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Title: Vital commonplaces : Dickens, Tennyson & Victorian letters of condolence.
Author: Edwards, M. J.
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 1995
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Th~S the~is is a study of nineteenth century forms of grief and mournLng, wlth particular reference to the pressures of writing to the bereaved, and how these were, 0'- were not, overcome. Although the focus is mainly on the letters of condolence and on the poems of Tennyson, and the novels, journalism and letters of condolence of Dickens, use is also made of letters by the following: Thomas Carlyle, Edward FitzGerald, Benjamin Jowett, Cardinal Newman, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and Queen Victoria. Letters of condolence to Henry Hfillam after the death of his son, Arthur, (given in appendix from unpubl ished originals in Christ Church College Library, Oxford), and also Letters of condolence to George Eliot, are also studied. Twentieth century psychological studies of bereavement by Freud (Mourning and MeLancholia [1917]), Eric Lindemann (Symptomoiogyof Grief, [1944]) Geoffrey Gorer (Death and Bereavement in Contemporary Britain [1965]), and by Col in Murray Parkes (Bereavement; studies of grief in adult life [1986]), serve to identify common and universal features of the processes of grief and mourn i ng. Correspondence about Arthur Hallam's life and death, and about the exhumat i on of Rosset t i 's poems, show how the language wit h which death and grief is treated in letters, is fraught with difficulties. This thesis establishes a link between the language of fiction, poetry and letters, and between the conventions of expressing sympathetic grief in the form of condolences, and Victorian conventions of funerals and mourning, as found in fiction, letters, art criticism, Dickens' journalism, a publication for undertakers, and in the monuments at Highgate Cemetery. Delineating the fears which faced a condoler, reveals the common awareness that words of comfort can seem useLess and empty. It ls also seen that in the Victorian age, the conventions of grief and mourning were felt to have separated from the sentiment within. This felt inadequacy had serious impl icatlons for the wrlter of a letter of condolence. This thesis identifies the feeling which many condolers shared: that'· words of comfort seemed merely comnonplace and formalised, and were therefore unable to convey sincerlty, or to mark partlcularity. That writing cannot fully record the modulations of a voice, or convey action, presents a writer of a letter of condolence with a further difflculty. Words already felt to be commonpLace or conventional, mlght seem dead on the page, without voice or gesture. This thesis del ineates the convent lons and conmonplaces of funerals, of mourning, and of letters of condolence, as a problem whlch ls ever-renewed. Close readings of Tennyson's letters of condolence and of In Memorl4m are provided, in order to establish how, In part icular contrast to Dickens, Tennyson was able to resurrect such comnonplaces. A study of Our MUtU4l Frlend and of Dickens' letters of condolence shows how, Dickens seeks to deny the anguish of grlef. Whereas Dlckens is confldent and certain about his power to condole and about hls vlews of an after-life, Tennyson is hesitant and reticent. Whereas Dickens seeks to rouse and be heartfelt, Tennyson is cautious.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Funerals; Mourning; Grief; Bereavement; Hallam