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“Miss Harkness insisted on calling her tale, in which she gives the traditional epic ‘topos’ of seduced innocence a proletarian twist, “A Realistic Story”. Following contemporary usage, she claimed that her book would throw light upon the life of the poorer classes with exact faithfulness of detail and portray those sad and outrageous things that the strict conventions of the Victorian novel of manners had kept from the reader’s view. But it was just this subtitle that Engels took as the starting point of his criticism. Engels declared that Miss Harkness’ story was “not quite realistic enough”. “Realism, to my mind, implies”, he said, “besides truth typical circumstances”. Engels did not object to the representation of the individual characters; with a polite compliment, he even called the figure of the complacent intellectual, Arthur Grant, “a masterpiece”. But he did not at all agree with the representation of the typical circumstances of the London proletariat: “the circumstances which surround them [the characters] and make them act are not perhaps equally [typical]. Engels had political doubts about the image of the London proletariat as Miss Harkness had drawn it. The helpless, inactive mass of individuals misled by ministers or in need of the Salvation Army’s help did not seem to him at all like those pugnacious descendants of the Chartists whose political rise he believed he had followed since the first fiery proclamations of Thomas Carlyle. In Miss Harkness’ story, Engels pointed out, “the working class figures as a passive mass, unable to help itself and not even making any attempt at striving to help itself. All attempts to drag it out of its torpid misery come from without, from above. Now if this was a correct description about 1800 or 1810, in the days of Saint-Simon and Robert Owen, it cannot appear so in 1887 to a man who for nearly fifty years has had the honour of sharing in most of the fights of the militant proletariat. The rebellious reaction of the working class against the oppressive medium which surrounds them… at recovering their status as human beings, belong to history and must therefore lay claim to a place in the domain of realism””