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Freak Shows on the Page: Defining ‘criminanimality’ in Newgate Fiction (1830-1847)

Les fictions « Newgate » (1830-1847) et le concept de « criminanimalité »: une esthétique du « Freak Show »
Hubert Malfray


La définition du crime constitue une préoccupation majeure au début de l’ère victorienne, et se reflète jusque dans la littérature de l’époque. C’est notamment le cas des fictions « Newgate » qui dépeignent des criminels dont l’infamie est visible à travers le prisme de la métaphore animale. Dans les écrits et les gravures, l’animalité fictionnelle du monstre-criminel illustre l’idéologie qui fustigeait les hors-la-loi, associant leurs actes à des manifestations de barbarie. Une telle perception est nécessairement stéréotypée, réduisant la criminalité et l’animalité à la manifestation de vils instincts. Or, dans une tentative de subversion du code légal de l'époque, les romans parviennent à renverser ces clichés apparents pour mieux chanter les louanges du criminel, et notamment du bandit de grand chemin qui devient le vecteur d’une dénonciation du « Bloody Code ». Loin d’exclure l’animal, ce changement de perspective en fait un élément incontournable qui participe d’une redéfinition du criminel: l’animal devient un adjuvant du bandit et contribue à glorifier et à érotiser ce dernier, ainsi qu’à transcender les angoisses que leur duo semblait a priori susciter.

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  • 1 Erica Fudge uses the term ‘human-ness’ to evoke ‘the qualities which . . . each area of thought pro (...)

1In and beyond the Victorian era, critics have established and insisted upon the close link that ties animals to their human counterparts. Animals and humans coexist, reflect each other, work as a pair and help understand each other. Erica Fudge shrewdly contends that through the ages, ‘the animal becomes the thing which the human is constantly setting itself against’ (Fudge 1); she nevertheless insists that the human-animal relationship goes beyond the apparent impression that they mutually exclude: the way animals are perceived by humans actually reveals the anxieties that are deeply rooted at the core of what she calls ‘human-ness’.1 What we learn from Fudge’s analysis is that the way animals are seen by humans offers an interesting reflection as to the way humans perceive themselves; in a way, we could say that animals ought to be envisaged as a mirror, a surface of reflection onto which humans project their fears and desires. In other words, at the core of the human-animal relationship lies what we could call an intricate ‘specular effect’, which is nothing but the result of men’s need to circumscribe animality, to comprehend it, to master it through their own anthropomorphic discourse. The human-animal tandem as we see it is the result of cultural and discursive constructions which help men establish their apparent authority over the animal realm. But by extension, we realize that the animal also becomes a tool used by men to reflect about their own condition as human beings: they turn into a surface of projection for men’s inner questionings, with repercussions in fields like politics, ethics and, to a certain extent, aesthetics. We shall try to show that, be it in terms of similitude or difference, animals have a central position in the way Victorian humanity was actually perceived, and even shaped. More precisely, one specific domain crystallizes such revelations: it is the perception of criminality which, in Victorian times, seemed not to be possible outside the human-animal analogy, as if animality were a necessary prism through which criminality could be grasped. A detour through crime literature, and more precisely the Newgate novel, shall thus allow us to question the way early Victorian art discursively constructed such perception.

When Animal and Criminal Meet

  • 2 For further details, see Douglas Hay’s analysis of the intricacies of the Bloody Code in his author (...)

2The Newgate genre (1830-1847) is based on the romanticized life of legendary criminals: Jack Sheppard, Jonathan Wild or Dick Turpin are, among others, names that were extremely popular in the 1830s and 40s among a growing middle-class readership. More and more readers started to discover the pleasures of reading as they were thrilled by the fascinating criminal stories written by Charles Dickens, Edward Bulwer-Lytton or William Harrison Ainsworth, and by the engravings that were attached to these novels. Thanks to the criminal scenes they depict, the Newgate Novels participated in the propagation of the joy of entertainment and, as such, they reflect much of the mentalities of the time. But these stories were actually not just written for the sole purpose of entertainment; they also coincided with the moment when a complete reformation of the criminal code took place in Great Britain: what was also called the ‘Bloody Code’ had, in the 1830s, become totally inadequate and obsolete. Indeed, from petty theft to murder, the only institutional answer to any form of misdeed was supposed to be the gallows, although the number of actual executions proves that such solution was actually impossible to apply in all circumstances.2 Thus, the beginning of the Victorian age saw the emergence of a desire to see the end of this legal quagmire.

