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Walter BesantThe Business of Literature and the Pleasures of Reform$
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Kevin A. Morrison

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781789620351

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781789620351.001.0001

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Walter Besant

Walter Besant

A Latter-Day Dickens?

(p.225) Chapter Twelve Walter Besant
Walter Besant

Andrzej Diniejko

Liverpool University Press

This chapter discusses the extent of Walter Besant’s indebtedness to Charles Dickens’s oeuvre. It advances the thesis that of all Victorian novelists Dickens exerted a major influence not only on Besant’s literary development, but also on his social ideas and literary technique. In a way, Besant shared Dickens’s belief that benevolence and good-heartedness may help overcome social ills and contribute to cross-class co-operation and solidarity. The mark of Dickens’s style can be seen in many novels written by Besant in collaboration with James Rice or alone, particularly in his slum novels. Besant, now almost forgotten and neglected, was a literary giant of his day, who, like a latter-day Dickens, rendered a harsh indictment of his compatriot’s treatment of the poor.

Keywords:   Walter Besant, Charles Dickens, Slum novels, Condition-of-England debate, Victorian era

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