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A Marginal Life in Great Expectations

Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics book series (PSLCE)

Abstract

Focusing on Pip’s necessary traversal of the margins of homo economicus’ environment, Comyn examines the manner in which Great Expectations (1861) foregrounds and complicates many of the moral and social dimensions the economist John Stuart Mill attempts to exile from political economy’s concerns. Simultaneously, however, this chapter rescues Mill from the easy demonisation that his abstract model of political economy has afforded him. Instead, this chapter demonstrates the complex imbrication of moral and amoral domains that both Dickens and Mill attempt to confront but are never able completely to resolve or stabilise. This chapter shows how Pip is ultimately redeemed by his empathic imagination.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    William James, Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1896; New York: Longman, Green and Co., 1912; Project Gutenberg, 2009), 228, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/26659/26659-h/26659-h.htm.

  2. 2.

    Samuel Smiles, Self Help; with Illustrations of Conduct and Perseverance (1859; London: John Murray, 1897; Project Gutenberg, 1997), 1, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/935/935-h/935-h.htm.

  3. 3.

    Charles Dickens, “On Strike”, Household Words VIII, no. 203 (February 1854): 558.

  4. 4.

    Hard Times was written in response to the Preston strike and dedicated to the historian Thomas Carlyle who famously described economics as the “dismal science”. See Thomas Carlyle, “Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question”, Fraser’s Magazine, XL (Dec. 1849), 672.

  5. 5.

    John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume I—Autobiography and Literary Essays, ed. John M. Robson and Jack Stillinger, intro. Lord Robbins (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981; Online Library of Liberty), 154, http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/242#Mill_0223-01_393.

  6. 6.

    Mill, Autobiography, 154.

  7. 7.

    Raymond Williams, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977); Andrew Miller, “Lives Unled in Realist Fiction”, Representations 98 (2007): 118–134.

  8. 8.

    Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, intro. David Trotter, ed. Charlotte Mitchell (London: Penguin Classics, 1996), 3.

  9. 9.

    See, for example, Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984); Gail Houston, From Dickens to Dracula: Gothic, Economics and Victorian Fiction (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

  10. 10.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 3–4.

  11. 11.

    “counterˈfactual, Adj.” OED Online Oxford English Dictionary, 7 Nov. 2013.

  12. 12.

    This is a rebuke of the Christian economists’ view that poverty was divine punishment for laziness, an argument that will be explored in more detail below.

  13. 13.

    Jerome Meckier, “ʻGreat Expectationsʼ and ʻSelf-Helpʼ: Dickens Frowns on Smiles”, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology 4 (2001): 540.

  14. 14.

    Brooks, Reading for the Plot, 115

  15. 15.

    Brooks, Reading for the Plot, 115

  16. 16.

    Deborah Friedell, “His Friends were Appalled”, London Review of Books, 5 January 2012, 30.

  17. 17.

    Friedell, “His Friends were Appalled”, 30. See also Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011).

  18. 18.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 6.

  19. 19.

    John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens, Vol. 1–111, Complete (Boston: James R. Osgood & Company, 1873; Project Gutenberg, 2008), 113–114, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/25851/25851-h/25851-h.htm.

  20. 20.

    James Clackson and Geoffrey Horrocks, The Blackwell History of the Latin Language (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), 23.

  21. 21.

    Stuart Hampshire, Thought and Action (Chatto & Windus, 1982), 100–101.

  22. 22.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 62.

  23. 23.

    Miller, “Lives Unled in Realist Fiction”, 120.

  24. 24.

    Miller, “Lives Unled in Realist Fiction”, 123.

  25. 25.

    John Stuart Mill, Essays on Some Unsettled Questions of Political Economy, 2nd ed. (London: Longman Green, Reader, and Dyer, 1874; Library of Economics and Liberty [Online), V.38, http://www.econlib.org/library/Mill/mlUQP5.html#V.38.

  26. 26.

    Priti Joshi, “The Middle Classes”, in Charles Dickens in Context, ed. Sally Ledger and Holly Furneaux. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 261

  27. 27.

    See Leonore Davidoff and Catherine Hall, Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class 1780–1850 (London: Hutchinson, 1987).

  28. 28.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 246.

  29. 29.

    Robin Gilmour, “Dickens and the Self-Help Idea”, in The Victorians and Social Protest: A Symposium, ed. John Everett Butt and Ignatious F. Clarke (Newton Abbott: David and Charles; Hamden: Archon Books, 1973), 95.

