Status, Virtue and Bestowing Charity Beyond the Sea

By April Oldford

April's ScanCharles Dickens’ Bleak House is social problem novel, regarding the terrible conditions for those living in Victorian England and a scathing critique of those among society who remained indifferent on the subject, particularly those whom Dickens’ felt concerned themselves with “telescopic philanthropy,” that is, charity with a narrowed focus on issues external to Britain, rather than issues closer to home (Dickens 52). One of the charitable targets of Dickens’ criticisms was Caroline Chisholm, the founder of the Family Colonization Loan Society, a foundation that “transferred Great Britain’s poor, unemployed and starving from the slums of London, Liverpool, Manchester, and other Continue reading

A Bleak House of Delayed Cases: Drawing a line between Charles Dickens’ Bleak House and “The Law’s Delay: Chancery Experience” in The Illustrated London News, 28 August, 1852.

By Riley Strother

Chancery LIN

During the Victorian era, a feeling of progress was in the air with regards to many aspects of society; however, it is safe to say that law and Chancery were not as often placed in this category. In The Illustrated London News’ “The Law’s Delay: Chancery Experience,” the case of “Beckford v. Jaspar” is reported to be “wound up” after over a hundred years in the Chancery Courts. This small, un-illustrated, article simply sketches out the major proceedings within the case that occurred between the dates of 1748 and 1852 (“The Laws Delay”).  Jaspar owed Pope 10, 000 pounds, and after Pope died in 1743 his executor, Beckford, filed a suit against Jaspar in 1748. Jaspar died before he could respond, but the suit was revived against his executors and in 1753 the case was “referred to the Master to take accounts” (“The Laws Delay”). In 1764 and 1772 further action was taken place; then from 1772 to 1851 the case was dormant, until it was revived by one Mr. Wadham, who had “obtained administration to Pope” and “had to take out administration to five intermediate estates, and to pay 778 pounds for the stamp duties” (“The Laws Delay”). This apparently led to the conclusion of the case. Continue reading

Falling Angels: The Tension between Sin and Femininity in Henry Nelson O’Neil’s Painting “Myrrha” and Charles Dickens’ Bleak House

By Halley Fulford


The sharp juxtaposition between two conceptualizations of the feminine – the “angel in the house,” and, conversely, “the fallen woman” – helps define the Victorian age. Nina Auerbach, in her essay “The Rise of the Fallen Woman,” challenges this binary by saying that while the “groveling figure [of the fallen woman] lies at the heart of some of the most powerful literature and art the age produced,” contemporary feminist critics and Victorian social reformers alike are unconvinced by the “irreversible sin and doom” represented time and time again as the natural end of the fallen woman (30, 32). Dicken’s Bleak House and the painting “Myrrha” by Henry Nelson O’Neil particularly exemplify the tension between the literary tradition of the fallen woman and a more flexible reality where “the mobility of actual social life reverses the popular myth of a woman’s implacable fall” (Auerbach 32). Continue reading

Slim Chances in the Court of Chancery: Law in Bleak House and “The Oldest Chancery Suit in the World”

By Jessica Turvey

Chancery Suit

Punch, or The London Charivari, was a magazine established in 1841 by Henry Mayhew and engraver Ebenezer Landells. Originally created for the British lower/working class, Punch became popular among all class levels. The main purpose of Punch was to add an element of humour to controversial topics including politics, the legal system, class and gender differences, the role of women, the lower class and poor sanitation (Allingham). The last issue came out in 2002 after a brief shut down in 1992 and attempted revival in 1996. Punch was the first magazine to create humorous political sketches and is responsible for creating the term cartoon (Allingham). Continue reading

The Problem with Charity: A Review of Charity and Race in Victorian England

By K. P.

Punch ScanIn 1841, Henry Mayhew and Ebenezer Landells founded a weekly satirical magazine entitled Punch, or The London Charivari. It was published from 1841 until 2002 and primarily focused on politics of the era (Punch Magazine). All of the articles were published anonymously under the title character “Mr. Punch,” which allowed writers and editors to share their opinions without any fear of judgment and produced a more unified voice that helped the paper successfully make its point (Punch Magazine). Since this magazine was released weekly, sold for three pennies, and included picture and text, its target audience would appear to be the middle class. Continue reading

I Cannot Hear You Over the Sound of How Awesome I Am: A Brief Exposition on Grandiose Figures in “Bullfrog” and Bleak House

By L. R.

BullfrogThe article “Bullfrog” was published in issue no. 243 of Household Words in 1854. Household Words was a weekly journal edited by Charles Dickens and each issue cost readers a mere tuppence (Allingham). New issues were published on Wednesdays, although they were dated as the Saturday prior, and they contained 24 pages divided into two columns. There were no illustrations or breaks in the layout; each article contained a small bold title followed by the text. Only the serialized novels received special treatment by having double sized titles. The articles in Household Words were published anonymously (except for novels); however, Anne Lohrli was able to ascertain the identity of each author through the financial records kept by the publishers (Allingham). Household Words ran in print from 1850 until 1859. Continue reading

Representations of Charity and Poverty in Bleak House and Household Words

By Lindy Carter

 pauperpalace_1 In 1850, three years prior to the publication of Bleak House, Household Words ran an article entitled “A Day in a Pauper Palace,” a narrative article describing a visit to a boarding school for poor children, most of them orphans. This boarding school, in fact a Tudor mansion, educated pauper children and prepared them for the working world. The article describes the school in a positive way, expounding on the particulars of the grounds, lessons, and pleasant nature of the children. The author is in favour of educating poor children, making the argument that they should not be punished for the “misdeeds” of their parents (“Pauper Palace” 361). This is consistent with evidence from Bleak House that shows, through the characters of Esther and Jo, the difference education can make in the life of an orphan. Continue reading

British Law in Bleak House and Punch

By Evan Read Armstrong

The work which I analyzed is the article “Torture of the English According to Law!” published in Punch volume 24 in 1853 (the same year Bleak House was published). This article appealed to me immediately not only because of its content but because of the derisive tone which the unknown author assumes.

Evan Read photoUsing superlatives and excessive metaphor, the author critiques the legal system in England. Specifically taking offense at the abuse of the English language that is manifested in the writing of English law and it’s “cumulative absurdities” which (according to the author of the article) only lawyers are able to understand. This directly mirrors the viewpoint of the disembodied narrator in Charles Dickens’ Bleak House. The narrator has no patience for the hallowed institution of the law, and instead compares it to fashion which “are things of precedent and usage” (Dickens 20).  Mr. Tulkinghorn is the first legal authority introduced into the narrative and the narrators description of his physical appearance suggests much about the opinion of the man himself, “Mute, close and irresponsive, his dress is like himself” (Dickens 23). As the novel progresses, Mr. Continue reading