Change in Humphry Clinker

At first I thought it a bit peculiar -temporarily forgetting that the industrial revolution was just getting fired up around the time Humphry Clinker was written -how often characters seemed to notice and reflect upon (mostly negatively) certain changes in their surroundings. In one letter in particular addressed to Dr. Lewis from Matthew Bramble there is a somewhat lengthily reflection on the various changes that have occurred in London since his last visit. He does not seem at all pleased with these changes, barring some minor ones that he admits were for the betterment of the city, going as far as to say that luxury and corruption have lead to the evolving mass that is London. Bramble speaks rather disapprovingly of how eleven thousand houses have been built in seven years in one quarter of Westminster and continues on to condemn the spreading of Pimlico and Knightsbridge claiming that they nearly join with Chelsea and Kensington. He seems very uncomfortable with this growth and the only concession that Bramble makes concerning the growth of the city is how it has led to better paved roads that are wider and excellently lit. But all this is merely a prelude to a rant about how all this growth first started and why it continues to build upon itself. I found the main points of this rant rather interesting. He claims that “the tide of luxury has swept all the inhabitants from the open country.” This basically means that people are moving from the country to the city in hopes of securing a life of luxury with very little work involved. Bramble summarizes this in a few short lines but you can just feel the flow of the rant, “they desert their dirt and drudgery, and swarm up to London, in hopes of of getting into service, where they can live luxuriously and wear fine clothes, without being obliged to work; for idleness in natural to man– Great numbers of these, being disappointed in their expectation, become thieves and sharpers; and London being an immense wilderness, in which there is is neither watch nor ward of any signification, nor any order of police, affords them lurking-places as well as prey” (83). It just struck me as the type of thing we hear a lot these days during election season concerning the current state of complete disillusionment with the “American Dream.” It makes me think that we all must have very different views of what the “American Dream” is and how to live it. It seems that there is a parallel between then and now in the sense that there will always be on group or another looking down on another faction or group.


One thought on “Change in Humphry Clinker

  1. Cj, I like how you brought up more of historical / political point of view. I always look past this type of subject. But what really stuck out to me in your post was when you say”we all have different opinions of what the American dream is”. I completely agree with you on this ! One might find more comfort in living the simple life whereas someone else might enjoy living a high status fancy life in the city. We see this also in last weeks reading, whereas Mr. Hardcastle prefers his house in the country living in his mansion that looks like an inn and not being updated in fashion, his wife would much more prefer to live in the city and dress in the latest styles. As they say , the grass is always greener on the other side!

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