Month 14 (June 1865): Nightwalking

Ben Winyard discusses Bradley Headstone’s murderous monomania in the June 1865 installment of Dickens’s Our Mutual Fiend (sorry, ‘Friend’…)

Bradley Headstone David Morrissey

Dickens Our Mutual Friend Reading Project

We know from Oliver Twist (1837–39) and Martin Chuzzlewit (1843–44) that Dickens was fascinated by, and loved imaginatively exploring, the psychology of those who contemplate murder. Indeed, it is still popularly claimed that the strain of repeatedly, ferociously performing the murder of Nancy by Bill Sykes contributed to Dickens’s demise only five years after he completed Our Mutual Friend. In this month’s instalment, we find ourselves back on this familiar territory, as Bradley Headstone’s jealousy, confusion, frustration and rage begin to harden into murderous intent towards Eugene Wrayburn.

‘If great criminals told the truth – which, being great criminals, they do not – they would very rarely tell of their struggles against the crime. Their struggles are towards it. They buffet with opposing waves, to gain the bloody shore, not to recede from it.’

It’s interesting how Dickens slips and slides between metaphors and frames of reference in his…

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