'On Errands of Life, These Letters Speed to Death': Erotic Destination and the Female Epistle in Dickens and Poe
Publication Type
Original research

This paper addresses three major subjects within the context of nineteenth-century female sexuality and epistolary communication. Starting with a discussion of how postal delivery and sexual desire are interconnected in both Dickens’s Martin Chuzzlewit (1844) and Poe’s ‘The Purloined Letter’ (1844), I examine how adestination, or displacement of the post, threatens the letter’s moral integrity and embodies its sexual meaning. Upon despatch, the letter becomes emptied of its meaning and its real signification is torn between the possibilities of arrival at a destination or non-arrival in adestination. The paper then explores how adestination redefines and problematises the division of private and public spaces. Once delivered, the letter leaves the purely private realm and becomes a site of tension between private property and public claim. The latter, through masculine interception, brings private letters into the public space of sexual display. The paper finally investigates how masculinities like those of the intercepting Minister D and Mr. Pecksniff are deconstructed through adestination: both fail to be models of admirable Victorian/American gentlemen. Mr Pecksniff in Martin Chuzzlewit and Minister D in ‘The Purloined Letter’ violate one-way epistolary communication and stand as interceptors and even blackmailers. Whilst the former eventually turns into a ‘squalid letter-writing man’, the latter dwindles further in social power and becomes the frivolous Devil-Man in the House.  

Symbiosis - A Journal of Transatlantic Literary and Cultural Relations
University of Glasgow
Publisher Country
United Kingdom
Publication Type
Both (Printed and Online)