Week 13

Like Pete I was struck by the violence in this instalment, both the violence of the mob who overtake the funeral procession and the domestic violence in the Cruncher household, as Jerry, ‘the honest tradesman’ prepares  to chastise his wife for any sign of disobedience.  As Pete observes, the scene of the mob surrounding the coach could have taken place in Paris. The contrast with the crowd surrounding the Marquis’s coach is clear. That ‘mob’ had been starved into servility; their English counterparts, energised by the news that it is the funeral of a spy,  go on to break windows and attack public houses. 

Reading this week’s instalment I am also struck by how much is required of a weekly reader in making connections with what has gone on for the past twelve weeks.  We need to connect the corpse with Roger Cly, from the Darnay trial.  We might remember the rust on Jerry Cruncher’s hand, but it would also be helpful to remember the comment in week 5 that he often went out with clean boots and came home with muddy ones. With the grave robbing scene, suddenly we see the significance of his being the messenger entrusted with ‘Recalled to Life’.  How much, I wonder, did the reader of the weekly instalments in the summer of 1859 remember, without the advantage of being able to flip back to earlier issues.  He could do this if he had purchased All the Year Round, but not if he had borrowed it or read it in a public place. My admiration for contemporary readers is growing.  

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About Joanne Shattock

I am Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Leicester. My research interests are nineteenth century women's writing, literary journalism, and the nineteenth-century periodical press. I am currently interested in the networks of professional writers in the middle decades of the nineteenth century and the ways in which these networks impacted on journals such as Household Words and All the Year Round.

6 thoughts on “Week 13

  1. Thank you Holly, for letting me join this.
    What Joanne reminds us also strikes me as well. There also were many illiterate readers who “heard” the stories read in public places as well, were there not?
    In this installment, I am also fascinated by how Dickens relates the grave digging through Young Jerry’s point of view: the third fisherman joined so silently that it was as if the second follower split himself into two; the church tower looking on like a ghost of a monstrous giant. Then he is pursed by the imaginary coffin. He pictures it hopping on behind him, “like a dropsical boy’s Kite without tail and wings.” We feel Young Jerry’s palpitation and fear and surprise (or excitement?) in not only witnessing what is being done but also in peeping into something he shouldn’t be looking. I think this is one of the few wonderfully “dickensian” imaginative passages so far in this story.

    • Yes, I think Nanako raises a wonderful point about the imaginative power of this weekly number. This is something almost lurid or hallucinatory about these scenes, in which the world of the dead bleeds through to the world of the living. When I think back to Jerry with the ‘bloody’ rust on his fingers, and the fresh dirt of graves on his boots, I am reminded of Rudge the Elder in Barnaby Rudge, who is similarly tainted with an aura of the grave and who is also brutishly violent towards his wife. Young Jerry’s anxiety, confusion and excitement seem, to me, emotions that Dickens intended to rouse in his original readers with these ghoulish scenes of mystery, crime and death.

    • Great observation about young Jerry. What I have always loved about Dickens’ works was his description of the child’s point of view. ATOTC is mostly concerned with adults of course, and so I really enjoyed seeing the younger Jerry in this installment come to the front. Seeing Senior Jerry’s occultation from young Jerry’s eyes, made it all the more impressivly creepy, especially as the coffin chased him back home and all the way into his bed!

  2. Welcome, Nanako! I’ve read a few of your papers on this novel and they are among my favorites! Please keep commenting!

  3. Dear Nanako, Can you let me have your email address. I want to let you know that we have received your submission to the journal and that we will try to let you have a decision by August. With best wishes, David

    David Paroissien, Editor, Dickens Quarterly

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