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'Live' in Dickens' London
To more completely enjoy reading Dickens you must "live" in Dickens' London!

In How to Read a Book, authors Mortiner J. Adler and Charles Van Doren write:

"The elements of fiction are connected by the total scene or background against which they stand out in relief. The imaginative writer.creates a world in which his characters 'live, move, and have their being.'

Become at home in this imaginary world; know it as if you were an observer on the scene; become a member of its population, willing to befriend its characters, and able to participate in its happenings by sympathetic insight, as you would do in the actions and sufferings of a friend."

Learn more about Dickens' London...

A Christmas Carol

You know the tale, you've seen the movies, but if you haven't read the book you're missing half the story...and much of the heartwarming Christmas cheer! Dickens' little tale of human redemption is definitely worth a couple of evenings near the holidays. There are a million versions out there, make sure you get the original, or read it online at Stormfax.

Dickens' Genius

What's the big deal? Why is this author who was born nearly 200 years ago still taught, talked about, and read today? Why are film and stage productions of Dickens' works still dramatized every year?

Dickens had the unique ability to take in the scenes around him and instantly commit them to memory. Every character type that he met, even casually, was indelibly etched in his mind, to be recalled on command. As he worked out complex plots, he saw it all before him, and needed only to leisurely describe it, sometimes becoming the characters before a mirror to better convey subtle facial expressions.

The characters he created, drawn from an immense well of imagination and personal experience, remain unique in English literature. Dickens also possessed the uncanny ability to describe inanimate objects, enlivening them with human wisdom, heroics, and shortcomings. His incredible command of the English language allowed him to describe characters and events to readers, giving them the sense that they are witnesses to the story unfolding in his imagination. His advice to aspiring writers was "make me see", and no one did it better than Dickens.

Dickens' side-splitting comic style remains one of his most endearing traits to readers today. He seems to have considered it his sworn duty to bring to light all of the hypocrisies of mankind; pompous churchmen, sharp dealing businessmen, crotchety spinsters, cruel schoolmasters, and pretentious politicians were all slain with an even hand before his prodigious pen.

Dickens' ability to command these gifts, together with an extraordinary skill for integrating character, plot, and theme, form the essence of his genius. Michelangelo once said that he "saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set it free", this is the same sort of genius that Dickens possessed, and so also the reason for his immortality, leaving the world something so wonderful that it is never forgotten.

Dickens and Fancy

In Michael Slater's excellent work, The Genius of Dickens, he describes Dickens' use of fancy, a term used throughout his work interchangeably with imagination, to sooth the harshness of reality. Dickens himself used fancy to lose himself in the wonderful bookshelf of his childhood. Slater goes on to describe the use of fancy in the novels, from Mrs. Gamp's imaginary friend, Mrs Harris, in Martin Chuzzlewit to Wemmick in Great Expectations who has created an imaginary world, his castle in Walworth, in order to forget the sordid realities of Jagger's office in London.

Discovering Dickens Discovering Dickens

Enjoy Dickens the way he was originally read in the 19th century...in serial parts. This site, courtesy of Stanford University, features facsimiles of the original installments of several of Dickens novels along with very helpful notes, maps, and illustrations.

You can view the installments in pdf format or they will mail you a paper copy.

A great way to read Dickens!

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Nonesuch Dickens

It was called the perfect edition of Dickens' works when it was produced in 1937, an edition of Dickens to end all editions of Dickens. Beautifully printed and bound, the text followed the 'Charles Dickens Edition' of 1867, the last edition that Dickens personally proof read and edited. The Nonesuch Dickens included all of the original illustrations printed from the original steel plates and wood blocks.

As an added bonus, each set of The Nonesuch Dickens included one of the original steel plates used to print the illustrations. There were only 877 of the printing plates in existence so the print run for the edition was limited to 877. Each of the 24 volume sets sold at the time for 48 guineas, they are now collector's items selling for thousands of dollars.

Very fine and affordable facsimiles of the Nonesuch Dickens, produced to the specifications of the original Nonesuch design, are being offered by Overlook Press. The books are printed on natural cream-shade high quality stock, quarter bound in bonded leather with cloth sides, include a ribbon marker, and feature special printed endpapers. Each volume is wrapped in a protective, clear acetate jacket. All of the original illustrations are beautifully reproduced. There are plans to publish the entire set but only 12 volumes have been produced thus far.

Paperback Editions
Two paperback editions of Dickens' works provide helpful endnotes and more, helping to make reading Dickens even more enjoyable:

Penguin Classics
Penguin Classics

Oliver Twist - BN Classic
Barnes & Noble Classics

The Charles Dickens Page

Use this web site as a guide as you read. From the Novels page you will find links to each novel which offer plot summaries, characters, links to other sites offering information, as well as sidebar information with interesting items about the novels. On the Characters page many of the characters from the novels are explained, some with illustrations. The Dickens' London page will help you understand the times in which the stories take place. There is also a Map of Dickens' London which points out many of the locations mentioned in the novels and a glossary of terms found in Dickens.