  • 3 P. Stallybrass and A. White explain that this division took hold of all fields of investigation: ‘t (...)

3Besides, the period of time also witnessed the surge of a new philosophical enquiry into the nature and condition of criminals, who were very often confused with the poor inhabitants of the underworld, and vice versa. In other words, social commentators tended to subdivide society into two groups: the individuals who were considered as ‘low’, and those of ‘high rank’. As a result, the perception of society was subjected to a Manichean division which echoes what Peter Stallybrass and Allen White, in Politics and Poetics of Transgression, defined as the ‘high’ versus ‘low’ divide.3

  • 4 We are using the term ‘species’ in the wake of Erica Fudge for whom it is a way to ‘distinguish mor (...)

4If we return to the topic of Victorian animals, a legitimate question seems to arise in the light of the above-mentioned corpus: what link is there to be found between the issues of criminality and animality in the Victorian Age? The Newgate did not only depict portraits of criminals, but very often blurred the limits between criminals and the animal inside them. In this sense, animality is to be understood as a form of instinctualism. This first clue helps us perceive how intricate the link between animality and criminality may have been in the minds of the early Victorians. In fact, in the light of Stallybrass and White’s ‘high’ versus ‘low’ divide, we may contend that animality and criminality were the objects of the same kind of stereotypical deprecation, a deprecation that is clearly perceptible on first reading Newgate novels: be it on physical, moral or even ethnographic grounds, both categories—the criminal and the animal—seem to have been the object of a certain form of rejection. Such rejection is easy to understand: the criminal was considered to be outside the law in the same way as the animal was outside the realm of anthropos. Apart from pets that may have had the guarantee of a privileged place inside the bourgeois standards of home, ‘instinctual’ animals shared with criminals a certain form of separate status from the world of men. This mutual, specular marginality could be summed up in a concept that we shall conveniently coin ‘criminanimality’, a neologism which helps us grasp the inextricable proximity between two ‘species’4 that, though different, intrinsically share the same impurity. Our task will be to try and show how this contiguous rejection of criminal and animal constituted an ideological standard, and how Newgate literature seized the problem to serve its own preoccupations: first, entertaining the readers by depicting a phantasmatic universe which was the continuation of the real; secondly, questioning the reader about what it is to be moral, or to be human, via the prism of animals. In other terms, the paradox raised by the novels at stake is: is ‘becoming animal’ the final damnation of the criminal, or is it not, in a certain way, his salvation?

5Before focusing on the novels, it is necessary to present a theory developed by Martin Wiener, a critic who specializes in criminality and who has studied the perception of the criminal in the nineteenth century. He explains that such Manichean perception of society, and by extension of criminality, was actually determined by a common opinion propagated by the media and social commentators, but also by political discourse, religion, and more generally the ‘doxa’: the fact that ‘the criminal was becoming more clearly than ever a distinct category of social analysis’ which was marked by moral and physical decay (Wiener 15). The idea of decay, and physical inferiority, became a stereotype that affected multiple layers of the population: young offenders, prostitutes and the idle poor all aroused the same type of anxiety. Such anxiety was actually further enhanced by their geographical exclusion: these ‘underdogs’—as they were labelled—were indeed all indiscernibly linked with the tentacular metropolis, also called the ‘abyss’, evolving in a terra incognita that could be perceived by any respectable man or woman as the source of contagion or possible perversion. In other words, the ‘underworld’ crystallized the difference, the otherness of its inhabitants who were considered as deviant. In the common unconscious, a new image appeared: that of a prototypical criminal whose supposed infamy was reason enough to stigmatize all, without distinction. Such stigmatization found its visual representation in two close metaphors that caught hold of the Victorian minds: that of the monster, and that of the savage. Such categories necessarily aim at rejecting the ‘subterranean fires’ (Wiener 27) that burnt deep inside criminals and risked to precipitate man beyond the margins of civilization. What is more, both images insist on the instinctual drives that turned human beings into ‘creatures’—this term being a very convenient and overused password to put together any ‘species’ that did not answer the bourgeois canons of respectability.

