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Natalie McKnight, Boston University. Diana Archibald, U. Mass, Lowell, for conceiving of and coordinating the Dickens in America conference in 2002 and.

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Presentation on theme: "Natalie McKnight, Boston University. Diana Archibald, U. Mass, Lowell, for conceiving of and coordinating the Dickens in America conference in 2002 and."— Presentation transcript:

1 Natalie McKnight, Boston University

2 Diana Archibald, U. Mass, Lowell, for conceiving of and coordinating the Dickens in America conference in 2002 and the Dickens in Massachusetts exhibit at the Lowell National Historic Park in 2012 and for organizing the lecture series that ran in conjunction with the exhibit. Chelsea Bray, BU 2013, currently M.A. student at B.C., for the undergraduate research she did on this project.




6 “These girls... were all well dressed: and that phrase necessarily includes extreme cleanliness.... They were healthy in appearance, many of the remarkably so, and had the manners and deportment of young women: not of degraded brutes of burden. If I had seen in one of those mills (but I did not, though I looked for something of this kind with a sharp eye), the most lisping, mincing, affected and ridiculous young creature that my imagination could suggest, I should have thought of the careless, moping, slatternly, degraded, dull reverse (I have seen that), and should have been still well pleased to look upon her.”



9 “I went, some weeks ago, to Manchester, and saw the worst cotton mill. And then I saw the best....There was no great difference between them.... [what I saw] has disgusted and astonished me beyond all measure. I mean to strike the heaviest blow in my power for these unfortunate creatures, but whether I shall do so in the “Nickleby,” or wait some other opportunity, I have not yet determined” (Letter to E. M. Fitzgerald, 29 December 1838). He ended up striking “the blow” in A Christmas Carol 5 years later in 1843; the year before, 1842, he visited Lowell.

10 Matthew Crabtree—started in factory at age 8 working 14 hour days, 16 hours when business was brisk Lived 2 miles from mill, adding over an hour in commuting to his work day When late for work, “I was most commonly beaten” Or Elizabeth Bentley, started in flax mill at 6 years old, worked 13 hour days, 16 when busy Lived too far to go home for mid-day meal so ate in the mill, with her food covered in dust and was “strapped” when she didn’t work quickly enough (from Sadler Committee Report, Parliamentary Papers)

11 12 hour days Children got 3 months off per year Workers lived in pleasant boarding houses right by the mill Lowell mill house dining room:


13 “Of the merits of the Lowell Offering as a literary production, I will only observe, putting entirely out of sight the fact of the articles having been written by these girls after the arduous labours of the day, that it will compare advantageously with a great many English Annuals. It is pleasant to find that many of its Tales are of the Mills and of those who work in them; that they inculcate habits of self-denial and contentment, and teach good doctrines of enlarged benevolence. A strong feeling for the beauties of nature... breathes through its pages like wholesome village air...” “I brought away four hundred good solid pages, which I have read from beginning to end” (American Notes, chapter 4)


15 Theme: We need to appreciate the benefits of memory since it sustains us even more than hope Phrasings: “we allow ourselves so little time for sober retrospection. Unreal phantoms too often supplant the joys of memory. The Hero of yesterday is forgotten, while the Idol of to-day engrosses our attention! To- morrow is destined to become the sepulcher of To-day.”

16 The importance of keeping memory alive is a key theme in the Carol and other Christmas books and in many L.O pieces. Scrooge’s conversion begins when the Ghost of Christmas Past makes him relive memories and reconnect to past joys and sorrows so he can feel again. Imagery: phantoms, the spirit-world, sepulcher Structure: Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow Language: similar to the phrasing used by Scrooge’s fiancé when breaking their engagement: “Another idol has displaced me.... The master- passion, Gain, engrosses you” (2.65)

17 “the Idol of to-day engrosses our attention! To-morrow is destined to become the sepulcher of To-day” Yesterday-Today- Tomorrow structure Memory vs death (sepulchre) phantoms “Another idol has displaced me.... The master-passion Gain, engrosses you.” Past-Present-Future structure Memory vs. death (sepulchre) phantoms


19 Happiness is not to be found in riches or other material gains: “Who would ask for the wealth of a Croesus, if to obtain it, he must sacrifice ‘the soul’s calm sunshine, and the heart-felt joy.’” (“Beauty and Wealth,” October 1840) “there is no connecting link between riches and happiness, nor between misery and poverty.... Happiness is not the offspring of wealth” (“Contentment,” December 1840) “with how much more ardor does [Man]pursue the things which are merely worldly... Than the rich treasures... Which know no decay” (“The Nature of Man,” 1840

