despised; trying hard to know her humbler fellow-
creatures, and to beautify their lives of machinery and reality with those
imaginative graces and delights" (222). Compounding the significance of
Louisa's efforts, the narrator stresses what Coketown would be without
them, for deprived of the "imaginative graces and delights" that Louisa
will supply, we are told, "the heart of infancy will wither up, the sturdiest
physical manhood will be morally stark death, and the plainest national
334 Elizabeth Starr

prosperity figures can show, will be the Writing on the Wall" (222). Of equal
significance is Louisa's proximity to urban economies. In order to "beautify
. . . lives of machinery and reality," she must know them, and in order to
share the saving powers of "imaginative graces and delights," these com-
modities must, of course, be readily available. In a novel determined to
represent its relevance, Louisa is the character who ultimately knows and
lives among workers. Like both the periodical and the novel in which she
appears, she will bring fancy to the factory.
As the novel imagines what Louisa's life will become, however, we
never actually see her doing this work; instead, we are told that she does
through the narrator's omniscient foresight. Perhaps this explains why
these final passages describing Louisa's future have been attributed to
other characters by otherwise perceptive critics. Gallagher identifies this
passage as referring to Sissy, for example, significantly shifting the align-
ment of domesticity and fanciful comforts in her otherwise astute reading
of the novel, and Ivan Krielkamp suggests that this work will be carried
out by a reformed Gradgrind.'' In fact. Sissy's domestic prowess and
Gradgrind's remorse would be of little use without Louisa's more widely
infiuential work, which takes on the qualities of authorial labor as she is
replaced by "Charles Dickens." As Hard Times ends, the implied author
takes center stage with the entrance of the literary man onto the scene.
"Dear reader!" the narrator intones, "It rests with you and me, whether, in
our two fields of action, similar things shall be or not. Let them be! We shall
sit with lighter bosoms on the hearth, to see the ashes of our fires turn gray
and cold" (314). Explicitly re-invoking the reader/writer relationship, as
did the editor of Household Words, the narrator of Hard Times reminds us
that his "field of action" is different from ours. Picturing himself at home
with an audience moved to enact social change through private sympa-
thies and actions, Dickens reserves public circulation and influence for the
popular novelist.
This final move fits Carr's characterization of Dickens as an appropri-
ator of domestic authority.'*" Dickens's efforts to manage and represent the
domestic work of writing, however, also entail more complex maneuvers.
As editor, Dickens clearly assumed the ultimate authority on Household
Words, instructing women (as well as men) in the proper way to strike the
right tone to maintain both domestic integrity and circulation. Much of
Dickens's and Elizabeth Gaskell's correspondence concerning the publi-
cation of North and South occurred during the writing of Hard Times, and
Dickens's infamous efforts to keep Gaskell tidy serve as a rich example of
uneasy negotiations between male editor and female writer. Throughout
his daily correspondence, the role that Dickens plays not simply in appro-
priating the domestic, but in earnestly managing it, remains striking. In his
editorial role, this could entail instructing a woman writer how to market
Dickens in Coketown 335

both her talent and her gendered authority, Dickens could "express his re-
gret" to the writer Marianne Young because her work "is like any ordinary
essay—using the word ordinary in the sense of its being designed for pub-
lication anywhere—and has nothing in common with the pervading spirit
he tries to preserve in that journal," In policing the "spirit" of Household
Words, the editor also makes a suggestion about how Young could market
her authorial identity. Rather than discussing "[t]he indifferent adminis-
tration of justice in India, and the heavy exactions to which the native
population has been exposed," he suggests that

the case of Soldiers' Wives, of which Mrs. Young spoke, as a subject


of wJûch she had personal knowledge , , , would be comparatively
useless and hopeless to tell in a general didactic way, in Household
Words. . . . But an account of fhem, written like a soldier's wife, and
presented as by a woman who had actually undergone them, would
be quite another thing,""

