© 2017 by Weiner Nusim Foundation.

The Critical Writings of Charles Dickens:
A resource for scholars and Dickens lovers

Dickens on His Own Works

As his popularity grew, Dickens was often called upon to express his philosophy of writing. It is quite clear from an examination of all his critical comments, that he did not seek out opportunities to talk in general terms of his philosophy, but rather kept to a discussion of specific points in his novels. When he did talk in general terms, he would always come back to the personal satisfaction he found in knowing that he had brought happiness to so many readers.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982

Charles Dickens met Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of illustrator and artist George Hogarth in 1835. They married in 1836 and lived together for 22 years and had 10 children. This letter was written during their courtship. Macrone was Dickens' editor. Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

In this letter to Catherine Grace Frances Gore (1799-1861), novelist and dramatist, Dickens refers to her criticisms of an article in Bentley's Miscellany, comparing favorably the freedom of lower class children to the restrictions placed on children of the rich. Mrs. Gore had apparently cut Bentley's name out of the cover, and Dickens had just resigned as editor of the magazine. In the letter Dickens mentions Mrs. Louisa Fairlie (1810-1843) who, as editor of Portraits of the Children of Nobility, sentimentalized engravings by Alfred Edward Chalon and others. Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote a letter on February 23, 1841, to John Tomlin (1806-1850), a postmaster and sometime writer in Jackson, Tennessee, who had sent Dickens a fan letter that was published later in an American magazine edited by Edgar Allan Poe (Gutenberg). Dickens met Poe on his first visit to America, when both writers had published, yet neither was well known.

 

On April 8, 1841 Dickens wrote a letter to the Reverend Thomas Robinson, a dissenting minister who is otherwise unidentified, where he expresses his views on retribution and vengeance.

 

On June 25, 1841, Dickens gave a speech in Edinburgh, where he justified the death of little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop. Professor John Wilson (1785-1854), who presided over the public dinner, was a Scottish advocate, literary critic, author, and professor of Moral Philosophy at Edinburgh University. Dickens quoted two lines from a famous Robert Burns poem A Man's A Man For A' That which was often sung in Scotland.

 

On February 1, 1842, Dickens gave a speech at a literary banquet in Boston, where he compared his love for his works to the blind love of a mother for her children.

 

On February 7, 1842, Dickens gave a speech in Hartford, Connecticut, where he describes his feeling that his characters represent their social class. The book he was winding up was The Old Curiosity Shop which was published serially in Master Humphrey's Clock.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Francis Dolyell Finlay (1832-1917) was proprieter and editor of The Northern Whig. Read Letter

 

Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer, known as Baron Lytton (1803-1873), was a novelist, dramatist, and statesman. He was author of The Last Days of PompeiiPelham, and Rienzi. Dickens wrote him a letter in 1865, evidence of their warm friendship.

Philosophy of Writing

Addresses to the Reading Public

Because Dickens wanted his works to be accessible to the general reading public, he encouraged publication of his works in inexpensive editions. The Cheap Edition of his works, beginning in 1847, realized this objective. The same principle underlay the publication of the French edition which commenced in 1857. Dickens’ addresses which opened both series follow.

 

In 1847, Dickens published an "Address to the Cheap Edition of Works," writing that "it is not for an author to describe his own books."

 

Louis Hachette (1800-1864) was the original publisher of the French editions of many foreign works, including those of Dickens. Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005
Read Letter

 

Dickens addressed the French public on January 17, 1857 from Tavistock House. His speech prefaces a French translation of Nicholas Nickleby.

A Chronology of Novels, Stories, and Major Non-Fiction by Charles Dickens

Prefaces and Letters

In this section the prefaces and significant letters for each novel are arranged chronologically in order of the novel's date of publication. Together they illuminate Dickens' creative methods and intentions and serve to shed light on the evolution of the author's craft.

 

Dickens's Prefaces to Sketches by Boz can be found here.

 

In Part X of the Pickwick Papers, published in January 1837, Dickens provided an address to his readers.

 

For Part XV of The Pickwick Papers which appeared in July 1837, Dickens wrote another address in which he apologized for being late and promised it wouldn't happen again. The novel was completed in 20 parts.

