Barnaby Rudge

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Barnaby Rudge
Masterclock serial cover.jpg
Cover of the magazine Master Humphrey's Clock where the novel was serialized
Author Charles Dickens ("Boz")
Original titleBarnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty
Illustrator George Cattermole
Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz)
Genre Novel
Published Serialised: February–November 1841; [1] as a book 1841
Publisher Chapman & Hall
Media typePrint (serial, hardback, and paperback)
Preceded by The Old Curiosity Shop  
Followed by Martin Chuzzlewit  

Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty (commonly known as Barnaby Rudge) is a historical novel by British novelist Charles Dickens. Barnaby Rudge was one of two novels (the other was The Old Curiosity Shop ) that Dickens published in his short-lived (1840–1841) weekly serial Master Humphrey's Clock . Barnaby Rudge is largely set during the Gordon Riots of 1780.


Barnaby Rudge was the fifth of Dickens's novels to be published. It had initially been planned to appear as his first, but changes of publisher led to many delays, and it first appeared in serial form in the Clock from February to November 1841.

It was Dickens's first historical novel. His only other is A Tale of Two Cities (1859), also set in revolutionary times. [2] It is one of his less popular novels; British historian and Dickens biographer Peter Ackroyd has called it "one of Dickens's most neglected, but most rewarding, novels". [3]

It has rarely been adapted for film or television. The last production was a 1960 BBC production; prior to that, silent films were made in 1911 and 1915.

Plot summary

Dolly Varden as painted by William Powell Frith, 1842 Dolly Varden by William Powell Frith.jpg
Dolly Varden as painted by William Powell Frith, 1842

Gathered around the fire at the Maypole Inn, in the village of Chigwell, on an evening of foul weather in the year 1775, are John Willet, proprietor of the Maypole, and his three cronies. One of the three, Solomon Daisy, tells an ill-kempt stranger at the inn a well-known local tale of the murder of Reuben Haredale which had occurred 22 years earlier on that very day. Reuben had been the owner of the Warren, a local estate which is now the residence of Geoffrey, the deceased Reuben's brother, and Geoffrey's niece, Reuben's daughter Emma Haredale. After the murder, Reuben's gardener and steward went missing and were suspects in the crime. A body was later found and identified as that of the steward, so the gardener was assumed to be the murderer.

Joe Willet, son of the Maypole proprietor, quarrels with his father because John treats 20-year-old Joe as a child. Finally having had enough of this ill-treatment, Joe leaves the Maypole and goes for a soldier, stopping to say goodbye to the woman he loves, Dolly Varden, daughter of London locksmith Gabriel Varden.

Meanwhile, Edward Chester is in love with Emma Haredale. Both Edward's father, Sir John Chester, and Emma's uncle, the Catholic Geoffrey Haredale – these two are sworn enemies – oppose the union after Sir John untruthfully convinces Geoffrey that Edward's intentions are dishonourable. Sir John intends to marry Edward to a woman with a rich inheritance, to support John's expensive lifestyle and to pay off his debtors. Edward quarrels with his father and leaves home for the West Indies.

Barnaby Rudge, an “innocent”, [4] wanders in and out of the story with his pet raven, Grip. Barnaby's mother begins to receive visits from the ill-kempt stranger, whom she feels compelled to protect. She later gives up the annuity she had been receiving from Geoffrey Haredale and, without explanation, takes Barnaby and leaves the city hoping to escape the unwanted visitor.

The story advances five years to a chilly evening in early 1780. On the 27th anniversary of Reuben Haredale's murder, Solomon Daisy, winding the bell tower clock, sees a ghost in the churchyard. He reports this hair-raising event to his friends at the Maypole, and John Willet decides that Geoffrey Haredale should hear the story. He departs in a winter storm taking Hugh, hostler of the Maypole, as a guide. On the way back to the Maypole, John and Hugh are met by three men seeking the way to London. Finding that London is still 13 miles off, the men seek refuge for the night. Beds are prepared for them at the Maypole.

