View Full Version : Origin of 'Telescopic Philanthropy'

03-05-2006, 08:36 PM
Hi there :o)

I'm new here and I'd very much appreciate it if someone could help me with a problem I've got concerning 'telescopic philanthropy'. Is this an expression that Dickens came up with or had it existed even before he wrote Bleak House? I'm writing a paper on Dickens's chapter headings and obviously the answer to my question makes a huge difference in how readers would approach the chapter.

Thanks very much,

05-06-2006, 08:35 PM
I'm about 99% sure that Dickens coined that phrase. My reason for saying that is twofold. First, every single time I've heard or seen that expression (which is almost a dozen times), the user has cited Dickens as the source. Not once have I seen anyone prior to Dickens cited. Secondly, I did do a quick, very quick, search online to verify that very thing, and I found no reference to that phrase before Dickens. My search, however, was far from exhaustive. I guess a third reason that I could add is that it's a very Dickensian sounding phrase - which is not a completely superfluous consideration. And I just thought of something else as I was typing. The copy of Bleak House that I have has extensive footnotes and the editor is meticulous about citing quotes that Dickens copied directly or adapted from earlier works, and there is no note suggesting that Dickens took this phrase from elsewhere. Take those reasons for what you will, but that's why I assume it's Dickens' phrase.

Alec Newman
12-16-2006, 04:00 PM
Telescopic Philanthropy was first termed by Richard Oastler some time between 1727 and and 1850: 'what are the ministers of religion doing? they are using the telescope -- they are prying into sins and sorrows of other, and far distant nations' (p173. Richard Oastler Britsh Labour Struggles: Contemporary Pamphlets 1727-1850 New York: Arno Press 1972.) As you are aware, Dickens did not publish Bleak House untill 1852.