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Dickens's VillainsMelodrama, Character, Popular Culture$
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Juliet John

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780198184614

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198184614.001.0001

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Twisting the Newgate Tale: Popular Culture, Pleasure and the Politics of Genre

Twisting the Newgate Tale: Popular Culture, Pleasure and the Politics of Genre

(p.122) 5 Twisting the Newgate Tale: Popular Culture, Pleasure and the Politics of Genre
Dickens's Villains

Juliet John (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses popular culture, pleasure, and the politics of genre. The term ‘Newgate’ refers to the famous prison destroyed by fire in 1780 and to The Newgate Calendar; or, The Malefactors' Bloody Register, a popular collection of criminal biographies published in 1773. The ‘Newgate’ tag was used insultingly by commentators about a series of novels published between 1830 and 1847 which had ‘criminals as prominent characters’. As Oliver Twist was published in serial form between 1837 and 1839 in Bentley's Miscellany, it was inevitable that it would be labelled a Newgate novel. The fact that Dickens chose to write Oliver Twist, with its rogues' gallery, despite critical antipathy to books about criminals, shows a typical Dickensian blend of courage and opportunism. The objections to Oliver Twist are out of step with other reviews of the novel, which were largely favourable when the first edition was published in book form.

Keywords:   Newgate, Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens, Bentley's Miscellany, Dickensian

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