Chapter

Twisting the Newgate Tale: Popular Culture, Pleasure and the Politics of Genre

Juliet John

in Dickens's Villains

Published in print March 2001 | ISBN: 9780198184614
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191714214 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184614.003.0006
Twisting the Newgate Tale: Popular Culture, Pleasure and the Politics of Genre

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This chapter discusses popular culture, pleasure, and the politics of genre. The term ‘Newgate’ refers to the famous prison destroyed by fire in 1780 and to The Newgate Calendar; or, The Malefactors' Bloody Register, a popular collection of criminal biographies published in 1773. The ‘Newgate’ tag was used insultingly by commentators about a series of novels published between 1830 and 1847 which had ‘criminals as prominent characters’. As Oliver Twist was published in serial form between 1837 and 1839 in Bentley's Miscellany, it was inevitable that it would be labelled a Newgate novel. The fact that Dickens chose to write Oliver Twist, with its rogues' gallery, despite critical antipathy to books about criminals, shows a typical Dickensian blend of courage and opportunism. The objections to Oliver Twist are out of step with other reviews of the novel, which were largely favourable when the first edition was published in book form.

Keywords: Newgate; Oliver Twist; Charles Dickens; Bentley's Miscellany; Dickensian

Chapter.  8010 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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