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Coining Counterfeit Culture: Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market

Nicole Lobdell (DePauw University, IN, USA)

Abstract


Victorian slang is endlessly fascinating, but no readings of Goblin Market have considered its use of slang. This article examines Goblin Market through nineteenth-century slang, specifically slang connected to money and counterfeiting. For example, the phrase ‘Jimmy O’Goblin’ is nineteenth-century rhyming slang for ‘sovereign’, or a sovereign coin, and ‘fig’is slang for a mediocre counterfeit coin. Tracing elements of slang such as these situates Goblin Market in conversation with other counterfeiting narratives of the period. Published in the popular periodical Household Words, Dickens’s ‘Two Chapters on Bank Note Forgeries’ (1850) about the difficulties in identifying forged banknotes, and Sidney Laman Blanchard’s ‘A Biography of a Bad Shilling’ (1851), a short story told from the perspective of counterfeit coin, conveyed mid-Victorian middle-class fascination with forgery. Goblin Market is different in that it focuses on middle-class anxiety. The poem relies on nineteenth-century slang, which has the ability to go undetected, in order to create a sublimated narrative about the perils of deceit. Looking at Goblin Market through its slang doubling reveals the hidden Victorian fears of counterfeiting and fraud, in the home and the marketplace.

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