‘In Praise of Miss Tox’—Felicia Gordon

In Dombey and Son, Dickens lavishes loving detail on the minor character of Miss Tox who, aside from being a sycophantic cheerleader for Mr Dombey, might seem almost incidental to the wider meaning of the novel. But as early as the first number finished in Lausanne in 1846, when writing to Forster about the illustrations, Dickens fore-fronted her importance, commenting: ‘Great pains will be necessary with Miss Tox.’1 His enthusiasm was not, however shared by Lord Jeffrey, who when writing to Dickens about his admiration for the early chapters of the novel commented: ‘About Miss Tox and her Major, and the Chicks, perhaps I do not care enough. But you know I always grudge the exquisite painting you waste on such portraits.’2 I want to focus on some of this ‘exquisite painting’ and to argue that far from being a ‘waste’, Miss Tox is central to the themes of the book and in particular tells us a great deal about Dickens and women (always a difficult topic).

On one level Miss Tox fits into the proverbial category of comic butts, the old maid, too poor and too plain to be sought in marriage, a failure in the matrimonial stakes and therefore a legitimate object of mockery. Or as Margaret Walters puts it in her introduction to Gissing’s The Odd Woman: ‘Ridiculed by men, treated with scornful anxiety by other women, the old maid is a traditional figure of fun. Men without women may achieve a certain romantic panache; women without men are oddities, hardly women at all.’3

Fundamentally this was a judgement based on the proposition that a woman’s only vocation was marriage. Failing that she was a useless remnant. It is in this guise that the narrator, first introduces Miss Tox: ‘The lady… was a long lean figure, wearing such a faded air that she seemed not to have been made in what linen-drapers call ‘fast colours’ originally and to have little by little washed out.’(17).4 She is the epitome of the plain, awkward and necessarily comic single woman. The assumption being, that if a woman is neither sexually desirable nor rich and thus marriageable, she is worthless, a feeling notably internalised by Miss Tox herself.Thanks to her meagre personal attractions and income (note how the two are conjoined), Miss Tox feels the need to be conciliating, to apologise for her existence. Her manner is ‘the very pink of general propitiation and politeness…Her hands had contracted a spasmodic habit of raising themselves of their own accord as in involuntary admiration. Her eyes were liable to a similar affection.’(17) Physical details confirm her obsequious manner: ‘She had the softest voice that ever was heard: and her nose, stupendously aquiline, had a little knob in the very centre of key-stone of the bridge, whence it tended downwards towards her face, as in an invincible determination never to turn up at anything.’ (17) Turning up one’s nose is of course a sign of superiority and contempt, an attitude shown as grotesquely impossible to Miss Tox and her ‘stupendously aquiline’ nose.

Awkwardness extends to her dress sense: ‘though perfectly genteel and good [it] had a certain character of angularity and scantiness’, qualities which express both her physical and economic being. Her clothing possesses a kind of stubborn animism continuously at war with Miss Tox’s efforts to appear stylish. ‘She was accustomed to wear odd weedy little flowers in her bonnets and caps. Strange grasses were sometimes perceived in her hair; and it was observed by the curious, of all her collars, frills, tuckers, wristbands and other gossamer articles – indeed of everything she wore which had two ends to it intended to unite – that the two ends were never on good terms, and wouldn’t quite meet without a struggle.’ (17) Finally, in a novel focused on the centrality of money, Miss Tox figures as ‘a lady of what is called limited independence’. For the Dombeys and Bagstocks of this world this is a damning definition. No wonder she flutters and flusters and propitiates, she knows the genteel society of which she is a minor member, considers her superfluous [a non-entity].

Miss Tox, however, breaks new ground in Dickens’ depiction of the old maid trope, which is why, as Dickens indicated, ‘great care’ was needed to be taken with her visual presentation, that she should not be simply caricatured. As Michael Slater [to whose work and advice I am very much indebted in this paper] observes in his excellent Dickens and Women, Dickens’ early novels and sketches are full of a traditional vein of anti-woman humour where he fiercely mocks unattractive young women or foolish older spinsters who presume to aspire to matrimony, as being either spiteful or ridiculous or both. Miss Wardle, Miss Squeers, Miss Miggs, Charity Pecksniff are all examples of Dickens jeering at ‘frights’ (Slater, 231).5 By rights, Miss Tox should belong to this sisterhood, but in her case, we find a marked shift in emphasis. Because, one can argue, Dickens in Dombey had begun to put two and two together; namely to relate the position of women in Britain, even comical old maids, to the workings of the economic system.