The Bibliography page points to books used as a reference in putting this site together and theShop Dickens page contains links to Amazon.com where you can purchase many of these books. The Dickens on the Web page includes many good links to other sites containing information on the author as well as more scholarly sites.

Buy Dickens at Huckleberry and Hodge

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Reading Dickens

Read Dickens:   Early Sketches | Magazine articles | Excerpts from Major Works

In the nineteenth century everyone, from Queen Victoria to the street sweepers, either read Dickens or had Dickens read to them. Reading Dickens Dickens Dream - Robert W. Busstoday is more of a challenge as many of the words he used, and the things those words described, have fallen out of common use. Having a good reference handy while you're reading will ensure that reading Dickens today will be just as entertaining as it was 150 years ago. After all, they're not classics because they're old...but because they're great!

Many good Dickens references are available, I like Charles Dickens A to Z : The Essential Reference to His Life & Work by Paul Davis and The Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens, edited by Paul Schlicke.

Also very good are two paperback editions of Dickens' works: Penguin Classics, which include the original illustrations along with very helpful notes within the text, and the inexpensive Barnes & Noble Classics, which include endnotes, comments and questions, and more. Michael Patrick Hearn's The Annotated Christmas Carol is a wonderful way to enjoy Dickens' timeless Christmas classic.

It is interesting to me that if one were to read Dickens' works in the order that they were written you could almost feel his youthful enthusiasm for life wane in the face of disappointment in his children, marriage woes, separation, the trial of keeping a youthful mistress, illness, travel, and the general wear and tear of fame and fortune.

Want to be exposed to Dickens but are intimidated by the 900 page tomes he was famous for? Start with one of these short stories, sketches, magazine articles, and excerpts of his works that can be read in a single sitting.

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Early Sketches

A Christmas Dinner A Christmas Dinner - Early Dickens Christmas story describes a Christmas dinner at the home of Uncle and Aunt George. Originally published in Bell's Life in London in 1835 under the name Scenes and Characters No. 10 Christmas Festivities.

The New Year The New Year - Dickens describes a party on New Year's Eve 1835. Published in Bell's Life in London as Scenes and Characters No 11.

Omnibuses Omnibuses - Dickens' hilarious account of riding in a London omnibus. The omnibus, a relatively new concept of mass transit, was replacing the coach as a means of moving about the city. Originally appeared as Street Sketches No. 1 in the Morning Chronicle September 26, 1834.

Seven Dials Seven Dials - Sketch describing this notorious London slum, so named for the seven streets that come together there. Dickens observes the residents there living in squalor and filth. Originally published as Scenes and Characters No. 1 in Bell's Life in London in September 1835.

The Pawnbroker's Shop The Pawnbroker's Shop - Dickens describes a pawnbroker's shop in Drury Lane and the customers who are forced, through poverty, to deal there. Published as Sketches of London No. 35 in the Evening Standard in June 1835.

A Visit to Newgate A Visit to Newgate - Dickens visited the notorious London prison in 1836 describing the men, women, and children imprisoned there. He also imagines what it must have been like to have been a condemned man in the last night before execution. Published in Sketches by Boz.

The Hospital Patient The Hospital Patient - Dickens relates the touching story of a young woman in a London hospital who has been brutally beaten by her husband. Police bring the husband to the hospital to observe the dying woman who refuses to identify him as the man who beat her. Originally published in The Carlton Chronicle in August 1836.

Gin Shops Gin Shops - Dickens describes the gin shops in the slums of St. Giles frequented by the London poor. Originally published in The Evening Chronicle on February 19, 1835.

Mr. Minns and his Cousin Mr. Minns and his Cousin - Dickens' first published work, originally titled A Dinner at Poplar Walk, appeared in Monthly Magazine in December 1833. It was retitled Mr. Minns and his Cousin for its inclusion in Sketches by Boz.

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Magazine Articles

Bill Sticking Bill Sticking - Article written for Dickens weekly journal Household Words published March 22, 1851 in which Dickens interviews the King of the Bill-Stickers, men hired by contractors to paste advertisements on hoardings (rented billboards), and just about anywhere else they could get away with it.