Of course, wJiile men were (and specifically Dickens was) n\ore likely to
be in a position to manage the representation of literary work, this cor-
respondence indicates Dickens's investment in the valuable circulation of
women's authority.
Hard Times ultimately retreats from the image of a recuperated Louisa
domesticating Coketown, but the argument this novel makes about the
contributions of literary work to industry remains vivid enough that critics
like Oliphant would feel the need to put Dickens back in Jiis place. Edito-
rial housekeeping could cut both ways. As Oliphant's review aptly notes,
Dickens's literary career, his connection to markets and industry as a suc-
cessful producer of books, had by 1854 been established tJtrough the home.
An author renowned for his ability to capture and convey the warmth of
domestic spaces, Dickens welcomed and encouraged the representation of
himself as a writer of the hearth whose books both centered on and were
consumed within domestic spaces. At Jus best, Dickens's strength as a nov-
elist, according to Oliphant, rests in his faifJiful and complex representation
of the middle class, a portion of the population that she assigns to the pri-
vate sphere: "nowhere does the household hearth burn brighter—nowhere
is the family love so warm—the natural bonds so strong; and tJûs is the
ground which Mr Dickens occupies par excellence."'^^ As critic and author,
Oliphant and Dickens take up complex roles that still resonate in the novel
under review. In Hard Times, the male author instructs a female charac-
ter in the value of domestic storytelling, but suggests that she could most
productively maintain a hearth in Coketown, In Blackwood's, the woman
author writing anonymously extols the famous male author for his repre-
sentation of domestic scenes and derides him for his novel's overt entry
336 Elizabeth Starr

into industry and commerce, revealing how literary men could construct
the home while literary women could police the marketplace.
The discomfort that Hard Times engenders remains with us, leaving
critics like John Peck to note how this novel still rankles: "Criticism of
literary texts is, for the most part, interpretative; there might be an im-
plicit or explicit evaluation of the text, but critics are primarily concerned
with constructing a reading. Discussions of Hard Times, by contrast, move
quickly towards evaluation; more than with most novels, critics feel com-
pelled to declare whether they consider it a successful or unsuccessful
work." Humphrey House nofes how Hard Times frustrates readers, and
according to Coles, "Hard Times is the Dickens novel which readers have
least known what to do with, and about which there has been least agree-
ment as to how it requires to be read,"^' To the extent that Hard Times
continues to feel like an experiment, a cop-out, or just an odd contribu-
tion to Dickens's literary oeuvre, it can remind us that the position of the
novel on the industrial landscape was far from being settled in the mid-
nineteenth century. Hard Times plays an active role in these negotiations
as, like the cricket that nine years earlier proved to be an ally of domestic
bliss, the novel demonstrates its ability to keep the home fires peacefully
burning.

Westfield State College


Westfield, Massachusetts

NOTES
1, [Margaret Oliphant], "Charles Dickens," Blackwood's Edinburgh Magazine 77
(April 1855): 453, 454, 452.
2, The Oxford English Dictionary records both of these denotations of "manufac-
ture," as it was "applied to the mechanical production or external 'getting up' of
books," used to describe the act of "produc[ing] a literary work by mere mechani-
cal industry" as well as referring "to literary work of a 'soulless' or mechanical
kind," citing Carlyle's 1829 essay on the "German Playwrights," Thomas Carlyle,
"Signs of the Times" [1829], in A Carlyle Reader, ed, G, B. Tennyson (Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 1984), 36.
3, Richard Simpson, The Rambler (October 1854), in Dickens: The Critical Heritage,
ed. Philip Collins (London: Routledge, 1971), 303. Edwin Whipple's Atlantic Month-
ly review similarly faults Dickens for having "not contented himself with using his
great powers of observation, sympathy, humor, imagination, and characterization
in their appropriate fields" (Collins 315-21), Responding to such critiques, George
Ford comments on the Westminster Review's contradiction in praising Dickens for
being "'not a mere novelist'" and yet accusing him of being "'the main instrument
in the charge which has perverted the novel from a work of art to a platform for
discussion and argument,'" See George Ford, Dickens and His Readers: Aspects of
Novel-Criticism Since 1836 (New York: Norton, 1965), 81,
Dickens in Coketown 337

