CHAPTER VI
THE CHANGING SCENE

DICKENS lived through the years which saw the making of modern England, and of the middle-class oligarchy which is its government. His boyhood ended with the struggles for Catholic Emancipation and the Reform Bill: his writing life coincided almost exactly with the rule of the Ten-Pound Householders. Middle- class government then meant middle-class reform-- the assault on obsolete privileges and procedure, the abolition of restraints on trade, industry, and acquisitiveness, and the painful construction of a legal and administrative system adapted to the conditions which gave the middle classes their power.

The technical achievements of the years between 1812 and 1870 had a far greater effect on those who saw them than any such achievements since: railways altered the whole pattern of the country's life more deeply than cars or aeroplanes. For us, accustomed to ever-accelerating change, it is difficult to recover the mood of mixed utilitarian satisfaction and emotional excitement with which railway, telegraph, and submarine cable were greeted. Our grandfathers were enthralled by such books as Lardner's on the steam-engine and his Museum of Science and Art 'illustrated by engravings on wood'. The cuts of cranks and valves provoked them to something like aesthetic enthusiasm; the titbits of astronomy1 and geology made them think

____________________
1
See letter of Dickens to Mrs. Watson, November 1, 1854: 'I think you will be interested with a controversy between Whewell and Brewster, on the question of the shining orbs about us being inhabited or no. Whewell's book is called, On the Plurality of Worlds; Brewster's, More World than One. . . . They bring together a vast number of points of great interest in natural philosophy, and some very curious reasoning on both sides, and leave the matter pretty much where it was.'

-133-

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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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