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Life & Career
Introduction Writings Serial Publication Social Critic American Journeys

Illustrated title page from DAVID COPPERFIELD, by Hablot K. Browne, No. XV (1850).

OUR MUTUAL FRIEND advertising leaflet
"Advertising leaflet for OUR MUTUAL FRIEND," by Marcus Stone, ca. April 1864.

First page of GREAT EXPECTATIONS included in the second weekly journal Dickens founded, ALL THE YEAR ROUND.

Dickens' Writings
by Joel J. Brattin

Charles Dickens was one of the most prolific writers of his era, producing 15 extraordinary novels and a great number of works in other genres.

The Novels

1. THE PICKWICK PAPERS (1836-37), a comic masterpiece written when Dickens was in his mid-20s, features the adventures and observations of the retired gentleman Mr. Pickwick, his incomparable Cockney servant Sam Weller, and other members of the Pickwick Club.

2. OLIVER TWIST (1837-39) blends humor and pathos, taking the orphaned Oliver from the grim world of the parish workhouse to a London gang of pickpockets, thieves, and prostitutes headed by the outcast Fagin.

LITTLE DORRIT explores life in the Marshalsea prison.

Video clip
Anton Lesser as Dickens
London fog as depicted by Dickens in BLEAK HOUSE.

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3. NICHOLAS NICKLEBY (1838-39) exposes the abuses of the Yorkshire schools for boys and treats the themes of love and selfishness.

4. THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP (1840-41) contrasts urban and rural scenes, realistic language and sentimental rhetoric, and ultimately good and evil by means of the grotesque dwarf Quilp and the pathetic Little Nell.

5. BARNABY RUDGE (1841), set in the time of the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots of 1780, considers religious intolerance and hypocrisy, and juxtaposes the stark violence of the mob against the mad beauty of the title character.

6. MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT (1843-44) analyzes greed and selfishness, and takes place, in part, in America, with critical scenes set in the wretched, fever-ridden swamp known as Eden, near the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

7. DOMBEY AND SON (1846-48) considers the impact of the commercial world on personal life, and includes Dombey's neglected daughter Florence as a far more important character than the son of the title.

8. DAVID COPPERFIELD (1849-50), an autobiographical novel revealing narrator David's growth to maturity and understanding, numbers childhood, memory, marriage, and love among its central themes.

9. BLEAK HOUSE (1852-53) focuses in part on legal abuses in Victorian England, and offers two very different narrators: an omniscient third-person narrator and the dutiful and modest Esther Summerson as the first-person narrator.

10. HARD TIMES (1854) considers the dangers of industrialization, a "hard" utilitarian philosophy, and an educational system that ignores the development of the imagination.

11. LITTLE DORRIT (1855-57) explores life in the Marshalsea prison and the sufferings of those who, like Dickens' own father, were imprisoned for debt; the novel presents a variety of imprisonments, including psychological ones.

12. A TALE OF TWO CITIES (1859), a fast-paced treatment of the French Revolution, vividly depicts the passions of Madame DeFarge and the other revolutionaries in Paris and the heroics of Charles Darnay's dark double, Sydney Carton, in London.

13. GREAT EXPECTATIONS (1860-61), narrated by the orphan Pip, offers fascinating explorations of guilt, wealth, passion, time, responsibility, and affection, and presents unforgettable portraits of the ruined Miss Havisham, the cold beauty Miss Estella, and the loving blacksmith Joe Gargery.

14. OUR MUTUAL FRIEND (1864-65), a complex and multiplotted love story, considers closely questions of truth, identity, and wealth, and examines the ways character itself can be transformed.

15. THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD (1870), an exploration of life in an English cathedral town, treats opium, hypnotism, violent passion, and murder, but the mystery announced by the title remains unsolved, as Dickens died before completing this, his final work.

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Photo Credit:
Robert D. Fellman Collection (left), used by permission of George C. Gordon Library, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
© 2003 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.