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By Claire Wood

Charles Dickens is legendary for his deathbed scenes, yet those have hardly been tested in the context of his ambivalence in the direction of the Victorian commodification of loss of life. Dickens time and again criticised ostentatious funeral and mourning customs, and asserted the dangerous effects of treating the corpse as an item of hypothesis instead of sympathy. while, he was once occupied with those that made a residing from loss of life and acknowledged that his authorial gains implicated him within the comparable exchange. This e-book explores how Dickens grew to become mortality into the stuff of lifestyles and paintings as he navigated a thriving tradition of death-based intake. It surveys the various ways that dying turned a company, from body-snatching, project, and joint-stock cemetery businesses, to the telling and promoting of reports. This large learn bargains clean views on demise within the outdated interest store and Our Mutual good friend, and discusses lesser-known works and textual illustrations.

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Extra resources for Dickens and the Business of Death (Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture)

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For £10, the despair bursts through all restraint . . 68 Generally conceived as a spontaneous reaction to events, here emotion is advertised as another venal funeral ‘extra’. The article speculates on the cost of sorrow bought wholesale per pint, or by the individual unit of a tear; grief is performed according to a graded price scale. Like the extra rows of coffin nails, cost relates to visibility. As the payment increases, the tears multiply and the sighs become more audible. Similarly money and show are considered as a panacea for grief in Martin Chuzzlewit: ‘the laying out of money with a well-conducted establishment, where the thing is performed on the very best scale, binds the broken heart, and sheds balm upon the wounded spirit’ (310).

Jay’s offers deathly, artificial imitations of natural forms such as the spider web, reflecting Walter Benjamin’s suggestive comment on the nature of fashion: ‘[it] resides in its conflict with the organic. It couples the living body to the inorganic world. 109 In subsequent departments the commodities are enlivened and flirt with the customer, so that ‘bonnets . . 110 Because Mayhew describes the fabrics and accessories in far greater detail than the saleswomen, the categories of human and commodity are undermined, like the participants in the undertaker’s spectacle.

A similar detail of ‘(. . 139 The brightly costumed, flagrantly incongruous performers draw attention to the unthinking treatment of the morgue as entertainment. In another carnivalesque intrusion a ‘performing dog who had a wait in his part, came and peeped in, with a red jacket on, while I was alone in the contemplation of five bodies, one with a bullet through the temple’ (‘RD’ 375). From just beyond the threshold the clothed dog surveys the naked corpses and the man that looks at them. The violated ‘temple’ of the human body emphasises that death has been divorced from its appropriate sacred context.

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