Lord George Gordon head of the Protestant Association LordGeorgeGordon.jpg
Lord George Gordon head of the Protestant Association

These visitors prove to be Lord George Gordon; his secretary, Gashford; and a servant, John Grueby. Lord George makes an impassioned speech full of anti-papist sentiment, arguing (among other things) that Catholics in the military would, given a chance, join forces with their co-religionists on the Continent and attack Britain. Next day the three depart for London, inciting anti-Catholic sentiment along the way and recruiting Protestant volunteers, from whom Ned Dennis, the hangman of Tyburn, and Simon Tappertit, former apprentice to Gabriel Varden, are chosen as leaders. Hugh, finding a handbill left at the Maypole, joins the Protestant throng which Dickens describes as "sprinkled doubtless here and there with honest zealots, but composed for the most of the very scum and refuse of London, whose growth was fostered by bad criminal laws, bad prison regulations, and the worst conceivable police."

Barnaby and his mother have been living quietly in a country village, their whereabouts unknown despite Geoffrey Haredale's attempts to find them. The mysterious stranger finds them and sends Stagg, the blind man, to attempt to get money from them. Barnaby and his mother then flee to London, hoping to lose their pursuer again.

When Barnaby and his mother arrive at Westminster Bridge, they see an unruly crowd heading for a meeting on the Surrey side of the river. Barnaby is duped into joining them, despite his mother's pleas. The rioters then march on Parliament and burn several Catholic churches and the homes of Catholic families.

A detachment led by Hugh and Dennis head for Chigwell, intent on exacting revenge on Geoffrey Haredale, leaving Barnaby to guard The Boot, the tavern they use as their headquarters. The mob loots the Maypole on their way to the Warren, then they burn the Warren to the ground. Emma Haredale and Dolly Varden (now Emma's companion) are taken captive by the rioters. Soldiers take Barnaby prisoner; he is held in Newgate, which the mob plans to storm.

Haredale captures the mysterious stranger haunting Mrs. Rudge at the smoldering ruins of the Warren. He turns out to be Barnaby Rudge Sr., the steward who had murdered Reuben Haredale and his gardener years earlier. It is revealed that he had switched clothes with the dead gardener to divert suspicion from himself.

The rioters capture Gabriel Varden, with the help of his wife's maid Miggs, and attempt to have the locksmith help them break into Newgate to release prisoners. He refuses and is rescued by two men, one of whom has only one arm. The rioters then burn Newgate where Barnaby and his father are being held. All of the prisoners escape, but Barnaby, his father, and Hugh are betrayed by Dennis the hangman and captured by soldiers. Dennis has changed sides, believing he will obtain the bounty offered for them as well as numerous clients needing his special talents. With the military patrolling the streets, the rioters scatter, and many are killed.

The one-armed man turns out to be Joe Willet, who has returned from fighting against the American revolutionaries. Joe and Edward Chester turn out to be the rescuers of Gabriel Varden. The pair then rescue Dolly and Emma.

Hugh and Dennis five minutes before execution (Book illustration) Illustrirte Zeitung (1843) 16 256 3 Hugh und Dennis funf Minuten vor der Hinrichtung.PNG
Hugh and Dennis five minutes before execution (Book illustration)

Dennis is arrested and sentenced to die with Hugh and Barnaby. Hugh and Dennis are hanged. Barnaby, through the efforts of Gabriel Varden, is pardoned.

Joe and Dolly are married and become proprietors of the rebuilt Maypole. Edward Chester and Emma are married and go to the West Indies. Miggs tries to get her position back at the Varden household, is rejected, and becomes a jailer at a women's prison. Simon Tappertit, his legs crushed in the riots, becomes a shoe-black. Gashford later commits suicide. Lord George Gordon is held in the Tower and is then judged to be innocent of inciting the riots. Sir John Chester, now a Member of Parliament, turns out to be the father of Hugh and is killed in a duel by Geoffrey Haredale. Haredale escapes to the continent where he ends his days in a monastery. Barnaby and his mother live out their years tending a farm at the Maypole Inn where Barnaby can work effectively due to his physical strength.


Allusions and references in other works

Grip the raven inspired Edgar Allan Poe to write his most famous poem, "The Raven". [5]

Dickens based the Maypole Tavern on the Kings Head, Chigwell, [6] a 17th-century public house, situated on High Road, opposite the entrance to Roding Lane.


