From the beginning of his career, Dickens conceived of the home and in particular the hearth as the reception point for his distinctive narrative transmissions. The relationship between writer and reader was imagined in terms of the most intimate and residentially entrenched exchanges even while Dickens contemplated the very profitable consequences of mass proliferation. In order to contextualize Dickens's entrenchment, this essay explores the means by which he fostered an aesthetic of domestic reception. Here the hearth is seen in lights both familiar and unfamiliar, as source and symbol of Victorian virtue, but also as an integral component of a discursive ensemble integrating reader, furnishings, and architecture. In novels like Dombey and Son, Dickens considers the vexing problem of domestic disquiet—the noisy and volatile insecurity of the middle classes at home—while offering a respite, a cure that briefly bound rapt readers to their chairs.

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