 

Dickens prefaced the first edition of the Pickwick Papers in 1837 with an essay describing what he tried to achieve in the novel. Dickens wrote Preface to the Cheap Edition of the Pickwick Papers ten years after the first, in 1847. All Prefaces to the Pickwick Papers can be found here.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982
Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982

Dickens received many suggestions from readers about how to write his novels. Sometimes he followed their advice, but not always. He explained his reluctance to accept stories from people he didn't know to George Beadnell (1773-1862), a prosperous businessman and father of Maria, Dickens' first love. Mr. Clarke is unidentified.Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume I
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Anna Maria Hall (1800-1881) was a writer and wife of Samuel Carter Hall (1800-1889), a journalist and the original of Mr. Pecksniff in Martin ChuzzlewitRead Letter

 

Dickens published "History of 'Pickwick'" in The Athenaeum on March 31, 1866, explaining Seymour's death.

 

In a letter to The Athenaeum on April 7, 1866, Dickens corrects a typo in his earlier letter that was printed in the journal.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

This is an example of many letters in which Dickens responded to readers. No comment was too trivial for his reaction. Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote the Preface to the First Cheap Edition of Oliver Twist from Devonshire Terrace in March 1850. It continues the argument that Jacob's Island where the poor live in Oliver Twist was a realistic description, not fantasy. All Prefaces can be found here.

 

Dickens wrote a letter to Thomas Haines, a police reporter, on June 3, 1837, requesting permission to shadow a magistrate "whose harshness and insolence would render him a fit subject" for his next number of Oliver Twist. Allan Stewart Laing, (1788-1862) mentioned in the letter, was known for his severity as Hatton Garden police magistrate, and was lampooned as Mr. Fang in Oliver Twist.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982

Frederick Henry Yates (1797-1842) was an actor and manager of the Adelphi Theater. Oliver Twist was dramatized in five versions before Yates' on February 25, 1839.Read Letter

 

In a letter (see bottom of linked page) to his illustrator George Cruikshank on November 9, 1838, Dickens requested that the plate depicting Rose Maylie and Oliver be redrawn. He didn't explain why.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

In February 1840, Dickens wrote a letter to Richard Henry (or Hengist) Horne (1803-1884), a playwright, man of letters, and contributor to HW. In it he mentions Williams Harrison Ainsworth (1805-1882), author of Jack Sheppard, serialized in Bentley's Miscellany in 1839 and 1840 after Oliver Twist, and other Newgate novels. Read Letter

 

 

Letter to Joshua Fayle. Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote "Nickleby Proclamation by 'Boz'" in 1838, introducing Nicholas Nickleby.

 

In his Prefaces to Nicholas Nickleby, Dickens focuses his criticism of education on the well known dreadful Yorkshire schools.

 

Yates' dramatization of Nickleby opened on November 19, 1838 and ran 160 nights. Dickens wrote a congratulatory letter to him on November 29, 1838, mentioning Tom and Jerry, characters of Pierce Egan's Life in London, 1821, a popular work on the sporting life about town. His work had been compared with Nicholas Nickleby in playbills.

 

On December 29, 1838, Dickens wrote a letter (pg. 31) to Mrs. S.C. Hall, a well-known Irish novelist and writer.

 

John Forster (1812-1876) was Dickens' longtime friend and advisor who eventually became his biographer. He was also the author of biographies of Walter Savage Landor and Oliver Goldsmith, which are discussed in the following letter. William Charles Macready (1793-1873) was a prominent actor and lifelong friend of Dickens and Forster. Read Letter

 

In the Preface to the First Cheap Edition of The Old Curiosity Shop published on September 1848, Dickens describes the inspiration behind the story.

 

In May of 1840, Dickens wrote Forster, happy that the character of Dick in The Old Curiosity Shop had struck so favorable a note.