20 “virtue alone is happiness.... Whether it be found in the obscurity of the cottage, or amidst the dazzle and grandeur of a lordly potentate” (“Reflections at Home,” by “Dorothea,” February 1841) Obviously this is not a new theme, but it’s preponderance in L.O. is noteworthy, particularly considering that the next two works that Dickens pens, Martin Chuzzlewit and A Christmas Carol, focus on this theme and make it a major structural device

21 Spirits and dream visions in L.O.: “The Sea of Genius” “A Marvelous Incident” “A Visit from Hope” “Happiness” “A Vision of Truth” “Memory and Hope” All from 1841 (Feb., Apr., May and Aug. issues) Spirits and dream visions in C.C.:

22 Opens with a spirit visitation: “’Past twelve!’ said a sweet, musical voice, as I was seated by the expiring embers of a wood fire. I turned hastily to see who had thus intruded on my presence, when, lo! I beheld an old man. His thin white locks were parted on his forehead, his form was bent, and as he extended his thin, bony hand toward me, it shook like an aspen leaf” (“A Visit from Hope,” 39-40) The spirit appears to the speaker much as Marley appears to Scrooge late at night as he leans over “a very low fire indeed” (Christmas Carol, 1.43), cont...

23 Spirit of Hope: Starts old but grows younger White haired Takes protagonist to visit scenes from her youth She will “endeavor to profit by the advice he [the spirit] gave me” Looks both old and young, “like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man” White haired Takes Scrooge to view scenes from his youth “I will not shut out the lessons that they [the spirits] teach” Ghost of Christmas Past:

24 “Memory and Hope” Protagonist approached by 2 spirits One spirit is “slender and fairy-like” The other “fair but with the reflection of age” “I shall profit by the advice of Memory” (177) Title would be good sub- title for the Carol (as would “ A Visit from Hope”) Protagonist approached by 3 spirits Similar to Christmas Past Similar to Christmas Present (1,800+ years old and gets older-looking by the end of the stave) “I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach” (4.110). A Christmas Carol


26 Extols Christmas as best time of year Finds happiness in the humble Ends with a vow to live a better life Like Fred’s speech in CC: “I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time... As a good time: a kind, forgiving charitable, pleasant time” Finds happiness in humble scenes Ends with vow to live a better life

27 Dickens’s own “The Goblins Who Stole a Sexton,” an interpolated tale from Pickwick Papers But the goblins are silly, cartoonish characters, unlike the C.C. spirits And the Sexton, Gabriel Grub, does not translate his encounter into positive actions

28 Devastating report on child labor practices in England which Dickens read 7 months before composing the Carol He wrote to Dr. Southwood Smith, the health reformer who sent him the report, “I am so perfectly stricken down by the blue book you have sent me, that I think... Of writing... a very cheap pamphlet, called “An appeal to the People of England on behalf of the Poor Man’s Child” He never wrote the pamphlet, but later wrote Smith that he would see “a Sledge hammer has come down with twenty times the force—twenty thousand times the force I could exert by following out my first idea.”

29 Pilgrim edition of Dickens’s letters suggest that it was A Christmas Carol, that came out at the end of the year Particularly the portraits of Ignorance and Want These portraits might also be the “blow” he promised E. M. Fitzgerald back in 1838 after visiting Manchester factories But how do they relate to factory children???

30 Lowell offered the best possible response to the Second Report of the Childrens’ Employment Commission, and to Dickens’s visit to Manchester factories, because Lowell offered more than an attack— it offered a solution Industry conducted humanely, manufacturing and the arts in harmony, healthy and attractive living accommodations for the workers. Lowell would be in his mind as he worked to strike his “blow,” so naturally words, images, and themes from The Lowell Offering would be resonating with him as he wrote.

31 More active and interesting female characters (Compare Rose Maylie, Kate Nickleby, Little Nell to their post-Lowell counterparts: Sarah Gamp, Edith Dombey, Lady Dedlock, Estella, Miss Havisham) Combines art and industry in his writing process more consciously after 1842 (more well-planned works of fiction from then on—using working notes and central themes to unify the narratives as can be seen in Martin Chuzzlewit and even more so in A Christmas Carol. Paul Schlicke, ed. of Oxford Reader’s Companion to Dickens, refers to the Carol as “the most perfect work Dickens ever wrote”...


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