ypology, which thus provides Victorian poetry with imagery and theme, also has other important literary applications. Prose fiction, narrative poetry, and related forms, such as the dramatic monologue, frequently employ this form of symbolism as a device for creating and defining character. Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1847) provides examples of two contrasting uses of scriptural types to describe the moral and spiritual condition of a character. Immediately after Jane has fled from Rochester upon discovering the existence of his insane wife, she shuts herself in her room and discovers herself bereft of hope and faith. Describing herself to the reader in the third person, she confesses:
Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman — almost a bride — was a cold, solitary girl again. . . . My hopes were all dead — struck with a subtle doom, such as, in one night, fell on all the first-born in the land of Egypt. I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay stark, chill, livid corpses, that could never revive. I looked at my love: that feeling which was my master's — which he had created; it shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle. (ch. 26)
In comparing her love to the dead first-born of the Egyptians who had perished in the tenth plague, Jane places that love within an existing spiritual context. She recognizes that she is being punished for not obeying the precepts of the true God, and she also realizes that she is guilty of the sin of the Egyptians — of believing both that God's powers are limited and that they could evade his law.
Brontë has prepared for this scriptural allusion several chapters earlier. At the close of the twenty-fourth chapter, Jane admits, "My future husband was becoming to me my whole world; and more than the world: almost my hope of heaven. He stood between me and every thought of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature of whom I had made an idol." Jane worshipped a man instead of God, and she made an idol of Rochester, worshipping a false god and, as it turned out, a false man as well. After discovering Bertha's existence, she finds her "faith death-struck", and her citation of the type of the first-born makes us aware that this faith was not merely a confidence of one mature woman in her beloved but faith raised to the level of religious belief.1 She soon enough learns that such faith is false religion; but when she loses it, a merciful and forgiving God sustains her: "One idea only still throbbed life — like within me — a remembrance of God: it begot a muttered prayer." Having found that the love and faith fathered upon her by Rochester have been blighted, she is sustained by God when a remembrance of Him "begot" a prayer.2
Jane's citation of this Exodus type to describe her own spiritual weakness and consequent punishment serves two ends. First, it places her character and actions within a clearly defined scheme of values; and, second, because she self-consciously and accurately applies this type to herself, it serves to dramatize her new self-awareness and her admission of guilt. Rochester, we soon discover, has made no such recognition of his own guilt. Whereas her application of the death of the first-born children makes an explicit judgment on her own romantic idolatry, Rochester's citation of scripture demonstrates a complete lack of self-awareness. After Jane leaves her room convinced that she has disobeyed God's commandments, he tries to convince her to go away with him, and he tells her that he does not "mean to torment you with the hideous associations and recollections of Thornfield Hall — this accursed place — this tent of Achan . . . — this narrow stone hell, with its one real fiend, worse than a legion of such as we imagine" (ch. 27).
In mentioning Achan's tent, Rochester condemns himself by admitting more than he realizes, for Achan was the Israelite who disobeying God's command that no Jew should take spoil from conquered Jericho, brought disaster upon his people. When Joshua prostrates himself in the dust before God's ark, the Lord informs him that He will no longer "be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed among you" (Joshua 7:12). When Joshua urges Achan to glorify the Lord with his confession of guilt, he admits that he has hidden gold, silver, and "a goodly Babylonish garment" beneath his tent. Thereupon, the Israelites punish the source of their alienation from God and consequent military disaster by stoning Achan and his family to death and then burning their bodies. Rochester, who still refuses to see that he has done anything wrong in trying to marry Jane while his first wife still lives, believes that Thornfield Hall is a "tent of Achan" only in so far as it contains the evidence of crime. Furthermore, Rochester, who has failed to learn from the story of Achan that God punishes severely, still believes he can evade all consequences of his acts. Thus, in a manner quite common in works whose characters misapply types to themselves and their situations, Jane Eyre uses such symbolism to convict Rochester of both sin and lack of self-knowledge. By placing these contrasting citations of types within a few pages of each other, Brontë manages to define the spiritual condition of her two main characters at a crucial point in the narrative. Moreover, by having Rochester describe Thornfield in terms of stone and fire — that is, as "a narrow stone hell" — she reminds her reader of Achan's fate and, as it turns out, also makes that fate a partial type of Rochester's.