Deviance, Animality and Savagery

  • 5 All the engravings presented in this article were made by George Cruikshank and are taken from the (...)

6The novels under consideration all portray the underworld, as if the aim of the writers was to offer their plebeian readers the opportunity to encounter, for the first time almost, a perfect representation of themselves. And the result is that Newgate novelists, in spite of their desire to denounce and subvert the criminal code and its inadequacies with the spirit of the era, seem to remain conform to the ideology of their time, by offering a portrait of criminality pertaining to the ‘spectre of savagery’ (Wiener 26) and, by extension, animality. The novels are indeed laden with portraits of poor people whom we see evolving in a sort of primitive limbo: such portraits clearly shed light on their initial lack of civilization. Ainsworth’s 1839 popular novel Jack Sheppard, which recounts the story of an orphan boy who is corrupted by his milieu and becomes infamous, insists from the start on the very primitiveness of Jack’s place of birth, which is clearly depicted by Cruikshank in the engraving that he drew of Jack’s birth house (fig. 1). In this engraving,5 we discover a strange house whose representation is undoubtedly allegorical. Even if animality seems absent from the engraving at first sight, we nevertheless discover, in the midst of this extremely dilapidated place, a certain number of hieroglyphic inscriptions drawn on the walls: we distinguish strange creatures, half-human half-animal, like, for instance, the hybrid creature above the head of the male character. Such images literally seem to have taken hold of the inhabitants’ imagination. These naive inscriptions, which cohabit with newspaper cuts recalling the death of renowned criminals, have an uncanny impact on Ainsworth’s reader: the latter is in a way forced to establish a link between inhumanity and criminality. Together with the insalubrities of the house which echo the so-called impurity and potential degradation of its poor inhabitants, the inscriptions on the wall insist on the probable degeneration that awaits any character who is unlucky enough to be born in such circumstances as Jack Sheppard. Cruikshank seems to indicate—or at least to relay the commonly shared idea—that the link between vice and primitiveness is intrinsic and indissoluble.

Figure 1: ‘Mr Wood Offers to Adopt Little Jack Sheppard’ (Epoch the First, 1703, chapter 1)

Figure 1: ‘Mr Wood Offers to Adopt Little Jack Sheppard’ (Epoch the First, 1703, chapter 1)

7What Wiener called the ‘spectre of savagery’ clearly finds an echo in this engraving which epitomizes the complexity of the artistic perception of the criminal. Wiener explains that such conception is built upon at least four different grounds: political, social, ethnological and psychological imagination. This very ‘spectre’ allowed stereotypical distinctions to take hold of the minds and fancies, to nurture what Wiener called ‘anxieties’. Indeed, he explains that during the nineteenth century, ‘we repeatedly find a polarity between restraint, frequently identified with civilization, and instinct or impulses, identified with barbarism or savagery’ (Wiener 26). Such spectre seems to have been projected onto several objects at the same time: the lower classes at home, primitive peoples abroad, and the deeper layers of the psyche, even with the respectable classes. Our contention is that animality took a central part in the construction of this spectre. To prove it, one only needs to think of the social commentators of the time: for instance, Edmund Burke who deplored the ‘swinish multitude’ (Chassaigne 33) that populated the growing metropolis of the late eighteenth century. Or we can also think of Henry Mayhew, the renowned urban commentator, who in his turn wrote in the same wake, a few decades later, his famous London Labour and the London Poor. In this essential tableau of the English Victorian capital, Mayhew starts by making a clear division between two types of people:

Of the thousand millions of human beings that are said to constitute the population of the entire globe, there are—socially, morally, and perhaps even physically considered but two distinct and broadly marked races, viz. the wanderers and the settlers—the vagabond and the citizen—the nomadic and civilized tribes. (Mayhew 2)

8Through this poignant, binary picture, we discover the strict divide between the underworld and the world above, i.e. between society and counter-society—a divide that was inherited from a long tradition of travel narratives and ethnographic investigation (see Chassaigne 79). It is thanks to such Manichean view that a great number of stereotypes gained momentum in the minds and artistic productions of the time. What clearly crops up in Mayhew’s perception is the metaphor of domesticity: those who have the right to exist in the safe sphere of the domos, i.e. the proper Victorian house or neighbourhood, the respectable, pure abode, need to be differentiated from those who are necessarily untamed. Criminals were thus rejected in so far as they seemed to be irreconcilable with the ‘civilized tribe’, provoking the same kind of anxiety as undomesticated animals.

