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Moving ImagesNineteenth-Century Reading and Screen Practices$
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Helen Groth

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780748669486

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748669486.001.0001

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Reading Habits and Magic Lanterns

Reading Habits and Magic Lanterns

Dickens and Dr Pepper’s Ghost

(p.100) Chapter 4 Reading Habits and Magic Lanterns
Moving Images

Helen Groth

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter examines the assumptions about the training of the popular imagination that underlie Dickens’s famous account of ‘The Amusements of the People’ in the context of one of the most iconic popular amusements of the mid-Victorian period, Dr Pepper’s Ghost. Pepper’s spectre was advertised as an inspired adaptation of an idea taken from one of Dickens’s The Haunted Man; or the Ghost’s Bargain (1848), on a handbill that made no distinction between mechanical and imaginative attractions. This chapter argues that despite Dickens’s efforts to distinguish the potentially transformative humanising power of popular theatre from the mechanical attractions of the Polytechnics, the assumed automatism that underlies his concept of the imagination as a form of involuntary response was echoed in Pepper’s rationale for introducing imaginative content into the Royal Polytechnic programme when he took over management in the early 1850s.Inspired by the natural magical tradition of David Brewster, Pepper, like Dickens, was committed to defining the habits of his audience; a mutual commitment which positions the literary and technological enterprises of both men within an established philosophical and psychological debate on habit.

Keywords:   Dickens, Victorian Spectacle, Habit, Reading Practices, Magic Lanterns, Visual Culture

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