 

Dickens wrote a letter to Forster on June 17, 1840 from Broadstairs, a cottage he rented several times for vacations, describing the journey of Nell and her grandfather away from London.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

On September 6, 1840, Dickens wrote to Forster about the dedication of Volume I of Master Humphrey's Clock, published on October 15, 1840. He honored poet Samuel Rogers (1763-1855) with the dedication, repeating it when The Old Curiosity Shop was published separately in 1841. Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote George Cattermole (1800-1868) about how to depict Nell's death in The Old Curiosity Shop. Cattermole was a painter who illustrated The Old Curiosity Shopand Barnaby Rudge.

 

In a letter to Forster dated January 7, 1841, Dickens described his sorrow at writing Little Nell's death which reminded him of the death of Mary, Catherine's younger sister.

 

Dickens wrote to Forster on January 17, 1841, praising his feedback on his writing. In the letter he mentions William Bradbury (1800-1869) of publishers Bradbury and Evans who had lost his young daughter in 1839.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

In 1841, Dickens wrote Thomas Latimer (1803-1888), a radical journalist and editor of the Western Times, about his design and purpose in writing The Old Curiosity ShopRead Letter

 

Dickens wrote to Forster on January 17, 1841, about his continued progress with The Old Curiosity Shop. In the letter he mentions William Bradbury (1800-1869) of publishers Bradbury and Evans who had lost his young daughter in 1839.

 

In a speech on February 1, 1842 in Boston, Dickens expresses his delight that his American readers love little Nell.

 

Dickens responded to Joseph B. Smith, who was later to become editor of the Albany State Register, assuring him that the life and death of Nell were fictitious happenings.

 

Dickens begins the Preface to the First Cheap Edition of Barnaby Rudge with two funny stories about his pet ravens, and in the Preface to the Third Volume of Master Humphrey's Clock mentions the Gordon Riots.

 

Dickens' pet raven, Grip, died in 1841, and Dickens wrote of his passing in a letter to his friend Daniel Maclise on March 12. Maclise (1806-1870) was a well-known painter. Charles Knight (1791-1873) was an author and publisher, a pioneer of inexpensive literature.

 

On March 26, 1841, Dickens wrote to Forster about working on Barnaby Rudge, which was appearing in Master Humphrey's Clock at the time.

 

On April 5, 1841, Dickens wrote to Forster, asking him for editing suggestions on Barnaby Rudge.

 

On April 29, 1841, Dickens wrote to Forster of his plodding progress on Barnaby Rudge. In the letter he refers to John Pritt Harley (1786-1858), a comic actor.

 

In a letter to Forster dated June 3, 1841. Dickens discusses Lord George Gordon who led the Gordon Riots that form background of Barnaby Rudge.

 

On July 9, 1841, Dickens wrote to Forster from Scotland, excited about how Barnaby Rudge was unfolding.

 

On July 21, 1841, Dickens wrote to Mrs. Mary Hurnall, a blind woman who had written to him about a blind character in Barnaby Rudge.

 

On August 11, 1841, Dickens wrote to Forster about getting close to the end of Barnaby Rudge.

 

Dickens wrote to his illustrator George Cattermole on September 12, 1841 with artistic instructions for an engraving for Barnaby Rudge.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

John Landseer (1769-1852) was a painter and author. In the letter, Dickens mentions John Wilkes (1727-1797), who was a city magistrate involved in putting down the Gordon Riots. Dickens says he didn't follow history exactly because he focused on the characters. Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969
Read Letter

 

Dickens traveled to America for the first time in 1842 with his wife Catherine. As a liberal, he had expected to be enchanted with the new world. Instead he was very disappointed and reflected that in American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit. The American readers who loved Dickens' novels were equally disappointed at how their country was portrayed so Dickens spent considerable time defending what he had written in prefaces and reassuring individual Americans that he did not hate their country.

 

Dickens wrote in the Prefaces to American Notes in June 1850 that his observations about the United States were well intended.

 

On October 12, 1841, Dickens wrote to author Andrew Bell, thanking him for the gift of his book, Men and Things: Being the Experience of a Year's Residence in the United States, 1838, published under the pseudonym A. Thomason. Mrs. Frances Trollope's preface was to Domestic Manners of the Americans, 1832, her account of an earlier visit to the U.S.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume I
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005
Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote this letter of December 16, 1842, to Frances Trollope (1780-1863), the mother of Anthony Trollope. She was the author of Domestic Manners of the Americans, 1832, which Dickens cited in the letter to Bell of October 12, 1841 (see earlier link).