Thomas Higgie adapted it into a three-act play in 1854. Charles Selby and Charles Melville did the same in 1875. [7] The latter was produced at the English Opera House. [8]

In 1915 Thomas Bentley directed Barnaby Rudge, "the biggest-budget British film of its day", but it is now lost. [9]

The BBC made a 13 episode TV series in 1960. [10]

Barnaby Rudge was re-invented as a stage play, The Locksmith of London, by Eileen Norris. It was staged in 2012 at the Kings Theatre, Southsea by Alchemy Theatre, where the Dickens Fellowship attended a performance during their annual conference. [11]

BBC Radio 4 chose it for their Classic Serial in 2014, and cast an actor with Down's Syndrome, Daniel Laurie, in the title role. [12]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gordon Riots</span> Event in London in 1780

The Gordon Riots of 1780 were several days of rioting in London motivated by anti-Catholic sentiment. They began with a large and orderly protest against the Papists Act 1778, which was intended to reduce official discrimination against British Catholics enacted by the Popery Act 1698. Lord George Gordon, head of the Protestant Association, argued that the law would enable Catholics to join the British Army and plot treason. The protest led to widespread rioting and looting, including attacks on Newgate Prison and the Bank of England and was the most destructive in the history of London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Powell Frith</span> English painter (1819–1909)

William Powell Frith was an English painter specialising in genre subjects and panoramic narrative works of life in the Victorian era. He was elected to the Royal Academy in 1853, presenting The Sleeping Model as his Diploma work. He has been described as the "greatest British painter of the social scene since Hogarth".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chigwell</span> Human settlement in England

Chigwell is a town and civil parish in the Epping Forest District of Essex, England. It is part of the urban and metropolitan area of London, and is adjacent to the northern boundary of Greater London. It is on the Central line of the London Underground.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chigwell School</span> Public school in Essex, England

Chigwell School is a co-educational day and boarding independent school in the English public school tradition located in Chigwell, in the Epping Forest district of Essex. It consists of a pre-prep, Junior School, Senior School and sixth form. A pre-preparatory department for children aged 4–7 was constructed starting for the 2013–14 academic year.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Bull trout</span> Species of fish

The bull trout is a char of the family Salmonidae native to northwestern North America. Historically, S. confluentus has been known as the "Dolly Varden", but was reclassified as a separate species in 1980. Bull trout are listed as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (1998) and as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

George Lillie Craik (1798–1866) was a Scottish writer and literary critic.

Dolly Varden may refer to:

<i>Master Humphreys Clock</i>

Master Humphrey's Clock was a weekly periodical edited and written entirely by Charles Dickens and published from 4 April 1840 to 4 December 1841. It began with a frame story in which Master Humphrey tells about himself and his small circle of friends, and their penchant for telling stories. Several short stories were included, followed by the novels The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge. It is generally thought that Dickens originally intended The Old Curiosity Shop as a short story like the others that had appeared in Master Humphrey's Clock, but after a few chapters decided to extend it into a novel. Master Humphrey appears as the first-person narrator in the first three chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop but then disappears, stating, "And now that I have carried this history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves."

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dolly Varden trout</span> Species of fish

The Dolly Varden trout is a species of salmonid fish native to cold-water tributaries of the Pacific Ocean in Asia and North America. It belongs to the genus Salvelinus, or true chars, which includes 51 recognized species, the most prominent being the brook, lake and bull trout, as well as Arctic char. Although many populations are semi-anadromous, fluvial and lacustrine populations occur throughout its range. It is considered by taxonomists as part of the Salvelinus alpinus or Arctic char complex, as many populations of bull trout, Dolly Varden trout and Arctic char overlap.

Rudge may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fred Barnard</span> British illustrator (1846–1896)

Frederick Barnard was an English illustrator, caricaturist and genre painter. He is noted for his work on the novels of Charles Dickens published between 1871 and 1879 by Chapman and Hall.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cloak and dagger</span> Idiom describing activities of espionage and subversion

"Cloak and dagger" was a fighting style common in the Renaissance involving a knife hidden beneath a cloak. The term later came into use as a metaphor, referring to situations involving intrigue, secrecy, espionage, or mystery.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dolly Varden (costume)</span>

A Dolly Varden, in this sense, is a woman's outfit fashionable from about 1869 to 1875 in Britain and the United States. It is named after a character in Charles Dickens, and the items of clothing referred to are usually a hat or dress.

