Although much has been written about the history of copyright and authorship in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, very little attention has been given to the impact of the development of other kinds of intellectual property on the ways in which writers viewed their work in this period. This book is the first to suggest that the fierce debates over patent law and the discussion of invention and inventors in popular texts during the nineteenth century informed the parallel debate over the professional status of authors. The book examines the shared rhetoric surrounding the creation of the 'inventor' and the 'author' in the debate of the 1830s, and the challenge of the emerging techlogies of mass production to traditional ideas of art and industry is addressed in a chapter on authorship at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Subsequent chapters show how velists Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot participated in debates over the value and ownership of labour in the 1850s, such as patent reform and the controversy over married women's property. The book shows the ways in which these were reflected in their vels. It also suggests that the publication of those vels, and the celebrity of their authors, had a substantial effect on the subsequent direction of these debates. The final chapter shows that Thomas Hardy's later fiction reflects an important shift in thinking about creativity and ownership towards the end of the century. Patent Inventions argues that Victorian writers used the vel t just to reflect, but also to challenge received tions of intellectual ownership and responsibility. It ends by suggesting that detailed study of the debate over intellectual property in the nineteenth century leads to a better understanding of the complex negotiations over the bounds of selfhood and social responsibility in the period.
Clare Pettitt worked in journalism and theatre in London for six years before completing a D.Phil at Oxford University, and then taking up a lectureship in Victorian literature at Leeds University in 1997. She is currently Director of Studies and Lecturer in English at Newnham College, Cambridge. She has published several articles about Elizabeth Gaskell and Charles Dickens, and is a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement.