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The Law in Fiction: Charles Dickens and English Law

April 03, 2013

By Joe Parsio, Head of Access Services

This is the third installment in our ‘Law in Fiction’ blog series. Over the next few weeks, we will continue to outline some resources that the Biddle Law Library has to offer regarding the law in fiction. Our first two posts, in the five-part series, can be found here and here.



Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Throughout Charles Dickens’ work, the law and lawyers play a considerable part in the plots of his stories. In many of his novels, Dickens describes the courts, the rules of law and actors within the law at the time the novels take place. Charles Dickens as a Legal Historianby William S. Holdsworth, formerly Vinerian Professor of English Law in the University of Oxford, explores how Dickens’ work truly captures legal issues and processes in 19th century England. Holdsworth points out that Dickens wrote prior to the beginning of the legal reform era. Because of this, we get an account of the interplay between archaic and “modern” rules of the time.

Biddle holds a number of Dickens’ titles in its collection, including Bleak HouseThe Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (also known as The Pickwick Papers), Oliver Twist, and Great Expectations. Check them out for some historical legal fun. Just remember…Charles Dickens is not as old as William Shakespeare!