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A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Hard Cash

Author and Title: Charles Reade. Hard Cash: A Matter-of-Fact Romance

First Edition: London: Sampson Low, 1863. 3 volumes, post 8vo, 31s 6d.

Serialization: All the Year Round, 28 March 1863 to 26 December 1863 (weekly)

Summary: Originally titled Very Hard Cash during its serial run. Set in the town of Barkington, the narrative follows two families, the Dodds and the Hardies. The Dodds consist of Captain David Dodd, Mrs. Lucy Dodd, and their two children Edward and Julia. The Hardies consist of Richard Hardie and his children Alfred and Jane. The novel opens with Mrs. Dodd and Julia visiting Edward at Oxford to watch a boat race. Captain Dodd is away on a sea voyage. Both Edward and Alfred are on the University boating team, and through their friendship Alfred meets Julia and the two fall in love, though they do not openly express their feelings for each other. Julia begins to show signs of illness, and Mrs. Dodd summons a variety of physicians, all of whom prescribe different medications for different illnesses. Dr. Sampson appears on the scene and disagrees with all of the physicians and quickly identifies Julia as being lovesick, not physically sick. Despite Mrs. Dodd’s initial hesitation, Alfred woos and wins Julia. Alfred’s father Richard Hardie, a local banker, surprisingly forbids the marriage because he is secretly in financial distress. The story then shifts to follow the exploits of Captain Dodd, who has managed to earn 14,000 pounds as a sea captain and is now on his way home with his money, which he keeps strapped to his person at all times. His voyage home is disastrous, as he barely survives pirate attacks and shipwrecks. Immediately upon return Dodd deposits the money in Hardie’s bank. However, Hardie’s bank is about to fail due to poor investments. Dodd quickly learns of the pending failure and returns to retrieve his money, but Hardie is not eager to relinquish the sum, which angers Dodd and causes him to suffer a cataleptic shock. The unconscious Dodd is taken home for care and treatment. Hardie and Skinner, the bank’s clerk, plot to keep Dodd’s money and disavow his claims to the deposit. In a moment of semi-consciousness, Dodd returns the bank and calls out for Hardie to return his money. Hardie fearfully acquiesces and is overheard by Alfred. But before Hardie makes it outside to give Dodd his money, Dodd again falls unconscious and is taken back home. As he does not recover his full mental or physical function, Dodd is moved to an asylum for supervised care. Alfred, because of his love for Julia, demands that his father return the money. Thus cornered, Hardie hires some doctors to declare Alfred insane and forcefully put him away in an asylum. Meanwhile, Jane Hardie and Edward Dodd meet and fall in love, though both are forbidden due to the issues between the families, but Alfred and Julia are due to be married in defiance of Hardie. On the eve of their wedding, Alfred is tricked into visiting a private asylum under the pretense of receiving evidence of his father’s crime, but instead Alfred is locked up. It appears to the Dodds that Julia has been jilted, and they are crushed. Alfred’s time in the asylum is difficult because everyone assumes his insanity, despite his arguments of wrongful imprisonment, and the attendants practice various forms of torture (such as the use of shackles, sleep deprivation, forced medication) on the patients. When the public inspectors visit, Alfred convinces them to examine the asylum’s practices. They agree to do so but do not agree to release Alfred. One of Alfred’s handlers, Edith Archbold, grows to love Alfred and wants to assist his cause. Alfred hatches a plan with Archbold and others to escape, but just as the plan is put in motion Alfred is unexpectedly transferred to a different asylum. Meanwhile, the Dodds and Dr. Sampson conduct an informal investigation into Alfred’s disappearance. While this is happening, Jane is attacked in the street and dealt a head injury that eventually kills her. The Dodds are forced to find work, and Edward gets a position as a firefighter, after heroically saving a woman from a burning building. Alfred’s new asylum is much more humane than the previous one. Alfred is able to plead his case to the asylum review board, and they take an interest but their bureaucratic machinery moves slowly. After some time, Archbold reappears as an attendant at Alfred’s new asylum. Captain Dodd is transferred to the same asylum as Alfred, but Alfred does not recognize him. Archbold attempts to win Alfred’s love by telling him that Julia is dating another man. Alfred takes the news poorly and Archbold becomes angered and declares herself his enemy. She torments Alfred by placing him in the same cell as Captain Dodd. In an act of desperation, a fellow inmate sets the asylum on fire to help facilitate Alfred’s escape. In the confusion Alfred and Dodd are left locked in their rooms to burn to death, but they are rescued at the last minute by Edward. Alfred and Dodd go on the run but are quickly separated. Armed with a pistol, Alfred forcefully achieves an interview with Julia but they are interrupted by asylum attendants coming to recapture him. Alfred shoots and kills their attack dog and injures one of the attendants before escaping out the window and hiding in a covered cart in the yard. He is rescued by the Dodds and Dr. Sampson, all of whom are now on his side after hearing his story. Meanwhile, Captain Dodd becomes a crew member on a ship. He comes very close to accidently perishing while trying to save a drowning boy. The accident restores Dodd to his former self and he returns to England. Julia, while administering to the poor in the neighborhood, meets Skinner, who still retains the only physical proof of the transaction between Dodd and Hardie—the receipt. Skinner tries to blackmail Hardie, and Hardie tries to murder Skinner. Neither succeed, so Skinner decides on his deathbed to give the receipt to Julia. After a long and involved trial, Alfred is exonerated, and he and Julia are married. (SCT)

Title Tags:

References: BL; EC; Sutherland; Vann


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