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Cain in the Fields

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Authors Charles Dickens
Richard H. Horne
Genre Prose: Essay i
Subjects Agriculture; Fishing; Forestry; Gardening; Horticulture
Crime; Criminals; Punishment; Capital Punishment; Prisons; Penal Transportation; Penal Colonies
Gender Identity; Women; Men; Femininity; Masculinity
Great Britain—Description and Travel
Great Britain—Social Conditions—Nineteenth Century
Health; Diseases; Personal Injuries; Hygiene; Cleanliness—Fiction
Other Details
Printed : 10/5/1851
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume III
Magazine : No. 59
Office Book Notes
Views : 841

Dickens probably wrote or heavily rewrote the following portions of 'Cain in the Fields': from 'This was the young' to 'pretended embrace' (p. 147); from 'There is no escape' to 'learn it!' (p. 148); from 'But, perhaps the most striking' to 'two thieves' (p. 149).
Dickens may also have rewritten or added to the following sections: the opening paragraph; from 'Twelve years have passed' (p. 151) to the conclusion.
In addition, Dickens seems to have interpolated phrases into passages primarily by Horne (for example, the ironic asides in the first two-thirds of the paragraph beginning 'Of domestic poisonings,' p. 148).
The psychology and punishment of murderers - the subject of this article - had fascinated Dickens from his earliest days. Sketches by Boz (1836), Pickwick Papers (1836-1837), and Oliver Twist (1837-1839) - as well as many of his later novels - demonstrate this fascination. His periodicals reflect the same interest. In Household Words, in 'The Finishing Schoolmaster' (17 May 1851) - to cite only one example - he demonstrated how the very office of hangman exerted a baleful, brutalizing effect. Dozens of essays took up similar and allied matters. One of those allied matters - again dealt with in the article below - was the practice of holding executions in public, a practice Dickens vehemently opposed. In 1846, in five letters to the Daily News, and in 1849, in two letters to the Times, Dickens argued brilliantly against capital punishment and public executions. Here he continues that campaign.
Public executions were finally abolished in 1868.

Harry Stone; © Bloomington and Indiana University Press, 1968. DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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