A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens’s ‘London’



The narratives of Charles Dickens, one of the many migrants from the Home Counties into nineteenth-century London, offer revealing insights into the disorientation caused by migration and by the capitalist reshaping of the city.1 But although his experiences were representative ones, his imaginative transformation of them was unique in combining reportage and social criticism with the obsessive fantasies that set his metropolitan fiction apart from that of his contemporaries. The London he depicts is recognisably that of the 1820s to 1860s, dominated subjectively by law courts and lawyers’ offices, slums, prisons, the City and the river. But it is also a place of fog-bound ‘devious mazes’ (MC, 127) and macabre hallucinations, in which the sup¬posedly familiar turns without warning into a terrifying reminder of what has been repressed. This chapter therefore looks at both the realistic and the melodramatic in Dickens’s tale of two cities by tracing, through recurrent preoccupations and motifs, some of the idiosyncrasies of his imaginary ‘London’.


Family Business Hedge Fund Finance House Paper Money Promissory Note 
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© Alan David Robinson 2004

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