Applications of orthodox types to judge oneself sternly, such as Jane makes, are found more often in spiritual autobiographies and sermons than in novels, and the fact that Jane Eyre takes the form of an autobiography explains in part how such types can there be used so effectively. Rochester's misapplication of scriptural texts exemplifies a far more common use in fiction of prefigurative symbolism. A third use of types for purposes of characterization is the purely mimetic one by which their appearance in dialogue identifies someone as belonging to a particular Church party or dissenting sect. Since Evangelicals habitually salted their conversation with scriptural quotation and paraphrase, writers sometimes include types merely for realistic effect. Similarly, when imitating or describing Evangelical sermons, writers also naturally cite types because Evangelical preachers so frequently employed them.
For instance, Browning's "Christmas Eve" (1850) in part uses such citation of typology for purposes of verisimilitude, and so does George Eliot's "The Sad Fortunes of the Reverend Amos Barton" from Scenes of Clerical Life (1858). Eliot relates how poor Barton tried without much success to instruct the paupers in the local workhouse about the mysteries of typological exegesis:
He talked of Israel and its sins, of chosen vessels, of the Paschal lamb, of blood as a medium of reconciliation; and he strove in this way to convey religious truth within reach of the Fodge and Fitchett mind. This very morning, the first lesson was the twelfth chapter of Exodus, and Mr Barton's exposition turned on unleavened bread. Nothing in the world more suited to the simple understanding than instruction through types and symbols! But there is always this danger attending it, that the interest or comprehension of your hearers may stop short precisely at the point where your spiritual interpretation begins. And Mr Barton this morning succeeded in carrying the pauper imagination to the dough-tub, but unfortunately was not able to carry it upwards from that well-known object to the unknown truths which it was intended to shadow forth. (ch. 2)
Unlike Brontë's use of types, the applications made in this delightful passage serve almost entirely the purely mimetic function of representing a character engaged in a daily activity. Of course, Eliot's citation of typology does not take the form of dialogue, but it differs most from Brontë's by not containing explicit or implicit judgments of the character who states them in typological terms. After reading Eliot's description of this Evangelical's complete inability to "bring home the gospel", we realize that Barton is sadly unsuited to the practice of his profession. But our recognition does not receive the additional assistance of Barton's misinterpretation of particular types, for we are told only that he failed to convey any gospel truths by means of the dough-tub.
However, since all types bear a heavy burden of meaning, they do not often appear in dialogue or indirect discourse without releasing some of it, and, therefore, they rarely play such a neutral role in creating character. The typological image or event readily generates multiple meanings because, by definition, it exists in at least two contexts, times, and senses: that of the literal historical type and that to which the type refers. The ability to perceive such meanings serves as a handy gauge of a character's general discernment, since a type provides author and audience with something whose meanings have been established by convention. Types, therefore, provide the author with a means of dramatizing a character's understanding or misunderstanding of commonplace, if also often complex, materials. The reader observes a character interpreting a known type and bases his judgment of that character upon the result.