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Thomas Chapman was a merchant for whom Dickens' young brother Augustus worked as a clerk. He was not related to the publishing firm of Chapman and Hall which had been robbed by Thomas Powell, a former employee who had escaped to America. Powell then wrote The Living Authors of England to which Dickens strenuously objected. See Preface to American Notes for Dickens' treatment of Powell, and following letter. Read Letter

 

On December 14, 1849, Dickens continued the fight against Powell when he wrote to the editor of the Sun.

 

On March 1, 1862, Dickens published his commentary "The Young Man From the Country" in his periodical All the Year Round. Again he defended himself against the charge of being anti-American by explaining what he expected to find in the United States. Dickens himself is "the young man from the country."

 

On his second visit to America, Dickens gave a speech in New York on April 18, 1868, in which he discussed how America had changed for the better in the more than 25 years since his first visit in 1842. He also promised to publish the speech as an appendix in every future edition of American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit.

 

In the first Preface to Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens explains that he wrote this novel as a complete entity and tried to avoid the temptation of creating climaxes at the end of every installment - although it was published over 20 months. Dickens was beginning to realize that a structured novel required more advance planning and discipline than his previous more episodic works. In the following Preface to the "Charles Dickens" edition of Martin Chuzzlewit, Dickens describes several characters, expanding on his discussion of Mr. Pecksniff in the First Edition, and taking the opportunity to hypothesize about crime. All prefaces can be found here.

 

On November 2, 1843, Dickens wrote to Forster about the great amount of work he put into the writing of Martin Chuzzlewit and says he wants to go abroad again, this time to Europe and claims the cost would be manageable. He mentions a "travel-book," referring to Pictures from Italy,  that he plans to write and says that will be cost effective.

 

Dickens's 1848 Preface to the First Edition of Dombey and Sons consists of a brief note asking to be remembered to his readers. In his 1867 Preface to Dombey and Son, Dickens explains the character development of Dombey. All prefaces can be found here.

 

Dickens wrote to Forster on July 12, 1846, that he was pleased with how his planning and writing the beginning of Dombey and Son were going.

 

Dickens wrote a letter to Forster of July 18, 1846 with more detail about the first installment of Dombey and Son which Dickens was sending to Forster for reading prior to publication.

 

A week later, on July 25, 1846, Dickens wrote a letter to Forster that contained "an outline of my immediate intentions in reference to Dombey."

 

Dickens asked for Forster's opinion on how to handle the end of the first installment and the development of the second installment of Dombey in the letter dated August 7, 1846.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume I
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005
Read Letter

 

On October 3, 1846, Dickens wrote to Forster asking his opinion about whether to develop some characters further as children and other specifics in the second installment of Dombey and Son.

 

Dickens wrote to Forster on November 4, 1846, describing how he based Mrs. Pipchin's establishment on an actual boarding-house keeper he had known as a child. Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809) was a playwright and writer whose Memoirs of 1816 are cited by Dickens.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume I
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005 

Dickens wrote a letter to Hablôt K. Browne (1815-52), painter and Dickens' illustrator for several works including Dombey. Dickens' instructions are very specific and show how clearly he visualized the characters. Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote Forster a frustrated letter on December 31, 1846, calling his own writing process for Dombey and Son "Most abominably dull and stupid."

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005
Read Letter

 

On February 7, 1847, Dickens wrote to Forster on his birthday, complaining of writer's block. He mentions feedback from Lord Francis Jeffrey (1773-1850), who was editor of the Edinburgh Review and an admiring friend of Dickens.

 

On February 10, Dickens sent a letter to Forster where he discusses the problem of switching interest from one character to another.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Browne and Dickens parted ways after 23 years of collaboration starting with Sketches by Boz and ending with A Tale of Two CitiesRead Letter

 

On December 21, 1847, Dickens wrote to Forster, asking for more feedback on Dombey.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Dickens wrote to George Hogarth, expressing his faith in the success of Dombey and SonRead Letter

 

In a side note to the editor of the Sun, on April 14, 1848, Dickens wrote a complimentary farewell note about the conclusion of Dombey and Son. The editor, William Charles Mark Kent (1823-1902), was a friend.

