Introduction: ‘Mr Popular Sentiment’: Dickens and Feeling
The introduction to this issue of 19, ‘“Mr Popular Sentiment”: Dickens and Feeling’, considers the turn away from Dickens’s sentimentality in the mid-nineteenth century. Drawing upon nineteenth-century reviews, it argues that Dickens’s sentimental characters and pathetic situations were perceived as politically radical and dangerously biased against the upper classes. This became of particular concern from the 1850s onwards, when an increase in literacy and cheaper publications meant that Dickens’s novels could be read by a cross-class mass-market readership. The reaction against ‘Mr Popular Sentiment’ was, in truth, a reaction to his populism and his popularity.
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