For example, we first meet Amos Barton as he walks home alone after dinner with the local squire and his family. The threadbare parson, whose inadequate stipend does not permit him to purchase a coat that will keep off the chill, strolls along, "meditating fresh pastoral exertions on the morrow", the most important of which is to set going
his lending library; in which he had introduced some books that would be a pretty sharp blow to the Dissenters — one especially, purporting to be written by a working man, who, out of pure zeal for the welfare of his class, took the trouble to warn them in this way against those hypocritical thieves, the Dissenting preachers. The Rev. Amos Barton profoundly believed in the existence of that working man, and had thoughts of writing to him. Dissent, he considered, would have its head bruised in Shepperton, for did he not attack it in two ways? He preached Low-Church doctrine -as evangelical as anything to be heard in the independent Chapel; and he made a High-Church assertion of ecclesiastical powers and functions. Clearly, the Dissenters would feel that "the parson" was too many for them. Nothing like a man who combines shrewdness with energy. The wisdom of the serpent, Mr. Barton considered, was one of his strong points. (ch. 2)
Barton, a disciple of the Evangelical greats Venn, Newton, and Simeon, has come under the influence of Tractarian thought, and however his belief has developed since his days at Cambridge, he remains a fierce partisan of the established Church. Unlike many Evangelical Anglicans, he does not try to build bridges to similar dissenting denominations and clearly considers them agents of the Evil One. His judgment in these matters is characterized by his application of the passage from Genesis 3:15 about bruising the serpent's head to his attempts to conquer the dissenters in Shepperton. Like preachers of all parties, he accepts that the Christian bruises the serpent's head by advancing spiritual doctrine, and also like preachers of all parties, he defines spiritual doctrine, naturally enough, as that in which he believes. Keble, we recall, pronounced fasting to be a Christian's means of bruising the serpent's head, whereas the Cambridge Evangelical Clayton found it to lie in preaching the Gospel.3 Barton, on the other hand, makes not just the general battle against dissent, but his particular use of tracts directed at the labourer the fulfillment of this prophetic type. The reader's recognition that Barton and his opponents share a great many basic tenets immediately casts into doubt his judgment here, for the reader soon realizes that the minister's interpretation of this central biblical type is as ill-founded as his belief that a working man wrote his favorite tract or his confidence that he has the wisdom of the serpent.
Although Eliot's use of Genesis 3:15 within a passage of indirect discourse serves the obvious mimetic purpose of showing her audience how such a man thinks and feels, it also effectively satirizes the man for his comical self-aggrandizement. In the process, this former Evangelical also suggests some of the obvious shortcomings of applying types to the individual. Granted, it was a devotional commonplace that the individual worshipper, who was part of the Church or Christ Mystical, found types fulfilled in his own life, but what, implies Eliot, is the result of thus permitting Everyman to see himself in these grandiose terms? However stirring it might seem in the abstract to apply types to the lives of all believers — if only because such applications provided powerful stimuli to act in a Christian manner — this procedure appears foolish when followed by a specific, very fallible person like Amos Barton. In Eliot's hands this humorous application of types becomes a sub-category of the mock-heroic; and whereas this form usually mocks, not the heroic itself, but that to which it is juxtaposed, here the irony cuts both ways . Not only does Barton fall far short of the standard created by the type, but the very notion that typology could involve individuals seems called into question.
Eliot gives her gentle satire another twist several chapters later when she informs the reader that his "notable plan of introducing anti-Dissenting books into his Lending Library did not in the least appear to have bruised the head of Dissent, though it had certainly made Dissent strongly inclined to bite the Rev. Amos' heel" (ch. 5). Whereas the first part of Genesis 3:15 was taken to prefigure the ultimate triumph of good over evil in the person of Christ and His Church; the second was interpreted to signify the fact that to have such a victory, Christ and the Church would have to be bruised — or crucified. When applied to the individual worshipper, such bruising took the form of any of his sufferings for Christ or, in practice, any which he chose to believe were on behalf of his Saviour. The wit of this second application of the bruising passage arises from the fact that the relatively mild discomfort Barton endures because of his ill-conceived plan in no way matches the bruising of martyrdom or Crucifixion. Eliot applies this phrase to her character directly, for this second use of it occurs, not in indirect discourse representing his interior monologue, but in the author's commentary. The gap between the seriousness of the metaphorical bruising which Barton suffers at the hand of the dissenters of Shepperton and that suffered by Christ further mocks him and his inability to interpret or apply properly the things of God to the things of man.
The almost inevitable disparities between type and fulfillment in the life of a fictional character, like a character's misapplication or misinterpretation of such symbolism, produces a range of ironic commentary on fictional personages. Since the time the Wife of Bath argued for female superiority with wonderfully twisted allusions to scripture, English authors have long employed such subjective distortions of interpretive procedures as a means of creating and occasionally satirizing figures in their own works. As Barton demonstrates, such uses of commonplace types can produce gentle, if far-reaching, satire. They can also induce the reader to make far harsher judgments of a fictional character, and Rochester's misapplication and misreading of Achan's tent exemplifies such an earnest condemnation.
