|Byrom, Thomas. “Introduction”
to Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke: Tailor and Poet (London: Dent
Byrom considers Alton Locke to be an ambiguous and confusing novel. Kingsley is ambivalent about violence. While he clearly sides with Alton and the notion of a fighting working class, he also agrees with the orderly and conservative ideals of an aristocracy enlightened by the Church. Kingsley is surprising in leaving Catholicism relatively untouched; rather it is the dissenters, especially the Baptists, who receive a harsh criticism. Also, the Tractarians are criticized as is Transcendentalism which Bryom considers Kingsley failed to understand properly. Unlike Yeast which suffered from an excessive authorial presence, the autobiographical mode of Alton Locke results in a work more a novel than a tract. Bryom concludes that Alton Locke, though entertaining, “is only a fitful success. Reading it is rather like watching a film in which much of the footage is out of focus” (ix). Though it is primarily to be considered a failure when compared to the works of Dickens, this is instructive. “Alton Locke was written when English fiction enjoyed its greatest moment, and without it we should have a harder time understanding the achievement of Dickens, who in so many respects shared the conservative, reforming, doubting, bitter, compassionate sensibility of the stuttering Rector of Eversley” (x).
Cunningham, Valentine. Everywhere Spoken Against:
Dissent in the Victorian Novel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975).