Echo as Writing in Bleak House by Charles Dickens: Lady Dedlock's Testament

Céline Prest
2018 Polysèmes  
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) bore witness to the very sudden emergence, circulation and gradual invasion of paper which transformed the role of documents in the field of communication in the nineteenth century. Before the Industrial Revolution, paper making was still a craft involving a lengthy manufacturing process: with the invention of the paper machines at the beginning of the nineteenth century, it became possible to make paper continuously, with fewer workers, faster, and to produce paper
more » ... d to produce paper of better quality. Paper making was becoming an industry. 1 There was tremendous progress in the circulation of goods as well: thanks to the railway, which developed in the early nineteenth century, the postal system evolved and its network expanded throughout the country. It was thus possible for letters and newspapers to circulate regularly, faster, more cheaply and effectively. 2 It seem ed that communication and the circulation of documents had never been easier. However, this is not what Charles Dickens shows in his novels, where official circuits cannot be relied on and messengers cannot be trusted, where documents get lost and destroyed in the mass of paper saturating public and private spaces. Paper seems to have lost its original purpose which is the conveying of a semantic meaning. These changes disrupt the relation of the author and the reader to documents, as well as the connection between author and reader. Throughout his career, Dickens conducted a reflection on the writing of texts, and on the transmission and reception of documents. His deep mistrust of paper comes across in his novels as he invests it with a negative power. This defiance may seem paradoxical for Charles Dickens, who entrusted his whole existence to paper: he was a prolific writer, the editor of two newspapers, an active correspondent. However, as a writer, Dickens never ceased to explore the world of signs to the full, searching new forms of writing, new media, and
doi:10.4000/polysemes.4255 fatcat:lamlfpidgndgtfkowjohf6446u