One of the major themes of Dombey, arising from the dehumanising effects of capitalist finance, is the dangers, frustrations and humiliations experienced by women in the male- oriented world of Victorian England. As Kate Millett observed: [in Dombey and Son] ‘Dickens achieved a nearly perfect indictment of both patriarchy and capitalism … a superb illustration of Engels’ statements on the subordination of women within the system of property. Yet Dickens did this without ever relinquishing the sentimental version of women…’6 In this paper I hope to illustrate how Miss Tox encapsulates this Dickensian contradiction.

In some respects, Miss Tox incarnates the Victorian feminine ideal of womanliness. She is not assertive; she propitiates the powerful; she admires Mr Dombey’s ‘greatness’; and though a spinster, she is happy to care for little Paul Dombey and indeed enjoys children, displaying attributes of motherliness. But she is a left over; a woman no one has chosen to marry. In this respect, Miss Tox is almost certainly a harbinger of the so-called ‘Redundant or Surplus Women Problem’ which came to a head after the 1851 Census (Dombey is 1848-49). This Census for the first time included a question about marital status and revealed that out of a national population of 20 million there were 500,000 more women than men; and two and a half million unmarried women. In the economic parlance of the day, the poor, the old and single women were considered ‘redundant’ because they were non-productive. Women who married and had children clearly were productive in the only way they were deemed fit to be (see Polly Toodles).

‘The single woman excess problem’, which became a minor moral panic, was first publicised by William Rathbone Greg in 1861 who published an article entitled ‘Why are Women Redundant?’ in the National Review. He concluded that the only remedy for the single women scourge was the mass emigration of unmarried women to Canada or Australia. Gregg reckoned that 10,000 ships would be needed to transport 500,000 surplus women to the colonies where they would find suitable husbands. [Dickens himself, we know, was an advocate of emigration, (see David Copperfield} though not necessarily focussed on women.7]

Not everyone agreed with his premises. For example, Frances Power Cobbe a formidable feminist, journalist and early anti-vivisectionist, riposted to Gregg in an article entitled ‘What Shall we do with our Old Maids?’8 She argued that marriage should not be the inevitable choice for women (which she described as a Hobson’s choice) but only should be embarked on in the case of mutual affection and that single women (especially of the middle and upper middle classes) should have opportunities for education and professional training in order to earn decent incomes and to enjoy fulfilling lives. Such women would in no sense be redundant or surplus. Cobbe, however, it is fair to say, represented a minority opinion.

George Gissing was another Victorian novelist who confronted the single woman excess issue. In the Odd Woman (1893) the Madden sisters are like a miserable deflation of Miss Tox. There is no comedy in their self-denying, penny pinching lives, nor in their estimate of what it is to be an old maid. They are uneducated and untrained; the only jobs they can aspire to are as companions. They are obsessed with money, living in cramped shabby lodgings where they cling to their diminishing capital. Remaining pathetically girlish in middle age, they are perfect examples of genteel womanhood, who see themselves as failures and freaks. These leftover lives make nonsense, Gissing implies, of the Victorian cant about womanhood.9

The Surplus/Redundant Women problem continued to reverberate into the 1920s and 30s. Dorothy Sayers introduced Miss Climpson into her detective novels in Unnatural Death (1926), an old maid running a typing bureau that fronts for a detective agency. In a chapter entitled ‘A Use for Spinsters’ the redundant woman problem is ‘solved’ by Peter Whimsy [solved, of course by a man]:

Miss Climpson’, said Lord Peter, ‘is a manifestation of the wasteful way in which this country is run…. Just think. People want questions asked…. [instead of sending a flat- footed policeman] I send a lady with a long woolly jumper on knitting needles and jingly things round her neck. Of course, she asks questions – everyone expects it. Nobody is surprised. Nobody is alarmed. And so-called superfluity is agreeably and usefully disposed of.’ (Chapter 3.).

