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By Accident or DesignWriting the Victorian Metropolis$
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Paul Fyfe

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780198732334

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198732334.001.0001

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Dickens and the Traffic of Accidents

Dickens and the Traffic of Accidents

(p.67) 2 Dickens and the Traffic of Accidents
By Accident or Design

Paul Fyfe

Oxford University Press

In the 1830s, London’s streets saw the influx of horse-drawn omnibuses and cabs which caused all manner of accidents in their competitive scramble. In the guise of ‘Boz’, Charles Dickens writes about these peculiarities in a form that implicitly competes with urban transport for ‘the knowledge of London’, as the taxi licensing examination was soon to become known. At a time when sociological and literary practices of ‘knowing’ London were largely in flux, Sketches by Boz offers an aesthetics of urban encounter shaped by the accidents of traffic and its operators—a barely-licensed, chaotic system that informs the sketch genre as well as Dickens’s enduring legacy of imaginative peregrination.

Keywords:   Charles Dickens, Boz, traffic, cabs, omnibus, taxi, sketches, genre, accidents

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