 

In 1850, Dickens wrote the original Preface of David Copperfield, treating the book as a beloved child he cannot bear to part with. In a preface nineteen years later, Dickens admits that Copperfield is his favorite book. Both prefaces can be found here.

 

On February 26, 1849, Dickens wrote Forster about David Copperfield, including a list of possible titles for the novel.

 

On July 10, 1849, Dickens wrote to Forster about the autobiographical element in David Copperfield. This is the first time that Forster heard about Dickens' having worked in a blacking factory as a child while his father was in debtors' prison.

 

Johnson, Edgar. The Heart of Charles Dickens. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1952.

Edition may be found online, but text is unavailable.

Dickens wrote to Angela Burdett Coutts (1814-1906), an important philanthropist whom Dickens aided in charitable projects. The "sad subject" is prostitution which is seen through the character Martha in David CopperfieldRead Letter

 

On July 26, 1850, Dickens wrote to Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton, thanking him for his favorable opinion of David CopperfieldBulwer-Lytton (1803-1873) was an author and a politician, serving twice in Parliament.

 

In August of 1853, Dickens wrote a Preface to Bleak House for the Charles Dickens Edition. In the Preface to the First Edition, he begins the first sentence, "A few months ago, on a public occasion, a Chancery Judge..." but that was later taken out when the immediate event had been forgotten.

 

Daughter of Baron Denman. Denman (1779-1854) was Lord Chief Justice of England until 1851. He had attacked Dickens in an article in the London Standard, misinterpreting his attitude to slavery as depicted in the character Mrs. Jellyby in Bleak House. Read Letter

 

On January 21, 1853, Dickens wrote a letter to Mrs. Cropper in which he returned a letter from her brother without having read it. The reference again is to their father, Lord Denman, and Dickens considered he had closed the subject in his letter of December 20, 1852.

 

James Henry Leigh Hunt (1784-1859) was a critic, poet, and essayist with whom Dickens corresponded, and ultimately caricatured as Harold Skimpole in Bleak House

 


After Hunt complained, Dickens wrote he was sorry that Hunt took the portrayal of Skimpole in Bleak House  personally, and apologized in this undated letter.

 

Dickens refers to the alleged similarity of Hunt and Skimpole in this letter from June 23, 1859, in which he again refuses to make any changes in the novel.

 

On January 20, 1854, Dickens and Forster decided upon the title of Hard Times for the next novel that would appear in Household Words.

 

Dickens wrote to Angela Burdett Coutts on January 23, 1853, describing his intention to run Hard Times in weekly installments in Household Words.

 

After the start of Hard Times, Dickens complained to Forster of the difficulties of writing under the constraint of weekly installments that came more quickly and were shorter than the usual monthly installments.

 

Peter Cunningham (1816-1869) was a writer with whom Dickens corresponded. The book Cunningham mentioned in the Illustrated London News was Hard TimesRead Letter

 

On March 17, 1854, Dickens wrote a letter to Charles Knight commenting on the reading habits of the English people whom he says are the "hardest-worked" on earth. Knightwas a much older editor whom Dickens knew through the Shakespeare Society.

 

In a letter to Thomas Carlyle on July 13, 1854, Dickens asked permission to dedicate Hard Times to him. Carlyle (1795-1881) was a writer, critic, and sage whose French Revolution, 1837, was the main source for A Tale of Two Cities. His social ideas influenced the first half of Dickens' literary career.

 

On July 14, 1854, Dickens wrote to Forster from Tavistock House, where he had nearly completed Hard Times.

 

Dickens wrote a letter to Mrs. Richard Watson, the wife of the Honorable Richard Watson (1800-1852), describing his fatigue after writing Hard Times. The Watsons were wealthy friends whom Dickens had met in Lausanne.

 

Dickens wrote a  letter to Charles Knight on January 30, 1855, telling CK he wasn't the target of satire in Hard Times.

 

In his Preface to Little Dorrit, Dickens details an anecdote from his visit to Marshalsea Place. All prefaces can be found here.

