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Depictions of the ‘Ideal Child’ in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Legislature

Webb, Jean and Levene, A. (2018) Depictions of the ‘Ideal Child’ in Nineteenth-Century British Literature and Legislature. The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth. ISSN 1939-6724 Online: 1941-3599 (In Press)

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Abstract

Generations of readers are familiar with the child characters who populate the works of Charles Dickens: the innocent (but hungry) Oliver Twist, and happy-go-lucky urchin the Artful Dodger, quietly suffering Little Nell, and poor crippled Tiny Tim. Some may even know that Dickens researched the social veracity of his settings, avidly reading the Parliamentary “Blue Books” which reported debates on the Children’s Employment Commission and the Poor Law, and visiting a mine to see working conditions for himself. He was not the only author to take his subject matter so seriously: the poet Elizabeth Barrett used information given to her by one of the Sub-Commissioners of the Factory Acts to construct her 1843 poem “The Cry of the Children”, and Frances Milton Trollope visited Lancashire to get a first-hand impression of the conditions there before writing The Life And Adventures of Michael Armstrong, the Factory Boy (1840).1 Clearly, it was important to these authors that they capture a sense of social reality in their work, however unpalatable that might be. The popularity of some of these works also suggests that readers did not shy away from “difficult” topics; in fact they made for good fiction, at least for adult readers.

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Uncontrolled Keywords: literature, depiction of children, contrast in children depiction
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts
Depositing User: Jean Webb
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2018 12:30
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2018 12:30
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/6505

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