9One specific notion clearly helps draw the line between proper Victorians and ‘criminanimals’, and that is precisely the notion of instinctualism. This is what Carine Trevisan, a French critic, pointed out in her brilliant essay on the proximity between animals and humans in the nineteenth century: in it, she underlines the weight of instinct by focusing on the natural association that was made between animals and lunatics. Both, she explains, suffered from the same type of treatment: incarceration, chaining and sometimes public exhibition (Trevisan 151‒55). Lunacy was considered a disease that affected behaviour as well as language and the body, and the medical institutions of the time did all they could to erase the animal inside the human because it was a deep source of anxiety.

10This type of idea is to be found in Newgate novels as well. In Jack Sheppard still, further down in the novel, Jack has the opportunity of meeting his mother again after having become a renowned criminal. The last time we see Mrs Sheppard, she is locked in a cell in Bedlam asylum, overwhelmed with sadness and delirium at the thought of having given life to a criminal. The depiction made by Ainsworth leaves no room for misunderstanding:

Cowering in a corner upon a heap of straw, sat his unfortunate mother, the complete wreck of what she had been. . . . . Her arms were uncovered, and of almost skeleton thinness. Her features were meager, and ghastly white, and had the fixed and horrible stamp of insanity. Her head had been shaved and around it was swathed a piece of rag, in which a few straws were stuck. Her thin fingers were armed with nails as long as the talons of a bird. (Ainsworth 1839, 214)

11Mrs Sheppard is clearly the creature of decomposition, metaphorizing a failed trajectory that is doomed to implacable alienation. The comparison to a bird makes the lunatic close to the animal that lies underneath her skin. But it is furthered by what Mrs Sheppard tries to voice: she is literally unable to speak, and for a while only manages to utter simple onomatopoeias like ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’, ‘Off!’ or even ‘Hush!’ (Ainsworth 1839, 215‒16). Instinct has shrouded her humanity, has reduced her voice to ‘groans’, forcing this poor creature to fall back to a state of nature.

  • 6 George Combe, the famous phrenologist, published his influential book entitled On the Constitution (...)

12Such downfall is suggested by the engraving which accompanies the text (fig. 2): in it, the contrast with her son’s posture could remind the viewer of a colonization portrait in which Jack, the virtuous criminal who managed to elevate his vice to the rank of glory, resembles a colonizer who has come to mark his superiority over the colonized, as he is ostensibly overlooking his poor wretch of a mother, contemptuously contemplating her rudimentary posture, her inferiority, her dereliction. What we realize is that Newgate novels and engravings invite the readers/viewers to be the witnesses of a show whose dynamic is close to that of freak shows. At a time when phrenology and physiognomy had gained their letters of nobility in England thanks to the works of George Combe,6 people started being extremely influenced by the power of such scientific discourse. Its aim was to try and account for the general functioning of the human brain via the reading of the body, and more precisely the head and its bumps. Physical irregularity, anomalies and deformities became the centre of attraction but also the core of stigmatization. Newgate novels were shaped in the light of what Neil Davie calls this ‘cultural broth’ (‘bouillon de culture’) (Davie 153), and portraits like that of Mrs Sheppard, or even Fagin’s in Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, seem to stem from such types of discourse.

Figure 2. ‘Jack Sheppard Visits his Mother in Bedlam’ (Epoch the Third, 1724; chapter 8)

Figure 2. ‘Jack Sheppard Visits his Mother in Bedlam’ (Epoch the Third, 1724; chapter 8)
  • 7 I am translating Foucault’s expression ‘le mixte de deux règnes’ (Foucault 18).
  • 8 According to Lilian Craton, freak shows prove that ‘[t]he Victorian relationship to images of physi (...)

