Barnaby Rudge

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A novel by Dickens published in 1841 as part of Master Humphrey's Clock. The earlier of Dickens's two historical novels, it is set at the period of the Gordon anti‐popery riots of 1780, and Lord George Gordon himself appears as a character.

Reuben Haredale, a country gentleman, has been murdered, and the murderer never discovered. His brother Geoffrey Haredale, a Roman Catholic, and the smooth villain Sir John Chester (who models himself on Lord Chesterfield) are enemies; Chester's son Edward is in love with Haredale's niece Emma, and the elders combine to thwart the match. The Gordon riots, secretly fomented by Chester, supervene. Haredale's house is burned and Emma carried off. Edward saves the lives of Haredale and Emma and wins Haredale's consent to his marriage with the latter. Haredale discovers the murderer of his brother, the steward Rudge, father of the half‐witted Barnaby and the blackmailer of Barnaby's devoted mother Mrs Rudge. Rudge is hanged, Barnaby is reprieved from the gallows at the last moment, and Chester is killed by Haredale in a duel.

The vivid description of the riots forms the principal interest of the book, which also displays Dickens's concern with the demoralizing effect of capital punishment in the character of Dennis the Hangman and Hugh, the savage ostler who turns out to be Chester's son. Other characters involved in the plot include the upright locksmith Gabriel Varden; Simon Tappertit, his aspiring and anarchic apprentice; Miggs, his mean and treacherous servant; John Willett, host of the Maypole Inn; and Grip, Barnaby's raven.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).

Reference entries

Charles Dickens (1812—1870) novelist