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Dickens, the Dandy, and the Savage: A Victorian View of the Romantic

  • Juliet McMaster
  • Rowland McMaster

Abstract

Born between the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo, Charles Dickens grew up during the regency (1811–20) and reign (1820–30) of George IV (“the Magnificent”, as a recent biographer labels himl), a period that saw the sartorial revolution of Beau Brummell and the flowering of English romanticism. Though Carlyle was to become, as much as anyone could, Dickens’s mentor, Carlyle’s gloomy but penetrating comments on “The Dandiacal Sect”2 as a major phenomenon of the times had little effect on Dickens’s dress and manner. In an age of masculine elegance, he amused his contemporaries with the extent to which he pursued “coats and trousers, a blaze of velvet and satin waistcoats, golden chains and tie-pins and rings”.3 Like Ainsworth, Disraeli, and Bulwer-Lytton, Dickens was, in Carlyle’s definition, “a Clothes-wearing Man”4 and “dressed à la D’Orsay rather than well”.5 That, however, did not keep him from making the Regency dandy or belle a recurrent symbol in his works of heartless superficiality and unearned social eminence. And where such a figure appears prominently, it usually gets its full significance by ironic allusion either to the romantic poem that seems to have made most impression on Dickens: Wordsworth’s Immortality Ode: or more generally, to the Wordsworthian and romantic idea of primitivism and the healing, edifying sanctity of nature.

Keywords

Dismal Swamp Major Phenomenon Prince Regent Golden Chain Romantic Satire 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Joanna Richardson, George the Magnificent (New York, 1966).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Thomas Carlyle, “The Dandiacal Body”, in Sartor Resartus (1833–4).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Edgar Johnson, Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph, vol. t (New York, 1952) p. 360.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, ed. Charles Frederick Harrold (New York, 1937) p. 272.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    D. A. Wilson, Thomas Carlyle, vol. in (London, 1923–34), p. 81 (on seeing Dickens at a dinner in 1840 ).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    George Ford, Dickens and his Readers (Princeton, 1955) p. 12.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    Arnold Kettle, Introduction to the English Novel, vol. i (London, 1953) p. 142.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Kathleen Tillotson, Novels of the Eighteen-Forties (London, 1954) p. 189.Google Scholar
  9. 11.
    William Thackeray, The Four Georges, in George Saintsbury (ed.), The Oxford Thackeray vol. xiii (London, 1908) p. 783.Google Scholar
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    Stephen Leacock, Charles Dickens: His Life and Work (New York, 1934) p. 164.Google Scholar
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    Humphry House, “Pre-Raphaelite Poetry”, in All in Due Time (London, 1955) p. 155.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    John Ruskin, The Genius of John Ruskin, ed. John D. Rosenberg (New York,1963) p. 436.Google Scholar
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    Asa Briggs, Victorian People (London, 1965) p. 84.Google Scholar
  14. 22.
    Taylor Stoehr, Dickens, The Dreamer’s Stance (Ithaca, 1965) p. 182.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Juliet and Rowland McMaster 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juliet McMaster
  • Rowland McMaster

There are no affiliations available

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