Charles Dickens' attitude toward economic theories
Cannell, Lewis Dilley
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In 1837, the year in which Queen Victoria came to the throne, Charles Dickens was twenty-five years old and was rapidly gaining in fame with each successive appearance of the Pickwick Papers and of Oliver Twist. Until his death in 1870 he was the most popular literary figure in England. The period of his ascendancy was almost co-extensive with the four remarkable middle decades of the nineteenth century. During that time, England became more and more completely given over to the Industrial Revolution; she became definitely a manufacturing nation, and entered on a period of unprecedented economic expansion. It was an era of wholesale optimism. The advantages which had arisen in part from the weakening of continental rivals by the Napoleonic wars were ascribed entirely to abundant natural resources and native energy. A premium was placed on self-assurance,and "laissez-faire" was considered the keynote of success. In such an active age, comparatively little attention was given to abstract concepts. Economic theory consisted chiefly of the adaptation of existing thought to the justification of what seemed currently expedient. It is the purpose of this paper to investigate the attitude toward mid-nineteenth century economic theory in the mind of the leading mid-century novelist. To understand his attitude of mind, it will be necessary to know something of the temper of his mind. Charles Dickens' mind was middle-class; it was in some respects cowardly; and it was superficial.
- English