13Indeed, Fagin is depicted as having ‘long black nails, toothless gums with fangs as should have been a dog’s or a rat’s’, evoking nothing but a ‘loathsome reptile engendered in the slime and darkness through which he moved, crawling forth by night in search of some meal’ (Dickens 153). Facing such details, the Newgate reader is invited to witness a strange spectacle in which the poor wretch—who seems to be more of a criminal because of his physical appearance than because of his actual deeds—literally disturbs the reader’s fancy, disquiets the laws of ‘species’ through his hybridity. He is literally the figure of the monster as Michel Foucault coined it: themix of two reigns’,7 the animal and the human. By giving shape to such characters as Fagin or Mrs Sheppard, Newgate novels became the place for the literary continuation of freak shows that nurtured public places in the modern period and had become, according to Lilian Craton, a real fad in Victorian times.8 The novels work along the same lines, the same stakes as freak shows that gathered people in market places: playing on obscenity and desire, on difference and misunderstanding, on the fascination for repulsion, the novels offer a real mapping of the deviant’s body, half-way between distrust, diffidence and fascination. The novels can also be linked to the slumming experience that was very much appreciated by urban journalists and social commentators who liked to plunge in disguise into the depths of the underworld in order to probe their horror-tinged desire for otherness (Koven 14).

14But what is the role of animality in all this: is it simply a tool for comparison, or does it not suffer from such comparison? This is the question tackled by Carine Trevisan who explains that physiognomic discourses did not simply animalize the criminal, but, in a specular effect, tended to participate in the criminalization of animals themselves (Trevisan 158).

Newgate Subversion: Towards Virtuous ‘Criminanimality’

15From what we have tried to show, we could be entitled to conclude that early Victorian literature could not do away with the stereotypical discourses of the time on crime and animality, for they constituted a real reservoir of easy metaphors. Everything urges us to think that bestiality simply equates worthlessness and repulsion. However, in their attempt to debunk the criminal code, the Newgate novelists also tended to move away from such vilifying images of criminality, preferring to endow the criminal with a new, glamorous facet. And strangely enough, this new facet does not reject the animal, but includes it: the latter gains the same type of glamour as the criminal, as if literature needed to postulate, for both criminals and animals, a potential redemption, a reintegration of the world from which they had been set aside.

16This redemption is first of all disguised in the portrait of the characters above mentioned: in Dickens’s novel, Fagin may be considered a metaphorical father begetting crime in crime, he nevertheless gains from the comparison with a much fiercer type of monster, i.e. Bill Sikes. When Fagin simply appears as the image of the vile animal, he, contrary to Sikes, manages to arouse Oliver’s sympathy. Sikes, on the other hand, is the human beast beyond humanity and beyond animality. As the killer of Nancy, he displaces animality to a form of aporetic monstrosity that remains unnameable (just like Nancy’s murder that is never actually described). No animal comparison can help him come clean with his murder, and even his dog, Bull’s Eye, decides to break away from his vile master, to reject him outside the realm of what is tolerable, of what is acceptable.

17We thus realize that the objective of the animal-criminal comparison is also more virtuous than we initially thought. If some excessively bestial figures find their way into the novels, it is simply because they serve to reinforce the contrast between sheer scoundrels that deserve to be rejected from society, and valiant criminal heroes, that is criminals whose deviance is their raison d'être, turning them into mythical, virtuous figures, adulated by all. Indeed, Newgate novels give free reign to their criminal heroes—mainly highwaymen—who are only present on the page not so much to show the bad sides of criminality as to hold a mirror-image up to the monstrosity of the Bloody Code itself. These men become seducing characters, while justice itself becomes deformed, fragmented and bumpy. The figure of the highwayman, translated into French with so many oxymorons as ‘bandit au grand coeur’ or ‘justicier hors-la-loi’, destroys the apparent monologic view of crime. All of a sudden, the abnormality of criminal characters comes to symbolize their worth. Even Mrs Sheppard’s animality is only a means of presenting her as the victim of her world: her deviance is the result of what civilization has produced. But at the end of the novel, she can finally speak again, and in the midst of her lunatic’s words, she manages to voice a dream which will finally come true—that of her son’s final adulation by all. Her redemption is thus located in the transformation of her animality into a prophetic force.

