The Rise of the Office Clerk in Literary Culture, 1880-1939 by Jonathan Wild

By Jonathan Wild

This leading edge learn investigates the emergence and effect of the decrease center classification on British print tradition during the determine of the place of work clerk. utilizing a number of resource materials--including novels, magazines, newspapers, letters, and existence writing--the writer strains the literary profile of the white collar employee in the course of a time of remarkable switch at school and tradition. This interdisciplinary paintings explores key texts by way of George Gissing, Trollope, Thackeray, Dickens and Forster.

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69 The repeated motif of the literary clerk, and his changing fortunes, suggests both the nature of these glimpses and also the way in which they were channelled and controlled by current literary trends and prejudices. These factors evidently ensured that while the clerk class themselves were ‘getting on’, as Wells had claimed, their fictional counterparts in literary culture appeared to mock the easy optimism of this phrase. British literature would have to wait – like Richard Larch – for the following generation before much of the critical establishment was convinced that a City clerk’s problems were really worth illustrating and solving.

The fact that the book was so widely recognised on its debut (Bennett himself counted forty-one largely positive reviews) was in the main due to Bennett’s choice of John Lane as publisher. As Peter D. 65 The Clerk in Literature, 1880–1900 31 The Manchester Guardian’s anonymous reviewer points towards the difficulty faced by any able British writer who might wish to focus upon ‘commonplace’ subject matter: Granting that such a character is worth describing, it is well described. The writer is an uncompromising realist.

57 This notion of the reader’s security and confidence being won through the authority with which the commonplace is observed seems to summarise Bennett’s achievement in A Man from the North. C. cafes, a day trip to Littlehampton, the Putney omnibus, St Martin’s Lane public library, and the day-to-day office routine at Curpet and Smythe’s. 59 This only becomes a The Clerk in Literature, 1880–1900 29 remarkable claim when one situates Larch in his literary context. Few other works of British fiction of this period share Bennett’s subtlety and integrity in attempting to render the unremarkable.

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