Article ID: CBB986567056

Dickens, Dinosaurs, and Design (2016)


Charles Dickens's novels only occasionally feature images of prehistoric creatures. There is, of course, the famous “elephantine lizard. . .waddling. . .up Holborn Hill” in the opening scenes of Bleak House (1852–53), which, as is brilliantly captured in Tom Gauld's recent cartoon “Fragments of Dickens's Lost Novel ‘A Megalosaur's Progress’” (2011), has become a kind of icon of Dickens's entire fictional oeuvre (Figure 1). But beyond Bleak House’s iconic megalosaurus “forty feet long or so,” Dickens's panoramic representations of urban landscapes, which Adelene Buckland has shown to abound with quasi-geological ruins, are usually populated only by their more diminutive modern inhabitants (1; ch. 1). Even when the changing cityscape of “carcases. . .and fragments” of “giant forms” seems, as in Dombey and Son (1847–48), to suggest the presence of colossal fossilized skeletons thrown up by a “great earthquake,” they remain lifeless and merely augment the pervading atmosphere of urban upheaval (46; ch. 6). Animate extinct animals instead appear more commonly in novels by contemporaries such as William Makepeace Thackeray or, later in the century, Henry James. In their fiction, creatures such as the megatherium, a large edentate from the Pliocene epoch, not only afford apposite metaphors for gargantuan manifestations of industrial modernity, as in the former's Mrs. Perkins's Ball (1846) and the latter's The Bostonians (1885–86). More significantly, they also provide a model for the complex structures of serialized novels, whether commendatory, as in Thackeray's The Newcomes (1853–55), or otherwise, as in the famous epithet “large loose baggy monsters” that James coined in the preface to the New York edition of The Tragic Muse (1908) (1:x).

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Review John C. Murray (2018) Review of "Dickens, Dinosaurs, and Design". Journal of Literature and Science (pp. 126-127). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Kaplan, Fred M.
Fulweiler, Howard W.
Beauchamp, Gorman
Brinkman, Paul David
Brinkman, Paul
Zwierlein, Anne-Julia
19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Nineteenth-Century Literature
Studies in the Literary Imagination
Earth Sciences History: Journal of the History of the Earth Sciences Society
Endeavour: Review of the Progress of Science
Journal of Medical Biography
Princeton University Press
Twenty-First Century Books
Pickering & Chatto
Virginia, University of
Stanford University
Rutgers University
Science and literature
Popular culture
Dickens, Charles
Eliot, George
Osborn, Henry Fairfield
Marsh, Othniel Charles
James, Henry
Darwin, Charles Robert
Time Periods
19th century
Great Britain
British Isles
United States
Crystal Palace

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