Kingsley's novel is nothing if not multivocal. Alton Locke's many modes include a pastoral excursion; satires on undergraduate life; parodies of Emersonian sermons, revolutionary fervor, and the Old Dissent; exposes of inhumane working conditions in the style of Mayhew; a loving portrait of Mackaye, the Carlylean book-seller; and a painful depiction of the failure of a middle-class academic to carry through his "good intentions" regarding the educable, but hopelessly awkward, working man, who remains useful only so long as his poetry does not tell the truth about what he witnesses. Alton's escape from the tailors' workroom' through the bookshop makes the mimicry of modes convincing; the tailor-poet makes himself many sets of new clothes. Alton's sardonic and world-weary tone deepens throughout the novel, as he verifies that competition inevitably works against the poor and laboring classes. His witness as a narrator and as a poet exposes the inequities he deplores, but his unusual position as a tailor-poet prevents him from ever being an actor in that world; he has risen out of his own class without becoming part of a different class. [119]


Suzanne Keen. Victorian Renovations of the Novel: Narrative Annexes and the Boundaries of Representation. Cambridge UP, 1998.

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