In Memoriam Thackaray In Memoriam W. M. Thackeray - Dickens eulogized his friend and fellow author, William Thackeray (1811-1863), in Cornhill Magazine in February 1864

Dickens Chatham Dullborough Town - Dickens, at age 48, describes a trip to his childhood home of Chatham, which he refers to as Dullborough, and finds it 'mysteriously gone, like my own youth'. First published in Dickens' weekly journal All the Year Round June 30, 1860

Waterloo Waterloo - On patrol with Thames police officer 'Pea', Dickens is introduced to 'Waterloo', night toll-taker on Waterloo Bridge, who describes suicides and other unusual events he has seen. Condensed from Down with the Tide, Household Words, February 1853.

Night Walks Night Walks - Dickens, as the Uncommercial Traveller, can't sleep and spends his nights walking around London. His nighttime rambles take him to Newgate Prison, Covent Garden, Westminster Abbey and other locales. All the Year Round, July 21, 1860.

Captain Murderer Captain Murderer - Dickens recalls the story of Captain Murderer, a story that his nurse would terrify him with as a child. Condensed from Nurses Stories in All the Year Round, September 8, 1860.

Captain Murderer What Christmas Is as We Grow Older - Dickens' Christmas message in the 1851 Christmas edition of his weekly magazine, Household Words, reminds readers to remember those who have passed and to cherish their memory as part of the celebration of the holiday. Dickens himself had recently lost his father John Dickens, his infant daughter Dora, his sister Fanny, and her crippled son Henry Jr. He also remembers, as always, Catherine's sister Mary, a dear girl--almost a woman--never to be one, who died in 1837.

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Excerpts from Major Works

David Copperfield-Chapter 11 David Copperfield - Chapter 11 - Contains much of the "autobiographical fragment" which Dickens gave to his friend and biographer, John Forster, relating in the fictionalized account of David Copperfield the story of Dickens' own troubled childhood.

David Copperfield-Chapter 41 David Copperfield - Chapter 41 - Hilarious account of Copperfield and his friend Traddles' visit to David's sweetheart Dora's spinster aunts to obtain their permission to call on her.

Dombey and Son-Chapter 6 Dombey and Son - The Coming of the Railroad - Condensed from chapter 6 of Dombey and Son in which Dickens describes the upheaval caused by the railroad's intrusion into Camden Town.

American Notes-Volume II, Chapter the Third American Notes - From Pittsburgh to Cincinnati in a Western Steamboat - During Dickens' 1842 tour of America he describes a fascinating trip aboard the steamboat Messenger down the Ohio river during the heyday of the American steamboat.

The Haves...and the Have Nots American Notes - The Haves...and the Have Nots - Near the end of Dickens' 1842 travels in North America he observed, on a steamboat between Quebec and Montreal, emigrants from England crowded between decks. He recorded his thoughts, in this beautiful passage in American Notes, on the burden poor families face over those blessed with plenty.

Pickwick Chapter 5 The Pickwick Papers - Equestrian Journey to Dingley Dell - Samuel Pickwick and his fellow travelers, Tracy Tupman, Nathaniel Winkle, and Augustus Snodgrass, are traveling from Rochester to their friend Mr. Wardles residence at Manor Farm, Dingley Dell, a journey of about 15 miles. The travelers' inexperience at handling horses is evident in this comic adventure.

Pickwick Chapter 22 The Pickwick Papers - Mr Pickwick Meets the Lady in Yellow Curl Papers - In one of the funniest episodes in the novel, Samuel Pickwick and his servant, Sam Weller, have traveled to Ipswich in search of the rascal Alfred Jingle, taking rooms in the Great White Horse Inn. Mr Pickwick is ready to retire for the night when he realizes he has left his watch on the dinner table downstairs and determines to go and get it.

Cratchit's Christmas A Christmas Carol - Cratchit's Christmas - Scrooge, accompanied by the Ghost of Christmas Present, visits the home of his clerk, Bob Cratchit, to observe the Cratchit's simple Christmas celebration.

Oliver asks for more Oliver Twist - Oliver asks for More - Nine-year-old Oliver is a resident in the parish workhouse where the boys are "issued three meals of thin gruel a day, with an onion twice a week, and half a roll on Sundays" and has the audacity to ask for more.

Mrs Gamp Martin Chuzzlewit - Mrs Gamp - Even among the bizarre cast of characters in Dickens, Mrs Gamp is a piece of work. She is a nurse of sorts whose specialty lies in the polar extremities of life, the lying in and the laying out.

A Christmas Carol-Condensed A Christmas Carol - Condensed - Dickens pared down A Christmas Carol for his public readings. Read an annotated version of Dickens' own reading text that can be read in a single sitting!

An Easy Shave Martin Chuzzlewit - An Easy Shave - Young Bailey, street smart and moving up in the world, has gone to visit his friend the barber, Poll Sweedlepipe, and has decided that his baby face could use a shave in this comic scene from Martin Chuzzlewit.

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