  30. 30.

    Smiles, Self Help, 297.

  31. 31.

    Meckier, “ʻGreat Expectationsʼ and ʻSelf-Helpʼ”, 543.

  32. 32.

    Gilmour, “Dickens and the Self-Help Idea”, 77.

  33. 33.

    Gilmour, “Dickens and the Self-Help Idea”, 77.

  34. 34.

    Smiles, Self Help, 215.

  35. 35.

    Pam Morris, Dickens’s Class Consciousness: A Marginal View (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1991), 105.

  36. 36.

    Morris, Dickens’s Class Consciousness, 106.

  37. 37.

    Joshi, “The Middle Classes”, 263.

  38. 38.

    Houston, From Dickens to Dracula, 14.

  39. 39.

    Mary Poovey, The Financial System in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Oxford University Press, 2002), 18.

  40. 40.

    Poovey, The Financial System, 17.

  41. 41.

    Susan Walsh, “Bodies of Capital: ʻGreat Expectationsʼ and the Climacteric Economy”, Victorian Studies 1 (1993): 86.

  42. 42.

    Walsh, “Bodies of Capital”, 86.

  43. 43.

    Robin Gilmour, The Victorian Period: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English Literature, 1830–90 (London; New York: Longman, 1994), 2.

  44. 44.

    Morris, Dickens’s Class Consciousness, 103.

  45. 45.

    Humphrey House, The Dickens World, 2nd ed. (London: Oxford University Press, 1960), 2.

  46. 46.

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1969), 427–429.

  47. 47.

    House, The Dickens World, 2.

  48. 48.

    Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (London: Verso, 1983), 15.

  49. 49.

    Williams, Marxism and Literature, 121.

  50. 50.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 165.

  51. 51.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 264.

  52. 52.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 160.

  53. 53.

    See note 66 in Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, intro. David Trotter, ed. Charlotte Mitchell (London: Penguin Classics, 1996), 419.

  54. 54.

    Williams, Marxism and Literature, 122.

  55. 55.

    Williams, Marxism and Literature, 123.

  56. 56.

    Houston, From Dickens to Dracula, 2.

  57. 57.

    Poovey, The Financial System, 16.

  58. 58.

    Poovey, The Financial System, 17.

  59. 59.

    Poovey, The Financial System, 17.

  60. 60.

    Francois Crouzet, The Victorian Economy (London: Methuen, 1982), 336–337.

  61. 61.

    Patrick Brantlinger, Fictions of State: Culture and Credit in Britain, 1694–1994 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996), 3.

  62. 62.

    The railway mania of the mid-1840s is one of clearest example of this. See, for example, Mary Poovey’s Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). Poovey also identifies the increasing popularity of financial journalism that this mania gave rise to: “the mid-1840s witnessed the railway boom, the third of the century’s episodes of speculative mania and panic, and the ensuing economic volatility was undeniably ʻnews,ʼ in the sense of being both current and of almost irresistible appeal” (246).

  63. 63.

    Crouzet, The Victorian Economy, 11.

  64. 64.

    Crouzet, The Victorian Economy, 11.

  65. 65.

    Edward Cannan, editor’s introduction to An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith, ed. Edwin Cannan, 5th ed. (London: Methuen & Co., 1904; Library of Economics and Liberty [Online]), I.10. http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html.

  66. 66.

    Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, ed. Edwin Cannan, 5th ed. (London: Methuen & Co., 1904; Library of Economics and Liberty [Online]), IV.I.2. http://www.econlib.org/library/Smith/smWN.html.

  67. 67.

    Mary Poovey, Making a Social Body: British Cultural Formation, 1830–1864 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995), 155.

  68. 68.

    Elizabeth Jay and Richard Jay, “Introductory Essay”, in Critics of Capitalism: Victorian Reactions to “Political Economy”, ed. Elizabeth Jay and Richard Jay (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 8.

  69. 69.

    Boyd Hilton, The Age of Atonement: The Influence of Evangelicalism On Social and Economic Thought, 1795–1865 (Oxford; New York: Clarendon Press; Oxford University Press, 1988), 50.

  70. 70.

    Efraim Sicher, “Bleak Homes and Symbolic Houses: At Homeness and Homelessness in Dickens”, in Homes and Homelessness in the Victorian Imagination, ed. H. M. Daleski and Murray Baumgarten (New York: AMS Press, 1998), 34.

  71. 71.

    Sicher, “Bleak Homes and Symbolic Houses”, 35.

  72. 72.

    Mill, Essays on Some Unsettled Questions, V.38.

  73. 73.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 208.

  74. 74.

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, ed. Gareth Stedmon Jones (1848; London: Penguin Classics, 2004), 338.

  75. 75.

    Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels: Selected Works (Moscow: Progress Publisher, 1969), 500.

  76. 76.

    Berman, All That is Solid, 20.

  77. 77.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 171.

  78. 78.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 171.

  79. 79.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 210.

  80. 80.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 206.

  81. 81.

    Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, intro. Ernest Mandel, ed. Ben Fowkes, 3 vols. (London: Penguin, 2004), 1:164–165, Kindle.

  82. 82.

    Marx, Capital, 1: 163–164.

  83. 83.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 209.

  84. 84.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 412.

  85. 85.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 414.

  86. 86.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 415.

  87. 87.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 210.

  88. 88.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 413.

  89. 89.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 409 (emphasis in original).

  90. 90.

    Aaron Landau, “‘Great Expectations’, Romance, and Capital”, Dickens Studies Annual 35 (2005): 158.

  91. 91.

    Frederic Jameson, Postmodernism, Or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism, (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 18.

  92. 92.

    Landau, “‘Great Expectations’, Romance, and Capital”, 160.

  93. 93.

    Marx, Capital, 163.

  94. 94.

    Marx, Capital, 168.

  95. 95.

    Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (New York: Routledge, 2006), 186. For an excellent account of the haunting narratology and its implications in Great Expectations, see Nancy Armstrong, How Novels Think: The Limits of British Individualism from 1719–1900 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005).

  96. 96.

    Derrida, Specters of Marx, 187.

  97. 97.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 320.

  98. 98.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 60.

  99. 99.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 68.

  100. 100.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 68.

  101. 101.

    Walsh, “Bodies of Capital”, 74.

  102. 102.

    Poovey, Genres of the Credit Economy, 244.

  103. 103.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 62.

  104. 104.

    Meckier, “ʻGreat Expectationsʼ and ʻSelf-Helpʼ”, 545.

  105. 105.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 106.

  106. 106.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 128.

  107. 107.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 129.

  108. 108.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 225.

  109. 109.

    Gordon Bigelow, Fiction, Famine and the Rise of Economics in Victorian Britain and Ireland (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 80.

  110. 110.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 184 (emphasis in the original).

  111. 111.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 183.

  112. 112.

    Morris, Dickens’s Class Consciousness, 107.

  113. 113.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 272.

  114. 114.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 277.

  115. 115.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 231.

  116. 116.

    Laundau, “‘Great Expectations’, Romance, and Capital”, 159.

  117. 117.

    Claudia C. Klaver, A/Moral Economics: Classical Political Economy and Cultural Authority in Nineteenth-Century England (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2003), 136.

  118. 118.

    John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy with Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy, 7th ed., ed. William J. Ashley (1848; London: Longman, Green, and Co., 1909; Library of Economics and Liberty [Online]), http://www.econlib.org/library/Mill/mlP12.html.

  119. 119.

    Klaver, A/Moral Economics, 135.

  120. 120.

    Joseph Persky, “Retrospectives: The Ethology of Homo Economicus”, Journal of Economic Perspectives 2 (1995): 222.

  121. 121.

    Richard Reeves, John Stuart Mill: Victorian Firebrand (London: Atlantic, 2007), 209.

  122. 122.

    Klaver, A/Moral Economics, 137.

  123. 123.

    Mill, Principles, 31.

  124. 124.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 320.

  125. 125.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 331.

  126. 126.

    Marx, Capital, 165.

  127. 127.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 320.

  128. 128.

    Poovey, Genres of the Credit Economy, 242 (emphasis in original).

  129. 129.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 321.

  130. 130.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 90.

  131. 131.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 365.

  132. 132.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 398.

  133. 133.

    Joshi, “The Middle Classes”, 262.

  134. 134.

    Dickens, Great Expectations, 481.

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Comyn, S. (2018). A Marginal Life in Great Expectations. In: Political Economy and the Novel. Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94325-1_4

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