By Joanne Shattock
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Extra resources for Dickens and other Victorians: Essays in Honour of Philip Collins
A kind of drunkard's double vision in reverse. Sketches by Boz, then, with phrases like 'the vices of the boy had grown with the man',31 express the Wordsworthian view of human 34 Sylvere Monod life gone sour. And the sentence about the vices of the boy is applied to the imaginary figure in Monmouth Street. Heaven does not quite lie about us in our infancy if we are citizens of Bozland, but certainly men move farther and farther away from the purity and happiness of childhood into dissipation and crime, and life is a process of deterioration and a forgetting.
Better to move with time at the sacrifice of clear and willed identity, than to deny it, as Mrs Clennam and the whole of aristocratic society do. Yet if life is determined not by religious energy from outside the system, but by the system itself, reliance on time as redeemer is belied by the second law of thermodynamics. But there was a secular alternative: evolution. Only a culture released from an Aristotelian position that identifies permanence with the divine, and change with corruption, could have been ready for the Darwinian argument.
4 The connection with the novelist's own surname need not be dwelt upon. Significantly too, Dickens transferred the name 'Lucy' from the character played in Manchester by Ellen Ternan to the heroine of the new novel. He may well have retained a fondness for his childhood sweetheart, Lucy Stroughill, as Michael Slater has argued,S but Lucie Manette also bears a striking physical resemblance to Ellen Ternan. 6 If then, we can date the 'main idea' of the story to the August of 1857 there may well be a further significance in the long delay before Dickens actually began work on his novel in January 1859.