‘The World Was Very Busy Now, In Sooth, And Had A Lot To Say’: Dickens, China And Chinese Commodities In Dombey And Son

Issue: Vol 5, No 1: Summer 2013
Pages: 28-43
Author(s): Hannah Lewis-Bill (University of Exeter)
Citation: http://www.victoriannetwork.org/index.php/vn/article/view/44

Abstract

Dickens’s interest in transnational locales is evident throughout his oeuvre. Whilst his journalism is highly critical of some of these locales, Dickens’s novels offer a more nuanced perspective. This article addresses Dickens’s representation of China and of Chinese commodities, primarily tea but also silk and chinaware. It asks how Dickens uses these commodities, as well as ideas and terms relating to commercial trade, to explore the relationship between China and Britain. Focusing in particular on Dombey and Son, I show that transnational value is defined for the British readership in commodity terms in the novel, and I reflect more broadly on what this commercial value offers to the social fabric of nineteenth-century Britain and contemporary understandings of Britishness.



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