4. Oliphant, "Charles Dickens," 453. F. R. Leavis is credited with recuperating


Hard Times in The Great Tradition (1948), though John Ruskin and Bernard Shaw
also argued for the merits of the novel.
5. Charles Dickens, Hard Times: An Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism, eds.
Fred Kaplan and Sylvère Monod (New York: Norton, 2001), 83. All future refer-
ences to this text will be made in the body of the essay. According to Oliphant,
"there is distinctness and identity in Louisa" (454).
6. Efram Sicher, Rereading the City, Rereading Dickens: Representation, the Novel,
and Urban Realism (New York: AMS, 2003), 220.
7. Jennifer Ruth, Novel Professions: Interested Disinterest and the Making of the Profes-
sional in the Victorian Novel (Columbus: Ohio State UP, 2006), 58, 59. See also Clare
Petütt's masterful account of "[t]he rhetorical similarities of the copyright and the pat-
ent debates of the 1830s" as Victorian novelists like Dickens presented "mecharucal
invention as analogous for artistic creativity." See Clare Pettitt, Patent Inventions-
Intellectual Property and the Victorian Novel (Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004), 83.
8. Robert Colby, Fiction With a Purpose: Major and Minor Nineteenth-Century Novels
(Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1967), 10.
9. Rosemarie Bodenheimer, The Politics of Story in Victorian Social Fiction (Ithaca:
Cornell UP, 1988), 206. Sylvère Monod, "Hard Times, an Undickensian Novel?" in Sfwd-
ies in the Later Dickens, ed. Jean-Claude Amalric (Montpellier: U Pal Valéry, 1973), 78.
10. Amanda Anderson, The Powers of Distance: Cosmopolitanism and the Cultivation
of Detachment (Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001), 78.
11. Jean Ferguson Carr, "Writing as a Woman: Dickens, Hard Times, and Feminine
Discourses," Dickens Studies Annual 18 (1989): 165.
12. Patricia E. Johnson, "Hard Times and the Structure of Industrialism: The
Novel as Factory," Studies in the Novel 21.2 (1989): 132. Katherine A. Retan, "Lower-
Class Angels in the Middle-Class House: The Domestic Woman's 'Progress' in Hard
Times and Ruth," Dickens Studies Annual 23 (1994): 189. David L. Cowles, "Gender
and Paradox in Hard Times" Dickens Quarterly 0une 1991): 73-74.
13. Oliphant, "Charles Dickens," 454.
14. Oliphant, "Charles Dickens," 453.
15. Hilary Schor, "Novels of the 1850s: Hard Times, Little Dorrit, and A Tale of Two
Cities," in The Cambridge Companion to Charles Dickens, ed. John O. Jordan (Cambridge:
Cambridge UP, 2001), 64; Bodenheimer, The Politics of Story, 206; Sicher, Rereading the
City, xxi.
16. Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson, and Angus Easson, eds. The Letters of
Charles Dickens (New York: Oxford UP, 1993) viii; ix.
17. Storey, Tillotson, and Easson ix.
18. Oliphant, "Charles Dickens," 465.
19. Dickens, Charles. "A Preliminary Word," Household Words (30 March 1850):
1-2.
20. Carr, "Writing as a Woman," 163-^5.
21. Dickens, "A Preliminary Word," 1-2.
22. Nicholas Coles, "The i'olitics of Hard Times: Dickens the Novelist versus
Dickens the Reformer," Dickens Studies Annual 15 (1986): 173.
23. Dickens, Letter to Mark Lemon, 24 December 1853, in Storey, Tillotson, and
Easson, 232.
338 Elizabeth Starr