In discussions about Dickens as a social reformer, it is often suggested that his exposés of various forms of abuse: Yorkshire schools, imprisonment for debt, Chancery court obfuscation etc. were already in the process of reform or public attention when he tackled them. However, in the case of the ‘Redundant or Surplus Woman’ issue, he may have anticipated what became a long-lived cultural debate. Miss Tox, for the purposes of this cultural anxiety, can be construed as the canary in the coal mine. It is true that concerns about the fate of middle-class single women in exposés of governesses’ vulnerabilities and exploitation and were a staple of Victorian fiction [Jane Eyre (1848); Ruth Pinchin Martin Chuzzlewit (1844)]. As to working class women falling into acute poverty and prostitution these too loom large in Dickens’ fiction (David Copperfield (1850). Remarkably, in Dombey, Dickens has created a quartet of the feminine powerless, vulnerable and redundant: Florence Dombey, Edith Grainger, Alice Marwood and Lucretia Tox. Though representing different class positions, they are all dependent on or victims of male power. In a sense they are all surplus/redundant women or likely to become so.

In the course of the novel, Dickens reveals that Miss Tox, (like Florence), far from being surplus and redundant, belongs to that small band of people who keep human society human. Though she incarnates the emotional vulnerability of the genteel spinster, rather than functioning merely as a comic butt, she becomes a lynch pin of disinterested kindness, while never abandoning her absurd veneration for Mr Dombey or her class-consciousness. Like other peripheral characters, Toots, Susan Nipper, Captain Cuttle and the Toodles family, she manifests a human warmth [or capacity for sentiment] utterly absent from the Dombey world. The overwhelming greed and selfish egotism of the economic system and its denaturing effect on individuals dominates the ‘real world’. It is only in the small refuges open to the minor characters: Sol Gills instrument shop; Miss Tox’s mews residence, the Toodle family’s welcoming hearth, that good nature and humanity subsist.

In terms of the rhetoric of productivity, dear to economists, productivity or lack of it extends particularly to women: not only Miss Tox but Edith (who lost a child) and Alice have no living children. As we have seen, Frances Power Cobbe and many others argued that women’s status should not be linked to a failure in having children and that their alleged uselessness arose largely from the embargo on women receiving a good education and the opportunity to work in any remunerative profession where they could be economically productive. But Dickens, though fully aware of women’s precarious economic position, the notion of them competing in the public sphere with men remained, to put it mildly, problematic. As he wrote in 1861 (the same year as Gregg’s article); 10

The people who write books on the rights of women beg the question. They assume if women usurped the functions of men it would be a clear gain, – so much added to their present merits. It never occurs to them that it would be destructive of what they have, – a total overthrow of everything in them which is winning and lovable. A male female is repulsive.

Florence Dombey, it is clear, incarnates ‘Everything that is winning and loveable’. She represents the Dickensian feminine ideal, almost miraculously rescued from a life on the streets and the ‘care’ of Mrs Brown. She, like Edith, Miss Tox and Alice Brown, demonstrates that Dickens understood there was a problem, though he disliked the solutions to it suggested by feminist campaigners such as training in the professions. [Implications of ‘professional’ as applied to women.] It was axiomatic that ‘Ladies’ could not work. Because she is a ‘lady’, Edith Grainger, an upper-middle-class woman with aristocratic connections, sells herself off in marriage to the highest bidder, a form, as many people from Frederick Engels on noted, and she herself feels bitterly, of licenced prostitution. If poor, women worked at menial jobs or went on the streets, like Alice Marwood. All this Dickens shows with absolute clarity. We can even take Edith and Alice, rebelling against their male oppressors, as possible metaphors of a wider social/female discontent. But Miss Tox, who remains a comic character not untinged with pathos, is certainly no rebel. Rather in her doomed worship of Mr Dombey, she points poignantly to the problem of single women’s emotional vulnerability.

This is brilliantly developed in the scene when Mrs Chicks tells Miss Tox of Dombey’s approaching marriage. [Thanks to Mrs Chicks manoeuvrings we know that Miss Tox is persuaded to dream that she might succeed the first Mrs Dombey. One can only be glad for her sake that she doesn’t. What a ghastly time she would have had of it (this is counter- factual history) if she had married Mr Dombey. She would have been the most abject doormat in the house.] Miss Tox’s humiliation at the hands of Mrs Chick, ranks with the undoing of Charity Pecksniff on the morning of her wedding. Yet Miss Tox’s response, after fainting into the arms of the ‘native’ and showering him with the diminutive watering can, one of the best slap-stick scenes in the novel, is not one of spite or of anger. She thinks too poorly of herself to be very surprised, though she tries feebly to defend herself against Mrs Chick’s accusations of plotting to ensnare Mr Dombey:

‘The idea!’ said Mrs. Chick, ‘of your having basked at my brother’s fireside, like a serpent, and wound yourself, through me, almost into his confidence, Lucretia, that you might in secret, entertain designs upon him, and dare to aspire to contemplate the possibility of his uniting himself to you!’ … ’In my own defence’, faltered Miss Tox, ‘and only in my own defence against your unkind words, my dear Louisa, I would merely ask you if you haven’t often favoured such a fancy, and even said it might happen, for anything we could tell?’ (Chapter 29, 457).

