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Victorian Context

Everything is connected.

Hard Times is perhaps the most famous of the “industrial novels” of the mid-Victorian period. It was inspired both by Dickens’ own factory-work experience as a child laborer and by a visit through the “miles of cinder-paths and blazing furnaces and roaring steam engines” of the Victorian-era Midlands.

Carlyle regularly bemoaned the Industrial Revolution. One particularly evocative letter decried the same Midlands as “A frightful scene ... a dense cloud of pestilential smoke hangs over it forever ... and at night the whole region becomes like a volcano spitting fire from a thousand tubes of brick.”

Hard Times’ Thomas Gradgrind is a caricature of James Mill—John Stuart’s father—the early proponent of utilitarianism, who famously educated his son in an All Facts, All the Time system of education not unlike the Gradgrind school. Like Gradgrind’s daughter Louisa, John Stuart suffered a nervous breakdown in early adulthood, finding his way to recovery through the poetry denied him in his youth. John Stuart's version of utilitarianism would be significantly more nuanced than his father's, incorporating something like the Aristotelian Principle into a conception of qualitative hedonism.

And Nice Work—set in the same Midlands, at the nadir of British industrialization—is a spoof of/homage to the Victorian industrial novel generally and Hard Times specifically.

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Where would I go to find more connections between Victorian writers?

I'm just here for the throwaway Mill references!