 

On September 16, 1855, Dickens wrote to Forster about his struggles in writing Little Dorrit.

 

In 1856, Dickens wrote to Forster, about trying to work several subplots into the overall structure of Little Dorrit.

 

In April 1856, Dickens wrote to Forster, asking his opinion about the sixth installment of Little Dorrit.

On April 7, 1856, Dickens wrote to Forster about his character development of Flora in the seventh installment of Little Dorrit.

Dickens wrote to W.C. Macready on August 3, 1857 about his reading tour in Scotland. The article he mentions in the letter is "Curious Misprint in the Edinburgh Review."

 

In Household Words on August 1, 1857, Dickens wrote an article (Pg. 97) about the purpose of literature.

 

Dickens wrote the Preface to the First Edition of A Tale of Two Cities in 1859, and it is reprinted in the Charles Dickens Edition (1867-1868).

 

 

On July 25, 1846, Dickens wrote to Forster about the idea for a Christmas story that had arisen while he was working on A Tale of Two Cities. The man mentioned as "imprisoned for ten or fifteen years" is Dr. Manette in A Tale of Two Cities

 

On January 30, 1858, Dickens wrote to Forster detailing his struggles with disciplining himself to write when he begins a new book.

 

Dickens decided upon the title A Tale of Two Cities in a letter to Forster on March 11, 1859.

 

In July 1859, Dickens was in poor health, but wrote to Forster on the 9th expressing his pleasure over the popularity of A Tale of Two Cities.

 

On August 9, 1859, Dickens responded to Forster's worry that the feudal cruelty of one of his characters was not accurate for the time period.

 

Dickens wrote eloquently of his designs for A Tale of Two Cities in a letter to Forster from August 29, describing his hope that he had achieved a character-driven story

 

Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was a novelist and playwright, and a close friend and associate of Dickens. He is author of The Woman in White, 1860, and The Moonstone, 1868. In a letter to Collins dated October 6, 1859, Dickens writes that art should suggest, not explicitly reveal to the reader.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Dickens wrote to Thomas Carlyle, thanking him for his feedback on A Tale of Two Cities, and asking for more. Read Letter

 

In a letter to Bulwer Lytton from June 5, 1860, Dickens defends his portrayal of the feudalistic nobleman in A Tale of Two Cities, as well as the accidental death of Madame Defarge.

 

Dickens wrote the Preface to the First Edition of The Uncommercial Traveller in 1860, stating briefly that he intended to continue the series. Althought subsequent editions were published, this remains his only preface.

 

In September 1860, Dickens was occupied with The Uncommercial Traveller, but wroteto Forster about a new idea, which blossomed into the story of Pip and Magwitch in Great Expectations.

 

Dickens decided upon the name Great Expectations for his new story, and wrote to Forster on October 4, 1860 about the project.

 

Dickens complained about the effects of dividing his work into installments for periodical publication in a letter to Forster from April 1861.

 

In another letter to Forster on July 1, 1861, Dickens writes that he changed the ending of Great Expectations at the insistence of Bulwer Lytton, who did not want Pip to end up without Estella.

 

Dickens also wrote to Collins about his intention of changing the ending at the urging of Bulwer.

 

Dickens wrote a letter to Forster in 1861 about possible ideas for Our Mutual Friend.

 

In October of 1863, Dickens wrote to Forster about his procrastination in starting Our Mutual Friend.

 

On March 29, 1864, Dickens wrote to Forster that he was going slow with the first five installments of Our Mutual Friend because he had so many other things on his mind. Read Letter

 

On July 29, 1864 Dickens wrote to Forster about his continued difficulties in writing Our Mutual Friend, and his increasing desire to start "the Christmas work."

 

Dickens concluded Our Mutual Friend with a Post-Script "In Lieu of Preface," writing that the mystery of his story was purposeful, and that his ending was no more improbable than if it had been nonfiction.

 

William Henry Wills (1810-1880) was Dickens' subeditor on HW and AYR. Dickens wrote a letter to him on June 28, 1867, about The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

 

Dickens first mentioned his idea for The Mystery of Edwin Drood to Forster in a letter on August 6, 1869.