Dickens closes the chapter with a vision of Miss Tox’s forlorn state, excoriated by her erstwhile bosom friend Mrs Chick and exiled from the Dombey hearth:

While poor excommunicated Miss Tox, who, if she were a fawner and toad-eater, was at least an honest and a constant one, and had ever borne a faithful friendship towards her impeacher, and had been truly absorbed and swallowed up in devotion to the magnificence of Mr. Dombey – while poor excommunicated Miss Tox watered her plants with her tears and felt that it was winter in Princess’s Place. (459)

Unlike Charity Pecksniff, whose feelings of rage and humiliation are rather pleasing to the reader, Miss Tox seems incapable of anger against the exploitative Mrs Chick or to resent ‘the lofty manner in which Mr Dombey had made her subservient to his convenience and caprices’ (579). She does not inspire mockery in her grief. Further, she holds no rancour against Dombey or his bride. Attending the Dombey wedding incognito:

Miss Tox’s eyes are red, and her pocket-handkerchief is damp. She is wounded, but not exasperated, and she hopes they may be happy. She quite admits to herself the beauty of the bride and her own comparatively feeble and faded attractions; but the stately image of Mr. Dombey in his lilac waistcoat, and his fawn-coloured pantaloons, is present to her mind, and Miss Tox weeps afresh, behind her veil, on her way home to Princess’s Place. (485) ‘Wounded but not exasperated’, expresses the very essence of her acquiescent nature. She departs from the old maid trope again by lacking the requisite characteristic of spite against more beautiful women. 11 Dickens dwells on her depressive state:

The forlorn Miss Tox abandoned by her friend Louisa Chick and bereft of Mr Dombey’s countenance… became depressed in her spirits, and suffered much from melancholy…. Miss Tox, however, was not of an age or of a disposition long to abandon herself to unavailing regrets…. Her attachments, however ludicrously shown, were real and strong; and she was, as she expressed it, ‘deeply hurt by the unmerited contumely she had met with from Louisa’. But there was no such thing as anger in Miss Tox’s composition. If she had ambled on, through life, in her soft- spoken way, without any opinions, she had, at least, got so far without any harsh passions. (578).

On the plus side, Miss Tox, is capable of surprising energy and initiative, as was shown when she found a wet nurse for little Paul. Subsequently, after her Chickean banishment, seeking a link however tenuous with the Dombey world, she befriends the Toodles family, and offers to help teach the children: ‘smiling patronage and friendship on all there.’ Miss Tox indeed, ceases to be superfluous, creating a useful role for herself as teacher and mentor. She creates a human link between classes (unlike Mr Dombey in his transactions with the Toodles). And she remains faithful to her fallen hero, taking on a secret caring role:

There is not another atom in the world which haunts him so, that feels such sorrow and solicitude about him, as Miss Tox takes out under the black bonnet into the street. (779).

It seems to me that Dombey and Son is a novel partly about loneliness. Take Mr Dombey: ‘In all his life, he had never made a friend. His cold and distant nature had neither sought one nor found one.’ (5. 62). This isolation is partly a result of pride but even more of an economic and social system which privileges competition over fellowship. Set social occasions in the novel; funerals, weddings, dinner parties are a dreadful parody of conviviality. Miss Tox, that redundant spinster, watering her plants and snipping her geraniums, also suffers from loneliness. But she is capable of feeling for others. It is she who responds to Florence’s grief at her mother’s death. It is she who pronounces the heartfelt elegy on the death of little Paul and grasps its significance by remembering, unlike Mr Dombey, that Florence exists. ‘Dear me, dear me! To think’, said Miss Tox, bursting out afresh that night, as if her heart were broken, ‘that Dombey and Son should be a daughter after all.’ (16, 253) Operating outside the financial and social rat race, she like Captain Cuttle and Sol Gils pursues her own path in the dark universe of competition and exploitation:

Miss Tox is not a part of Mr Dombey’s world…Exacting and harassing as ever, it goes on without her; and she, a by no means bright or particular star, moves in her little orbit in the corner of another system, and knows it quite well, and comes and cries, and goes away, and is satisfied. (51,779).

