A ‘touch of Tombatism’: Mary Lamb, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, and Reading in Graveyards

Gardner, John (2022) A ‘touch of Tombatism’: Mary Lamb, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, and Reading in Graveyards. Victoriographies, 12 (2). pp. 115-133. ISSN 2044-2424

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.3366/vic.2022.0453

Abstract

This essay is about the significance of Mary Lamb’s portrayal of a child reading from a gravestone in the short story ‘Elizabeth Villiers; or The Sailor Uncle’ from Mrs. Leicester’s School (1809). Maybe the most famous tomb-reading scene in literature is that of Pip divining the personalities of his immediate family from their gravestone at the opening of Great Expectations (1860–1). However, a similar scene had been used previously by Mary Shelley in Falkner (1837) and earlier still by Lamb in ‘Elizabeth Villiers; or The Sailor Uncle’. My argument is that Lamb’s text continued to have a hidden, posthumous existence as Shelley and Charles Dickens went on to translate that image of a child reading from their parent’s gravestone. Each author also records and transmits a practice used by poor children to gain an education. Furthermore, the grave acts as a childhood home where dead parents continue to educate their children.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Charles Dickens, Mary Shelley, Mary Lamb, Pedagogy, Reading, Gravestones, Charles Lamb, Mrs. Leicester’s School, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, Falkner, Frankenstein, poor children, reading, education, memorials, bereavement, absent mothers
Faculty: Faculty of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
SWORD Depositor: Symplectic User
Depositing User: Symplectic User
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2021 09:49
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2022 13:19
URI: https://arro.anglia.ac.uk/id/eprint/707110

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