ABSTRACT

In this chapter I focus on the conspiraceme that I call the “Hidden Hand.” By Hidden Hand, I mean a person, group, or organization that guides the life of another (often unsuspecting) person. Among the most memorable literary examples of individuals or groups acting as the Hidden Hand are Professor Moriarty, the arch-foe of Sherlock Holmes, Sunday in his role as a policeman in The Man Who Was Thursday, the “invert conspiracy” in In Search of Lost Time, and O’Brien in 1984. As I will show this conspiraceme has a close relation to the old notion of the Providential Hand (as a force that arranges and controls reality) and, in transitional Victorian conspiracy narratives like Great Expectations, the trope of the Hidden Hand even comes to replace the Providential Hand. To examine this conspiraceme, to consider how it contributes to the affective power of a given work, and to see how it prefigures its counterpart in twentieth-century conspiracy theory narratives, I will look at four nineteenth-century novels-Sir Walter Scott’s Waverly, Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, and Charles Dickens’s Bleak House (very briefly) and Great Expectations, with the last being the primary focus of this chapter.