18The most telling example of such elevation of the ‘criminanimal’ to the rank of hero is to be found in Rookwood, another novel by William Harrison Ainsworth. The plot, which centres around family inheritance, soon opens onto the portrait of Dick Turpin, the renowned eighteenth-century vagabond and highwayman who was famous for usurping identities and robbing rich people. Contrary to what we could expect, Dick is never criticized: there is no denunciation of his acts. Rather, he mesmerizes the other characters, and by extension, the reader. All his deeds are narrated with emphasis, including his famous ride to York through the English countryside on horseback. To be more precise, this ride is magnified by the depiction of his mare, fondly named Black Bess, who is as adulated as Dick himself is, being the object of a long ode in the form of a ballad:

Let the lover his mistress’s beauty rehearse,
And laud her attractions in languishing verse;
Be it mine in rude strains, but with truth to express,
The love that I bear to my bonny Black Bess.

From the West was her dam, from the East was her sire,
From the one came her swiftness, the other her fire;
No peer of the realm better blood can possess
Than flows in the veins of my bonny Black Bess.

Look! look! how that eyeball glows bright as a brand!
That neck proudly arches, those nostrils expand!
Mark that wide - flowing mane! of which each silky tress
Might adorn prouder beauties —
though none like Black Bess. (Ainsworth 1898 256-7)

19We have the impression that both characters—the animal and the criminal—gain from each other’s presence and aura, and the book delves into poetic celebrations of their exploits, that are also condensed in Cruikshank’s engraving (Fig. 3). This engraving suggests the extreme energy and supremacy of these two companions, forming a unique couple, or what we could term a ‘binary unity’, beyond the barrier of species. The traditional vile association of animal and criminal as mutually impure is literally excluded from the Newgate in favour of a new vision. The animal seems to have a part to play in the artistic negotiation on what it is to be a criminal: the animal is no longer a tool for comparison but for potential fusion. Its role is clearly to twist the perception of criminality, to disguise it in new garments, to transvest it. We attend a certain form of ‘queerization’ of criminal and animal, and this could be the new sense born by the term ‘criminanimal’. Such queerization is made clear in the ballad as well, where we discover the physical proximity between animal and criminal (subsumed in the meticulousness of body details that are given) who form a couple journeying together.

Figure 3. Illustration 3: ‘The Flight through Edmonton’ (Book IV, chapter 4)

Figure 3. Illustration 3: ‘The Flight through Edmonton’ (Book IV, chapter 4)


20As a result, the Newgate managed to reinvent the link between animality and criminality, to veer it away from its original angle: with portraits like that of Dick Turpin and his mare, ‘criminanimality’ became heroicized, or even eroticized, glamourized, and it turned into a subversive tool which went against the stereotypes of the time. What we can conclude is that, if common opinion and discourses of the time apparently restricted the link between animals and criminals to a mutually degrading perception, it seems that it was the role of fiction to postulate a new relationship between Victorian animals and criminals—a vision that breaks clichés and reinvents new myths, new energies, new patterns. In other words, fiction is a tool to sublimate crime as well as the animal inside the man, for the animal seems to be central in this act of aesthetic sublimation. When the freak shows on the Newgate page, it is somehow to serve a totally new purpose for the time: to subvert the inadequacies of common opinion, to cross-breed traditional views on crime, or—to echo Mayhew’s lingo—to ‘nomadify’ the settled perceptions, to let the audience free itself from the shackles of a bourgeois ideology in favour of a sensational, frolicsome encounter with the heroic animal within man.

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Ainsworth, William H. Rookwood. 1834. London: Routledge, The Original Illustrated Edition, 1898.

Ainsworth, William H. Jack Sheppard, A Romance. London: Routledge, The Original Illustrated Edition, 1839.

Chassaigne, Philippe. Ville et violence. Tensions et conflits dans la Grande-Bretagne victorienne (1840-1914). Paris: PU de la Sorbonne, 2005.

Combe, George. The Constitution of Man in Relation to External Objects. 1828. 17th American edition. Boston: Benjamin B. Mussey, 1848.

Craton, Lilian. The Victorian Freak Show: The Significance of Disability and Physical Differences in Victorian Fiction. Amherst: Cambria Press, 2009.

