Novels of the Eighteen-Forties

By Kathleen Tillotson | Go to book overview

MARY BARTON

§ 1

Mary Barton, though a distinguished and memorable novel, is hardly of the scale or the quality of the other three novels here selected. It is chosen both because it is the outstanding example--outstanding in merit as in contemporary fame--of a kind of novel which first clearly disengaged itself in the forties: the novel directly concerned with a social problem, and especially with the 'condition-of-England question'; and because it transcends that kind; alike in motive and effect, it is far more than a 'tract for the times'. The same social conditions, and something of the same anxiety about them, inspired Sybil and Yeast and Alton Locke; but Mrs. Gaskell differs from Disraeli and Kingsley in having no axe to grind. A wider impartiality, a tenderer humanity, and it may be a greater artistic integrity, raise this novel beyond the conditions and problems that give rise to it.

I know nothing of Political Economy, or the theories of trade, I have tried to write truthfully. . . .1

In the fifteenth chapter, after a tentative and unwonted excursion on the possible causes of the strike, she concludes with relief, 'So much for generalities. Let us now return to individuals'. It is partly because it is a novel which starts from 'individuals'

____________________
1
Preface to first edition, 1848.

-202-

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Novels of the Eighteen-Forties
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Contents xi
  • Note on Editions and References xii
  • Abbreviated Titles - Of Works Frequently Referred To xiii
  • Part I Introductory 1
  • Part II Four Novels 157
  • Mary Barton 202
  • Vanity Fair 224
  • Jane Eyre 257
  • Appendix I 314
  • Appendix II 316
  • Appendix III 318
  • Index 319
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