 

Dickens discovered as early as 1843 that producing a special long story for Christmas was another way to increase sales of the magazine he was editing. Beginning in 1843 with A Christmas Carol and continuing with The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), and The Battle of Life (1846), Dickens issued one Christmas novel per year. He missed 1847 but came back in 1848 with The Haunted Man, the last of the long stories. From1849 – 1853, Dickens abandoned writing something special for Christmas probably because they took time away from his novels as some of the letters we have collected show. He came back in 1854 with the first of a series of short holiday stories published in HW and AYR (1854-66) and collected later as Christmas Stories.

 

The Preface to the First Cheap Edition of Christmas Books (1852) differed slightly from the Preface in the Charles Dickens Edition (1867-68), as several phrases in the former were removed from the latter. Both prefaces can be found here.

 

From Italy, Dickens sent Forster four divisions of The Chimes, imploring him to consider the story in a letter dated October 18, 1844.

 

On June 22, 1846, Dickens sent a letter to Forster from his travels, describing a vague idea for his new work, The Battle of Life.

 

On July 18, 1846, Dickens wrote a letter to Forster introducing the name The Battle of Life for the Christmas book he was working on.

 

Dickens wrote to Forster of his inspiration and planning for Dombey and Son and Battle of Life on September 20, 1846, and the difficulty he was experiencing in juggling two works at the same time.

 

Dickens became despondent over having to choose Dombey and Son over Battle of Life, and detailed his torment in a letter to Forster on September 26, 1846.

 

On October 18, 1846, Dickens wrote to Forster of his lackluster health and asking for advice on Dombey and Son.

 

Dickens asked Forster's advice about historical accuracy in the illustrations of Dombey and Son in a letter dating October 29, 1846.

 

Dickens' letter to Forster on October 31, 1846 reveals how much the novelist depended upon Forster's feedback.

 

Dickens was very unhappy with an illustration that John Leech executed for a Christmas periodical, writing to Forster about it in November of 1846. Leech (1817-1864) illustratedDickens' Christmas Books from 1843-1848.

 

Dickens planned his endings very meticulously, and wrote to Forster on November 7, 1846, explaining his intentions for the ending of the Battle of Life.

 

Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton on April 10, 1848, welcoming his positive review of The Battle of Life and mentioning that he believed the story had potential as a longer work.

 

On August 4, 1848, Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton, admitting that, in retrospect, he believed The Battle of Life would have been better as a longer work than a short story.

 

On November 21, 1848, Dickens wrote to Forster about the Ghost's character in The Haunted Man.

 

Frank Stone (1800-1859) was a painter and illustrator for The Haunted Man and the First Cheap Editions of Nicholas Nickleby and Martin Chuzzlewit. On November 23, 1848, Dickens wrote to him with instructions for drawing Milly in The Haunted Man.

 

Dickens gave additional detailed instructions to Stone in the letter of November 27, 1848.

 
 
 
 
 

Sketches by Boz

Pickwick Papers

Oliver Twist (Serialized in Bentley's Miscellany)

Nicholas Nickleby

The Old Curiosity Shop (Serialized in Master Humphrey's Clock)

Barnaby Rudge (Serialized in Master Humphrey's Clock)

American Notes

Martin Chuzzlewit

Pictures From Italy (Serialized in the Daily News)

Dombey and Son

David Copperfield

Bleak House

Hard Times (Serialized in Household Words)

Little Dorrit

A Tale of Two Cities (Serialized in All the Year Round)

The Uncommercial Traveller (first series)

 Serialized in AYR (second series)

Great Expectations (Serialized in AYR)

Our Mutual Friend

The Mystery of Edwin Drood (Serialized in AYR)

Christmas Books 

 A Christmas Carol

 The Chimes

 The Cricket on the Hearth

 The Battle of Life

 The Haunted Man

Christmas Stories (Published in HW and AYR)

1833-36,1837, 1839

1836-37

1837-39

1838-39

1840-41

1841

1842

1843-44

1846

1846-48

1849-50

1852-53

1854

1855-57

1859

1860

1865

1860-61

1864-65

1870

1843

1844

1845

1846

1848

1854-66