"They belong to ourselves.": Criminal proximity in nineteenth-century British narrative and culture
Patten, Robert L.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation investigates the spatial proximity between the criminal and nineteenth-century British society and the concomitant desire to produce a separation between the two. It focuses on two central events in English penal history, the formation of the Metropolitan Police in 1829 and the phasing out of criminal transportation in the 1860s, in order to examine the interaction between criminal law, cultural attitudes about crime, and fictional representations of criminals and the police. Chapter one explains the development of a unified police force as one of several efforts to organize the vast and confusing spaces that comprised London. It examines urban sketches by John Wight, Pierce Egan, and Charles Dickens and underscores each author's attempt to provide a safe but accurate urban experience for his readers. Chapter two reads Newgate Novels alongside police manuals from the 1820s and 30s in order to demonstrate that the novels' project is the same as the police's: to read faces and bodies and identify criminals based on physical features. Chapters three and four examine the interaction between the end of criminal transportation and mid-century narratives that feature returned convicts. As the reintegration of reformed prisoners becomes a social imperative, fictional texts explore the possibility of representing reform and reintegrating characters back into the homes from which they were previously expelled. Close readings of Tom Taylor's stage melodrama, The Ticket-of-Leave Man, Mrs. Henry Wood's East Lynne, and Dickens's Great Expectations appear in these chapters. Chapter five examines two narratives about scandal: newspaper accounts of the 1877 Turf Frauds, in which four Scotland Yard detectives were indicted, and Lady Audley's Secret, an 1862 sensation novel by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. By reading the two sensational narratives alongside Samuel Smiles's Self-Help, the chapter details the very fine line between self-improvement and scandalous fraud. The chapter demonstrates that fraudulent behavior activated the production of perhaps equally fraudulent police figures that were perceived as solutions.