24. See Katie Trumpener, who examines the representation of children in illus-
trated guidebooks (marketed for children) as urbanflâneursand consumers. Katie
Trumpener, "City Scenes: Commerce, Utopia, and the Birth of the Picture Book," in
The Victorian Illustrated Book, ed. Richard Maxwell (Charlottesville, VA: UP of Vir-
ginia, 2002), 332-84. Martyn Lyons links concerns about female, working-class, and
young reading populations in "New Readers in the Nineteenth Century: Women,
Children, Workers," in A History of Reading in the West, eds. Guglielmo Cavallo and
Roger Chartier (Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1999), 313-44.
25. lohnson, "Hard Times and the Structure of Industrialism," 134.
26. Dickens also protested such narratives written for children in "Fraud on the
Fairies" {Household Words, 1 October 1853). In her entry on "Children's Literature" in
Sally Mitchell's Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ]ül Shefrin suggests that Dickens
is specifically targeting Peter Parley's Annual in Hard Times—"[t]he inculcation of as
many facts as possible and the strict avoidance of any imaginative literature were
the hallmarks of this school of writing, particularly popular in the 1830s and 1840s."
Jill Shefrin, "Children's Literature," in Victorian Britain: An Encyclopedia, ed. Sally
Mitchell (New York: Garland, 1988), 147.
27. Richard Altick, The English Common Reader: A Social History of the Mass Reading
Public 1800-1900 (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1957), 143.
28. For a discussion of the way Victorian libraries shared these concerns about
working-class reading, see Lewis C. Roberts, "Disciplining and Disinfecting
Working-Class Readers in the Victorian Public Library," Victorian Literature and
Culture 26.1 (1998), 102-32. See also Altick, The English Common Reader, 213-39.
29. Quoted in Charles Dickens, The Speeches of Charles Dickens, ed. K. J. Fielding
(Oxford: Clarendon, 1960), 153-54.
30. Schor, "Novels of the 1850s," 64.
31. Dickens, Speeches, 153-54.
32. Raymond Williams, Culture and Society 1780-1950 (New York: Anchor, 1960),
101.
33. Williams, Culture and Society, 103.
34. Dickens, letter to Henry Carey, 24 August, 1854. The editors establish Kate
McKean as the "lady friend" to whom Dickens is referring. Storey, Tillotson, and
Easson, 405.
35. Robert Caserio, "The Name of the Horse: Hard Times, Semiotics, and the
Supernatiiral," Novel 20.1 (1986): 10-11.
36. Catherine Gallagher, The Industrial Reformation of English Fiction: Social Dis-
course and Narrative Form (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1985), 148.
37. Coles, The Politics of Hard Times, 170; Carr, "Writing as a Woman," 207.
38. Butt and Tillotson attribute Hard Times's "economy in detail" to the novel's
weekly installments, a miniaturization of Dickens's practice of monthly serializa-
tion. As they cite Dickens's letter informing Thomas Carlyle that Hard Times was
"'constructed .. . patiently, with a view to its publication altogether in a compact
cheap form,'" Butt and Tillotson also effectively situate Dickens within an econo-
my of publication and book sales. John Butt and Kathleen Tillotson, Dickens at Work
[1957], (London: Methuen, 1982), 203.
39. According to Gallagher, "Sissy, of course, does become a mother, 'grown
learned in childish lore,' and she extends her maternal care to 'her humbler
Dickens in Coketown 339

creatures,' trying 'to beautify their lives of machinery and reality'" (Gallagher, The
Industrial Reformation 159). In his compelling reading of the use of voice in Hard
Times, Kreilkamp argues: "The conclusion of Hard Times describes a transfer of
power—away from the schoolteacher Gradgrind and his inhumane use of print
culture to squelch the individuality of his students, and onto a recalcitrant scholar
who can 'beautify . . . lives of machinery and reality with . . . imaginative graces
and delights'" (Ivan Kreilkamp, Voice and the Victorian Storyteller [Cambridge:
Cambridge UP], 28).
40. Carr, "Writing as a Woman," 211. '
41. Storey, Tillotson, and Easson present Young as "[a]uthor of Western India in
1838, 2 vols, 1839; other books on India and the East; and Aldershot and All About
It, 1857" and note that she does publish "Women at Aldershot" in Household Words
(4/19/56 Xm 318) when she follows Dickens's advice. Storey, Tillotson, and, Easson,
277-78.
42. Oliphant, "Charles Dickens," 452.
43. John Peck, David Copperfield and Hard Times (New York: St. Martin's P,
1995), 18. Humphrey House, The Dickens World (London: Oxford UP, 1942), 203-04.
Coles, The Politics of Hard Times, 173.

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