Lucasta Miller considers the essay as the ultimate outsider genre.

For most people the word “essay” conjures up memories of school, and it’s usually the essays you didn’t want to write that stick in the mind. In Our Mutual Friend, Dickens made it the embodiment of pedagogical narrowness in the figure of Miss Peecher, “who could write a little Essay on any subject, exactly a slate long”, and whose essays were always written “strictly according to rule”.