Abstract

This article argues that Barnaby Rudge is the product of two simultaneous developments in the late 1830s. First, Charles Dickens's print-cultural fear of diminishment through authorial repetition was exemplified by his predecessors Walter Scott (as revealed in Lockhart's biography) and William Harrison Ainsworth (whom Dickens befriended). Second, a culture of imitation arose in which cheap imitations of Dickens's works threatened to confuse the book-buyer and flood the market with similar wares. This article will examine one imitation, Barnaby Budge, from 1841, to demonstrate how such plagiaristic works read and misread their sources. Although Dickens's Rudge can be considered a Scott-like historical novel, it is not so much a capitulation to an older model of novel-writing; rather, this book of riot and rebellion marks Dickens's own break with the past and present.

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