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The Theme of Crime in the Novels Paul Clifford and Eugene Aram by Edward Bulwer, Oliver Twist and Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens and William Harrison Ainsworth Rookwood and Jack Sheppard
Word Count: 1,169
In the early nineteenth century an interest in criminals and the common highwayman arose in Europe Many magazines in London such as Bentleys Miscellany Frasers Magazine and The Athenaeum featured sections that were reserved for stories about highwayman and their numerous adventures The growing interest in the subject inspired many authors to write about the various exploits of popular criminals and highwayman Some prominent examples of this type of novel were Edward Bulwers Paul Clifford 1830 and Eugene Aram 1832 Charles Dickens Oliver Twist 1838-39 and Barnaby Rudge 1841 and William Harrison Ainsworth Rookwood 1834 and Jack Sheppard 1839-40 Several of these novels were based upon famous crimes and criminal careers of the past Eugene Aram Dick Turpin in Rookwood and Jack Sheppard others derived from contemporary crime Altick 1970 p 72 Although many authors chose to base their stories on criminals William Harrison Ainsworths Rookwood and Jack Sheppard are two of the best examples of the theme of crime and punishment in the nineteenth century Ainsworth started his writing career as a writer of Gothic stories for various magazines Gothic elements are included in Ainsworths novel the ancient hall the family vaults macabre burial vaults secret marriage and so forth John 1998 p 30 Rookwood is a story about two half-brothers in a conflict over the family inheritance The English criminal who Ainsworth decides to entangle in Rookwood was Dick Turpin a highwayman executed in 1739 However echoing Bulwer Ainsworths explanation for his interest in Dick Turpin like Bulwers explanation in his choice of Eugene Aram as a subject is personal and familial John 1998 p 31 Though the basis of the novels seem similar Ainsworth treated Dick Turpin in a different way than Bulwer treated Eugene Aram Ainsworth romanticizes history but basically sticks to the facts as far as he knew them Perhaps more importantly Ainsworth does not pretend that the Turpin he invents is the real Dick Turpin nor
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