Davie, Neil. Les Visages de la criminalité: à la recherche d’une théorie scientifique d’un criminel type en Angleterre (1860-1914). Paris: Kimé, 2004.

Dickens, Charles. Oliver Twist, or, the Parish Boy’s Progress. 1837-39. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Foucault, Michel. Les Anormaux. Cours au Collège de France. Paris: Gallimard, 1999.

Fudge, Erica. Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern Culture. 2000. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2002.

Koven, Seth. Slumming. Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2004.

Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor, vol. 1, The London Street-Folk. 1851. New York: Dover Publications, 1968.

Stallybrass, Peter, & Allen White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression. Ithaca: Cornell UP, 1986.

Trevisan, Carine. ‘L’Homme et l’animal (XIXe-XXe): l’épreuve du semblable’. La Question animale: entre science, littérature et philosophie. Ed. J.-P. Engélibert, L. Campos, C. Coquio & G. Chapoutier. Rennes: PU de Rennes, 2011. 151‒66.

Wiener, Martin J. Reconstructing the Criminal: Culture, Law and Policy in England, 1830-1914. Cambridge: CUP, 1994.

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1 Erica Fudge uses the term ‘human-ness’ to evoke ‘the qualities which . . . each area of thought proposes as specific to the human" (Fudge 9).

2 For further details, see Douglas Hay’s analysis of the intricacies of the Bloody Code in his authoritative study Albion's Fatal Tree (Hay 18‒23).

3 P. Stallybrass and A. White explain that this division took hold of all fields of investigation: ‘the division between cleanliness and filth, purity and impurity, is that between Christian and pagan, the civilized and the savage. But the nineteenth-century sanitary reformers mapped out the same division across the city’s topography, separating the suburb from the slum, the respectable from the “nomad” along the same lines’ (Stallybrass and White 131).

4 We are using the term ‘species’ in the wake of Erica Fudge for whom it is a way to ‘distinguish more generally the human from the animal’ (Fudge 10).

5 All the engravings presented in this article were made by George Cruikshank and are taken from the same edition as the novel they were drawn from.

6 George Combe, the famous phrenologist, published his influential book entitled On the Constitution of Man in 1828.

7 I am translating Foucault’s expression ‘le mixte de deux règnes’ (Foucault 18).

8 According to Lilian Craton, freak shows prove that ‘[t]he Victorian relationship to images of physical difference was complex, marked by conflicting impulses to reject, exploit, and celebrate the odd body. On one hand, the . . .  anxiety points to Victorian normative ideology and the impulse to protect, even perfect future generations of human bodies.  . . . On the other hand, . . . it demonstrated the pull that unusual bodies held for Victorian audiences’ (Craton 2‒3).

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: ‘Mr Wood Offers to Adopt Little Jack Sheppard’ (Epoch the First, 1703, chapter 1)
Fichier image/jpeg, 412k
Titre Figure 2. ‘Jack Sheppard Visits his Mother in Bedlam’ (Epoch the Third, 1724; chapter 8)
Fichier image/jpeg, 460k
Titre Figure 3. Illustration 3: ‘The Flight through Edmonton’ (Book IV, chapter 4)
Fichier image/jpeg, 535k
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Hubert Malfray, « Freak Shows on the Page: Defining ‘criminanimality’ in Newgate Fiction (1830-1847) »Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens [En ligne], 85 Printemps | 2017, mis en ligne le 21 mars 2017, consulté le 16 janvier 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Hubert Malfray

Hubert Malfray received his Ph. D. from Paris-Sorbonne University and teaches English literature in khâgne (Saint-Etienne). He is an associate researcher in IHRIM (UMR 5317) and specializes in Victorian literature and minor genres. His work focuses on the construction of popular culture through fiction and the visual arts.
Hubert Malfray est docteur en littérature anglaise de l’Université Paris-Sorbonne et enseignant de littérature de langue anglaise en khâgne au lycée Claude-Fauriel de Saint-Etienne ainsi que traducteur littéraire. Spécialiste du roman victorien et des écritures et genres mineurs, ses travaux de recherche s’intéressent à la construction du criminel à travers la littérature et les arts visuels. Il est chercheur associé à l’unité mixte de recherche IHRIM (5317).

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Licence Creative Commons
Cahiers victoriens et édouardiens est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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