John M. Picker

in Victorian Soundscapes

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195151916
Published online September 2007 | e-ISBN: 9780199787944 | DOI:

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Charles Dickens's anguish about writing Dombey and Son, his own need to satisfy his increasingly stringent standards of expression in fiction, is reflected in the novel's preoccupation with the problem of expressing things clearly, of getting out the word. Dombey conceives of expression in many ways: as verbal communication, primarily, but also as interchange between different parties; the moving forth of people and goods, the passing of legacies; and the spread of language and ideas. Communicative attempts such as these permeate Dombey, the novel in which characters struggle to hear and through which Dickens struggles to be heard. Dombey famously and ambiguously invokes the arrival of the railway at the same time as Dickens's serialized form faces competition from new forms of railway reading, shilling novels selling for the same price as a single Dombey installment. Amidst this changing scene and under the influence of ideas Charles Babbage discussed in his Ninth Bridgewater Treatise, Dickens examines the complications involved in trafficking bodies, transferring capital, and establishing contact.

Keywords: Charles Dickens; Charles Babbage; railway; train; publishing; cheap edition; yellowback; public readings

Chapter.  13167 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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