Yet Miss Tox remains a comic character throughout, not because of her situation as an aging spinster, but thanks to her wonderful linguistic turn. Whether her rhetoric is a product of natural genius or of early training at Mrs Pipchin’s, it furnishes an example of Dickens revelling in verbal extravagance. Witness her first gush of admiration for Mr Dombey:

‘But his deportment, my dear Louisa!’ said Miss Tox. ‘His presence! His dignity! No portrait that I have ever seen of anyone has been half so replete with these qualities. Something so stately, you know: so uncompromising; so very wide across the chest: so upright! A pecuniary Duke of York, my love and nothing short of it!’ said Miss Tox. (19)

The unfortunate associations to Dickens’ contemporaries of the Duke of York with marching up and down hills, a tribute to his lack of success as an army commander, his notorious and wide-ranging amorous career and his involvement in selling promotions in the army and the church via his mistress, Mary Anne Clarke, though unwitting on Miss Tox’s part, echoes the novel’s theme of unchecked power in the world of finance. She was right that the duke had a broad chest.12 [picture] Dickens seems to be having his little joke that the ultra-respectable Miss Tox should speak reverently of the scandal-tainted Duke of York. It is less surprising that Major Bagstock frequently invokes him to suggest that he too, the Major, like the Duke was a bit of a lad with the ladies. At the Dombey’s first ‘at home’, for example, he entertains the company: ‘relating stories of the Duke of York to six of the seven mild men’ (455), almost certainly of a scurrilous nature.

Miss Tox’s language demonstrates that she has been well schooled in gentility, “an education of the sentiments rather than of the understanding” as J.S. Mill called it.13 In recommending Mrs Pipchin’s establishment she gushes: ‘Exclusion itself’,(116) a verbal slippage from ‘exclusive’ to ‘exclusion’ suggesting subliminally that what compensates for the meagreness of culinary and intellectual fare is who is kept out. Similarly, regarding Polly Toodles, it would not have done in genteel language to suggest what the wet nurse is actually for; namely, to breastfeed the child. She comes closest to it when after Polly’s dismissal she refers to Paul’s sudden deprivation: ‘Cut off’, said Miss Tox, in a plaintive whisper, ‘from one common fountain!’ (6, 100). Absurd or not, Miss Tox is the only adult who feels what the baby will suffer.

Dombey and Son might have concluded with Miss Tox reminiscing over a cup of tea with Polly about the centrality of Florence, the once despised daughter, to the story, who is no longer redundant: ‘And so Dombey and Son, as I observed upon a certain sad occasion’, said Miss Tox, winding up a host of recollections’ is indeed a daughter, Polly, after all.’ (912 `) In relation to ‘superfluous women’, it is significant that as he settles the final destinies of his characters in marriage, Dickens does not tidy away Miss Tox in matrimony with an appropriate aging bachelor as the reward for being a nice person (like Miss La Creevey in Nicholas Nickleby). Her spinsterhood remains a fact, but she is not redundant. We see her exercising her capacity for usefulness, condescension and elegant phraseology on the baffled but grateful Rob the Grinder. In the reunion of kindred spirits, the happy few that gather round Florence and Walter Gay at the novel’s end, she is constant in her star-struck admiration for Mr Dombey:

Miss Tox is not unfrequently of the family party, and is quite devoted to it, and a great favourite. Her admiration of her once stately patron is, and has been ever since the morning of her shock in Princess’s Place, platonic, but not weakened in the least.’ (943)

Conclusion: In his Introduction to the Penguin Classics edition, Andrew Sanders suggests that: ‘Dombey and Son is less a critique of the social and economic condition of the 1840s than an exploration of emotional deprivation and emotional fulfilment.’ (xi, Penguin Classics) It seems to me that this is a distinction without a difference. Because in Dombey the personal is political in every sense. Emotional and economic deprivation, as experienced by Florence, Edith, Alice and Miss Tox, are shown to be the inevitable result of a denaturing social and economic system or as Edgar Johnson put it, of: ‘the callous inhumanity of an economic doctrine that strips Mr Dombey’s relations with everyone to an assertion of monetary power’.14 Standing on the periphery of this world, is Miss Tox, the no-longer redundant spinster, who, nevertheless, is certainly not a feminist. Neither was her creator.