Dolly Vardens was a recurring name used for a number of baseball teams throughout the United States in the early decades of base ball (1860s-1880s). Most were white, male squads, though there was an all-female, African-American team from Chester PA, assembled by barber-turned-sports entrepreneur John Lang in the 1880s. However, the latter team was considered a novelty, rather than a competitive organization, who played for the entertainment of spectators.

<i>Barnaby Rudge</i> (TV series)

Barnaby Rudge is a British drama television series which originally aired on the BBC in thirteen episodes between 30 September and 23 December 1960. It was an adaptation of the 1841 novel Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens set against the backdrop of the 1780 Gordon Riots. The series survived the BBC's purge of the archives and was released on DVD in the USA around 2010, and later in the UK in 2017 by Simply Media. As well as being the only BBC adaptation, it remains the latest on-screen adaptation of the novel on film or television to date.

Barnaby Rudge is a 1915 British silent drama film directed by Thomas Bentley and Cecil M. Hepworth and starring Tom Powers, Stewart Rome and Violet Hopson. It was an adaptation of the 1841 novel Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens which was set amidst the 1780 Gordon Riots in London.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chigwell Hall</span>

Chigwell Hall is a Grade II listed Manor House in Chigwell, Essex. It is situated on Roding Lane within 42 acres of grounds. It was designed by the English architect Richard Norman Shaw - his only house in Essex - for Shaw's client, Alfred Savill, founder of the Savills estate agency, and built in 1876. The building and grounds have been owned by the Metropolitan Police Service since 1967 and is the current site of the force's sports and social club.

Dolly Varden is an unincorporated community in Clark County, in the U.S. state of Ohio.

Dolly Varden was a British racing yacht.


  1. David Perdue's. Charles Dickens Page; Barnaby Rudge
  2. "Barnaby Rudge". Online Literature. Retrieved 21 July 2022.
  3. Dickens, Charles; Spence, Gordon W (2003). "Introduction". Barnaby Rudge. Penguin Random House Canada. ISBN   978-0140437287.
  4. Dickens, Charles; Barrett, Sean. Barnaby Rudge. Naxos Audiobooks.
  5. Kopley, Richard; Hayes, Kevin J (2002). "Two verse masterworks: 'The Raven' and 'Ulalume'". In Hayes, Kevin J (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 192. ISBN   0-521-79727-6.
  6. "Chigwell, Essex". Metro News. 19 December 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2021. the half-timbered building is one of Chigwell’s oldest. Formerly the King’s Head, the building dates from the 17th century and was the model for The Maypole in Charles Dickens’ novel Barnaby Rudge. Dickens was a frequent visitor and described Chigwell as ‘the finest place on earth’.
  7. Marzials, Frank Thomas (1908). Life of Charles Dickens. p. 262. ISBN   9781465512635 . Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  8. "Title-page of "Barnaby Rudge. A Domestic Drama, In Three Acts"". The Victorian Web. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  9. Eaton, Michael. "Dickens on Film". British Film Institute. Retrieved 13 May 2016. Bentley made six silent Dickens adaptations, the most sumptuous of which must surely have been 1915's Barnaby Rudge, the biggest-budget British film of its day, now sadly missing. The surviving pressbook shows spectacular sets of 18th century London built at Walton-on-Thames
  10. "Barnaby Rudge: Episode 1". 30 September 1960. p. 25 via BBC Genome.
  11. "Barnaby Rudge Website". Dickens Fellowship. Retrieved 13 May 2016.
  12. Rose, Damon (24 May 2014). "The actor with Down's syndrome tackling Dickens". BBC. Retrieved 5 August 2016. He plays Barnaby Rudge in a new radio adaptation of one of Charles Dickens's lesser-known works. Rudge is an "idiot" as the language of the time would have it. Today we might say he has a learning disability.

Online editions