The double perspective or context provided by typology makes it particularly useful to the writer of dramatic monologues, since the disparity between literal and symbolical (or type and antitype) provides him with an effective means of allowing his character to convey more than he intends. Robert Browning, who is the great typologist among Victorian poets, frequently employs types for this purpose. For instance, "The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church. Rome, 15--" (1845) uses a number of types to emphasize the precise nature of the prelate's characterizing attitudes towards life and death, matter and spirit. The Bishop, whom Ruskin took to be a brilliantly achieved emblem of the Renaissance, persistently confuses matter and spirit in a most blasphemous manner, for having no true belief in Christian immortality, he yet tries to secure himself a kind of bizarre life after death. Browning's many citations of types in the poem reveal his speaker continually misinterpreting heavenly spiritual matters which he appropriates and misapplies to his passionate yearning to make himself immortal. As George Monteiro has pointed out in "The Apostasy and Death of St. Praxed's Bishop,", "in ordering his tomb — and the entire poem is organized around this piece of business — the Bishop in effect parodies the Lord's command to Moses to build him a sanctuary: "According to all that I show thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle" (Exodus xxv.9)" [(Full text of article]. The Bishop, who sees himself as "an object worthy of worship", wishes his tomb to be constructed of stones from the Tabernacle, moreover, which were types of Heaven. Furthermore, the very details, such as the nine pillars supporting his tomb, turn out to be allusions to passages in Exodus which were commonly read as prefigurative images of Heaven as well. "Without hope for personal salvation and with no faith in the Christian Resurrection, the Bishop reduces references to John the Baptist and the Madonna to nothing more than aesthetic comparisons for his beloved lapis lazuli. At the same time, taking over metaphors which emblematize salvation, he attempts to remake them into the letter of an earthbound immortality of sorts."5
We may add that the Bishop's many blasphemies find their center in his complete inability to comprehend the nature of matter, spirit and the relationship between them. In particular, he cannot interpret the literal expression of spiritual matters properly. Augustine's Confessions tell that during his earlier Manichaean stage when he accepted the sect's belief in philosophical materialism, he could not conceive symbolic interpretation, and that as he came to believe in a world of the spirit, he also came to accept and understand symbolic reading of texts. In fact, the connection of the two remains so close for Augustine that he terms "spiritual" what we today would subsume under the broad category "symbolical."6 Browning's Bishop finds himself in the predicament of a Manichaean who can only accept the material and yet passionately desires immortality which requires a belief in spirituality. As a result, he collapses matter and spirit into each other, now calling upon the capacities of the one and now the other. This fusion and confusion of states of being which his passionate desire for immortality produces, is well suited to the psychological state of a dying man, and perhaps this suitability provides another reason why Browning chose to set this character portrait within the context of a death-bed scene.
The dying prelate provides only the most extreme example from Browning's work of a character who can neither interpret nor apply types properly, but the preacher in "Christmas Eve" (1850), like many in The Ring and the Book (1868-69), embodies an equally effective use of this method of character definition. His long poems also depict characters by means both of these figures' self-conscious distortion of types for dishonest ends and of their apparently unconscious citation of such biblical images. For example, in The Ring and the Book the villainous Count Guido Francheschini represents himself as an innocent, selfless man by dramatizing himself as Christlike.7 But when he refers to "God's decree,/ In which I, bowing bruised head, acquiesce" (4.1410-11), he reminds us that he is, in fact, far more like Satan than like Christ. Guido's Satanic nature is recognized by other characters in the poem, including Caponsacchi, who, realizing his adversary's dangerous scheming, had thought to himself: "No mother nor brother Viper of the [Francheschini] brood/ Shall scuttle off without the instructive bruise" (6.677-8). The authoritative statement of Guido's nature in terms of this image is made, of course, by the old Pope, who sees Pompilia acting analogously to Christ when she treads this Satan-figure into hell and, the reader adds, is herself "bruised". Browning uses the same typological allusions in The Inn Album (1875). When the evil nobleman mentions in passing that "Head and feet/ Are vulnerable both, and I, foot-sure,/ Forgot that ducking down saves brow from bruise", the reader might not perceive this as an allusion to Genesis 3:15. But when his former mistress describes him more elaborately, we cannot miss the allusion:
Let him slink hence till some subtler Eve