Frances Power Cobbe, for example, would have terrified her and probably terrified Dickens. Yet in her fluffy way Miss Tox points to Dickens’s conflicting perceptions. On the one hand in Dombey he exposed the scandalous economic and emotional vulnerability of women in mid-Victorian England, on the other, he reassures us that nothing need change very much.

Miss Tox is content to remain in her own small orbit, still worshipping the departed glory of the pecuniary Duke of York.

1 John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens (London: Chapman and Hall, 1899), Vol. I, 463.

2 Letter dated 14th December, ’46, in John Forster, The Life of Charles Dickens (London: Chapman and Hall, 1899), Vol. II, 39.

3 Margaret Walters, Introduction to Gissing’s ‘The Odd Women’ (1893), London: Virgo Press Limited, 1980.

4 Page references in brackets to the Penguin edition of Dombey and Son, 2002.

5 The Pecksniff sisters are an example of this kind of rivalry, pretty and flirtatious Merry envied by her ugly sister Cherry. Miss Tox is entirely lacking in this kind of corrosive envy.

6 Kate Millett, Sexual Politics, London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1971,.89-90.

7 See letter to Forster, 1846: ’Referring… to the reluctance of public men of all parties to give the needful help to schemes of emigration, he ascribed it to a secret belief in “the gentle politico-economical principle that a surplus population must and ought to starve”’ Vol I, 471.

8 Frances Power Cobbe, ‘What shall we do with our Old Maids?’ (Fraser’s Magazine, November 1862).

9 Margaret Walters, Introduction to Gissing’s ‘The Odd Women’ (1893), London: Virgo Press Limited, 1980.

10 Quarterly Review 1861, in Michael Slater, Dickens and Women, 316-17]

11 I am grateful to Christine Corton for pointing out another aspect of the old maid trope: namely that her spitefulness extends particularly to handsome or beautiful women. See Alan Chedzoy, A Scandalous Woman (London: Allison and Busby, 1992 citing those ‘plain women’ who envied and attacked Caroline Norton,

12 Frederick Prince, duke of York and Albany (1763-1827), 2nd son of George 3 and Queen Charlotte. In 1764 he was ‘elected’ to the bishopric of Osnabruck, through the influence of his father as elector of Hanover. He was his father’s favourite son. Married Frederica, eldest daughter of Fredrick William 2 King of Prussia. Soon separated. Put in command of the English contingent in 1793 to co-operate with the Austrians. He was not a success as a commander; gained territory and then lost it repeatedly. Made commander in chief 1798. Keen on reforming the army to put down influence of personal favouritism. Looked after the soldiers. But he was [strongly] implicated in the Mary Anne Clarke* case of 1809. She made money out of her affair with the duke, promising promotion to officers in return for payment. Despite his contribution to the nation’s defence and his improvements to the army ‘the Duke is now chiefly remembered in the public mind as the man who marched his army up and down a hill and ran it as a commercial proposition with the aid of his mistress’. (GEC Peerage and DNB) Bronze statue of Duke erected 1833, surmounts column in Waterloo Place.

*Mary Anne Clarke (1776-1852) Mistress of the Duke of York from 1803 to 1811. She let it be known that for a consideration, she was willing to use her influence with him to exercise his immense powers of patronage in army and church for preferments. She added names to the duke’s lists which he signed without reading. The balloon went up in 1809. A Colonel Wardle brought 8 charges against York for misuse of military patronage. The charges at the trial were ‘unproven’ but there is no doubt that Mrs Clarke had received money for her influence with him and that he knew of her actions. The duke resigned as commander in chief in 1809 and ended his relationship with Mrs Clarke. He was reinstated 1811-27. The case represents part of an emerging popular critique of ‘old corruption’. Daphne du Maurier, Mary Anne; Clarke was du Maurier’s great- grandmother. The novel is generally historically factual.

13 J. S. Mill, Subjection of Women, quoted in Millet, Sexual Politics 96.

14 ‘On every level in the world of Dombey and Son, although not in every breast, the same forces are at work. From the stately mansion of the aristocracy on Brook Street and the pineries of Mr. Dombey’s banker-associates down to the rag-filled hovel of Good Mrs Brown, competitive greed and indifference to the welfare of others created a cynical economic system that spawns all the vices and cruelties of society. And of that system – it might even be called Dombeyism – Mr Dombey is the symbolic embodiment.’ Edgar Johnson, Charles  Dickens: his tragedy and triumph, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1952.



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