The Art of Alibi
English Law Courts and the Novel
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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List of Illustrations
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Alibis, even when true, draw their strength from the support of others, and so has this book, concerned in part with the history of alibis. The case it makes for placing the English novel at the scene of the law courts could never have been made without the incisive comments that Nina Auerbach penned in purple and green ink ...
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Walking down the Strand in 1871, one would come upon a massive, unprecedented construction project at the heart of London: the building of the Royal Courts of Justice. The Victorians were erecting a palace to the judicial process, one they had begun planning in the 1830s. Throughout the nineteenth century similar projects were under way across the nation. ...
One: From Scaffold to Law Court, from Criminal Broadsheet and Biography to Newspaper and Novel
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During the era stretching from the English novel’s eighteenth-century beginnings up to its establishment as the nation’s ascendant literary form in the Victorian period, the gallows, which was both a public, physical site around which the climax of justice was focused and a central symbolic figure in the culture, ...
Two: Caleb Williams and the Novel’s Forensic Form
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After attending a play in 1830, Henry Crabb Robinson jotted down in his diary with some hyperbole that the “adoption of legal incidents as the source of romantic and dramatic interest . . . began with Godwin.”1 As Robinson, a barrister and a highly literate reader, perceived, the publication ...
Three: Mary Shelley’s Legal Frankenstein
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Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), so well known as both gothic and science fiction, has never registered as a particularly legal story. So, it may come as a surprise to some readers to realize that Victor Frankenstein— the descendant of “counsellors and syndics,”1 which is to say lawyers and judges ...
Four: Victorian Courthouse Structures, The Pickwick Papers
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It is no accident that Mitford begins her discussion with the economics of Pickwick and ends with the book’s changing shape—“fragmentary, except the trial.” At the time she writes, Pickwick is ushering in a new era in the serialization of novels. With Pickwick, for the first time a serial begins drawing on material that an author is producing ...
Five: Mary Barton’s Telltale Evidence
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Elizabeth Gaskell’s first novel, Mary Barton (1848), climaxes in a trial scene. John Barton, Mary’s father, has assassinated a factory owner’s son to protest the lethal conditions suffered by workers in Manchester. Jem Wilson, however, is mistakenly put on trial for the murder, which is attributed to a romantic rivalry ...
Six: The Newgate Novel and the Advent of Detective Fiction
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In the 1830s and 1840s a literary controversy raged over the depiction of criminals in novels. William Makepeace Thackeray shuddered “for the public, whom its literary providers have gorged with blood, and foul Newgate garbage.” “Let your rogues in novels act like rogues, and your honest men like honest men; ...
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In the 1890s Robert Gemmell Hutchison reimagined Abraham Solomon’s 1857 painting Waiting for the Verdict. For us Hutchison’s painting, titled Awaiting the Verdict (fig. 10), offers a glimpse of the evolving tenor of the novel’s juristic structuring later in the century, again allowing us to envisage in its narratival tension …
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Page Count: 216
Illustrations: 10 halftones
Publication Year: 2002