Than I, anticipate the snake — bruise head
Ere he bruise heel — or, warier than the first,
Some Adam purge earth's garden of its pest
Before the slaver spoil the Tree of Life.8
Two points demand mention here. First, Browning has his characters employ typological allusions to locate his villain for the reader, thus providing a means of authorial commentary even in the midst of forms modeled on dramatic monologue in which he cannot speak in his own person. Wayne C. Booth's The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961) demonstrates the intrinsic difficulties that first-person narration has in identifying the author's point of view, and recent debates about the correct reading of dramatic monologues by Tennyson and Browning suggest that such problems are intrinsic to this poetic form.9 Typology, however, offers one solution to such interpretive problems. Even though no single character's application of a type may be entirely correct, the fact that several speakers employ the same type identifies for us the terms in which Browning wants defined the issues in question.10 In some cases, such as that exemplified by the Pope, one character has sufficient moral, spiritual, and intellectual authority that his interpretation compels our assent. In others, the authority exists, as it were, in the correct usually the traditional, readings of the type. Of course, when Browning uses a typological image which traditionally possesses several antitypes or interpretations, then he puts the reader, like his characters, to the test.
In addition to using this detailed typological reference for several related modes of character definition, Victorian novels employ other, far more secularized versions of typology, some of which are so distantly related to this kind of biblical symbolism that they are most profitably considered as secular analogues or offspring. Building upon the work of Paul J. Korshin and other scholars of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century literature, John R. Reed has well described
a tradition of secularized and immediate typology in English literature which persists into the nineteenth century. Consequently, it is not surprising to find Charles Dickens utilizing the model of The Pilgrim's Progress in The Old Curiosity Shop, or entitling his first novel The Adventures of Oliver Twist: or, The Parish Boy's Progress. Nor is it remarkable when Thackeray entitles one of his novels The Adventures of Philip on His Way Through the World Showing Who Robbed Him, Who Helped Him and Who Passed Him By, and continues the Samaritan motif throughout the novel in allusion as well as illustration.... Charles Aubrey, enduring his ordeal in Ten Thousand A- Year, is likened to Job in his suffering (See vol. 2, ch. 7; vol. 3, ch. 5) . The story of Jacob's experience with Leah and Rachel serves as a rough parallel to Stephen Blackpool's situation in Hard Times (see vol. 1, ch. 13) . He has married a wife who is no pleasure to him, while he dreams of the unattainable Rachel who is his true love. The friendship of John Halifax and Phineas Fletcher in Miss Mulock's John Halifax, Gentleman is sanctified by its resemblance to the scriptural model of Jonathan and David. These scriptural associations may be incidental or central to the stories concerned; they may be merely verbal or have a more stylized pictorial quality.11
Hugh Witemeyer's George Eliot and the Visual Arts (1979; full text) discusses this kind of scriptural association in the novelist's work. After demonstrating her knowledge of both scriptural typology and the history of art, Professor Witemeyer convincingly demonstrates how she based her literary characterizations upon a wide variety of pictorial techniques, themes, and models. For example, in explaining Eliot's "pictorial and overtly typological" idealization of Mordecai in Daniel Deronda (1876), he remarks that "Daniel's first impression of the consumptive scholar is that 'such a physiognomy as that might possibly have been seen in a prophet of the Exile, or in some New Hebrew poet of the medieval time" (33: 165). Later Daniel sees Mordecai as "an illuminated type of bodily emaciation and spiritual eagerness" (40:327). Although the novelist's first mention of prophets of the Babylonian exile suggests that her allusive description might function somewhat like a scriptural type, the comparison with a mediaeval poet which immediately follows demonstrates that she has abandoned most of the defining characteristics of this symbolic mode. Professor Witemeyer points out that Victorians often used "type" to mean "any exemplary moral or religious norm which finds successive incarnations in history", and we may add that they also used it to denote a species or class, an exemplary or defining instance, a distinctive mark or sign, a symbol, and a wood or metal block used in printing (75-76). Each of these meanings obviously relates to both the Greek and Roman root words from which "type" derives and also to the use of the term in biblical interpretation. Professor Witemeyer also uses the term to apply to characteristic and occasionally idealizing pictorial forms created by great painters, such as Titian, Rembrandt, and Reynolds, for he concerns himself with showing that Eliot bases her characters upon these pictorial examples.
