CHAPTER II
BENEVOLENCE

SIR HENRY MAINE was, I think, the first to link Dickens with Bentham:

'It does not seem to me,' he wrote in Popular Government, 'a fantastic assertion that the ideas of one of the great novelists of the last generation may be traced to Bentham. . . . Dickens, who spent his early manhood among the politicians of 1832 trained in Bentham's school, hardly ever wrote a novel without attacking an abuse. The procedure of the Court of Chancery and of the Ecclesiastical Courts, the delays of the Public Offices, the costliness of divorce, the state of the dwellings of the poor, and the condition of the cheap schools in the North of England, furnished him with what he seemed to consider, in all sincerity, the true moral of a series of fictions.'

This suggestion was taken up by Dicey,1 who accepted it without criticism; but he used it as a step in his argument that the Benthamite individualism of the 'thirties was already being abandoned in the 'fifties by those who had formerly held it. He took it as true that the young Dickens was a Benthamite radical; but he then quoted Hard Times to show that the man who was in 1846 'the editor of the organ of the Manchester school' had become by 1854 'the satirist and the censor of political economy and utilitarianism'. He took the alteration to be 'unconscious'; but a closer reading of Dickens would have reminded him that Mr. Filer appeared in 1843. For Dickens was consistently the indignant satirist and censor of the 'classical' economists; but this need not mean that he was never in

____________________
1
"Law and Opinion in England", 2nd edition, p. 419.

-36-

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The Dickens World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface to the Second Edition 5
  • Contents 7
  • Introduction 9
  • Chapter I - History 18
  • Chapter II - Benevolence 36
  • Chapter III - Economy: Domestic and Political--I 55
  • Chapter IV - Economy: Domestic and Political--Ii 77
  • Chapter V - Religion 106
  • Chapter VI - The Changing Scene 133
  • Chapter VII 170
  • Conclusion 215
  • Index 225
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