Explore The Impact Of The Telegraph And The Railway On Representations Of The Mind Plymouth University Assignment

2898 words - 12 pages

‘A system for transmitting messages from a distance along a wire, especially one creating signals by making and breaking an electrical connection’ (http://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/telegraph)

Through the work of people such as Samuel Morse, Cooke and Wheatstone and the financial backing of entrepreneurs such as Henry O’Reilly, the 1900s saw the development of the electric telegraph. Before this, the Semaphore system, which soon became obsolete by the electric telegraph, was the main form of communication. However, this system depended completely on there being clear weather, could not be used across large distances and more importantly, it was not private: anyone could learn the semaphore system and be able to read the messages being sent if they could see the tower.

However, the new telegraph communications technology that came in to being, allowed people to communicate almost immediately giving immediate access worldwide. The good and bad of the telegraph, ‘…is a tale of scientific discovery, technological cunning, personal rivalry, and cutthroat competition (Standage, 1999, p2). The telegraph allowed people to communicate over vast areas due to the wires being able to be laid under water: it allowed Europe to be linked with America via the Atlantic cable.

Despite being more discreet, it was still possible to decipher messages sent through telegraph offices: especially messages being sent a long distance which would have to pass through many of these offices, giving greater access to more people, therefore a higher chance of interception.

Alongside this, the railway system was also developing and growing. Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) describes this innovation as being ‘The Mechanical Age’ and ‘The Age of Machinery’. When writing about these, he argues it exists in ‘…every outward and inward sense’ (Carlyle, 1829, Signs of the Times, p1, in http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/carlyle/signs/brendlinger.html, 2011). He goes onto argue that due to the mechanisation of industry and the growth of the railways the, ‘…old modes of exertion are all discredited and thrown aside’ (1829, p1).

With the first railway opened in 1830, it transformed how people journeyed and communicated but also, how they read fiction. Many potent descriptions of the development of the railways are found in English novels. Dickens being one of the authors who wrote at length about the railways, did so at first hand. In his novel, Dombey and Son 1848, Dickens gives a description of the ‘great earthquake’ which he was only able to provide, as a result of his travels and seeing the earthquake first hand. In October of 1846, the novel started appearing in monthly instalments until 1848 where he published the whole volume (Mullan, https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/railways-in-victorian-fiction, 2014). In it he uses a sarcastic tone when saying that, ‘…the very core of all this dire disorder…’ of the unfinished railroad, ‘…trailed...

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