Typology and the habits of mind it encourages certainly support this kind of allusive literary iconography by habituating writers to think in terms of prior models. Such techniques, however they may derive from orthodox typology, have little in common with it, and we must be careful not to confuse the two. In fact, one of the most important literary applications of the term, which is to describe something very like a humor character, is only very distantly related to this form of biblical symbolism. John R. Reed convincingly argues in Victorian Conventions that both Victorian and modem fiction retains "conventions of character" analogous to earlier ones:
Our stylizations are largely Freudian, as Victorians' were moral and physiognomical, and earlier centuries' were humorous or canonical.... In Victorian literature what we would call realistic motivation is often incorporate with type fulfillment. Characters do not act according to a system of humors or ruling passions, nor are they moved by the complexes and neuroses of the twentieth-century man; instead, they exhibit predictable combinations of attributes which result in conventional types. 
Within this kind of typology (which, incidentally, is not a symbolic mode) a character is said to fulfill a type when he or she completes a recognized pattern; say, the lonely maiden or the orphan child; and such completing of a pre-established pattern bears resemblances to the operations of scriptural typology.
Although there exists a minor temporal element in this secular typologythe character does match the pattern created by a stylization or an historical character of the past even this element receives significantly different emphases. Whereas the christological type, which plays an essential role in a scheme of progressive revelation, points towards the future, such secular typology, which shares much with classical thought, looks back at the past. Although Christian typology does include fulfillment of the prefiguration within the life of the individual, it places major emphasis upon the way earlier figures from the Old Testament lead towards their completion in Christ. In keeping with this emphasis, this form of biblical symbolism has the lesser anticipate the greater. In contrast, secular notions of typology pattern a later character upon — literally "after" — some greater figure who precedes him.
Far more important, of course, is the fact that such canonical images and idealizations have none of christological typology's most interesting features — namely, its connection of two times, one of which fulfills the other; its juxtaposition of the temporal and the eternal within an historical fact; its ability to generate the entire Gospel scheme and history; its emphasis upon the reality of both poles of the symbolic relation; its privileged status as a divinely instituted signifying system; and its long tradition as both a hermeneutic and iconographic repository which makes it an additionally powerful influence upon the Victorians.
If biblical typology had almost no major influence in the Victorian period, one could justifiably use its terminology in loose applications without ill effect. But, as we have already observed, this form of scriptural symbolism had pervasive major influence upon Victorian literature, and, therefore, at this early stage of the investigation of Victorian typology, we should be particularly careful to apply our terminology as precisely as possible. Unfortunately, the terms "type" and "typology" have widely accepted, non-theological meanings, and one cannot resort to using "figure" and "figuralism", which are common theological synonyms, since they possess a technical application in the study of art. When Professor Reed, who is well aware of the difference between biblical and characteriological typology, uses the term "type", he thus makes a common, acceptable application of the word. These potentially troublesome terminological difficulties require the student of Victorian typology and its cultural effects to exercise extreme caution. In particular, we must remain aware of the differences that exist between this form of biblical symbolism and other modes of thought which are discussed in confusingly similar vocabularies. If scholars do not take proper care to distinguish between various forms of thought in characterization and other areas, they will inevitably apply the attributes of typology to subjects in which these attributes have no place. Similarly, if scholars wish to determine the precise manner in which secularization proceeds during the course of the nineteenth century, they must begin with fairly clear ideas of what constituted religious thought. Returning to the subject of literary characterization and its relation to biblical typology, we realize that we cannot determine how the creation of literary character evolves under the influence of this symbolic mode unless we have a well-defined notion of its most orthodox applications. As soon as one considers orthodox types and their very distant analogues to be much the same thing, one loses an important opportunity for understanding the past.
Last modified 4 April 2015