Summary: One of Dickens’ most popular novels, Oliver Twist tells the story of a young....+
One of Dickens’ most popular novels, Oliver Twist tells the story of a young workhouse orphan who escapes into the mean backstreets of Victorian London. There, he is thrust into a den of thieves where some of Dickens’ most depraved villains preside: the incorrigible Artful Dodger, the barbarous bully Bill Sikes, and the terrible Fagin, whose knavery threatens to send them all to the gallows. A novel with autobiographical overtones, this was the first of Dickens’ works to realistically portray London’s impoverished underworld and to illustrate his belief that poverty leads to crime. At the heart of the drama, however, is Oliver, the orphan whose unsullied goodness leads him to salvation, and who represents Dickens’ belief in the principle of good triumphing at last.
Summary: No writer is more identified with the modern idea of Christmas than Charles....+
No writer is more identified with the modern idea of Christmas than Charles Dickens. In some ways, Dickens helped define the holiday that we now celebrate by immortalizing it as a time of warmth and sharing, with an emphasis on family and friends.
Dickens wrote all the stories presented here during the 1850s as contributions to the special Christmas issues of Household Words, the weekly magazine he founded and edited. Included are fictional sketches verging on the autobiographical, recollections of childhood, reflections on past holidays and old friends, as well as tales of misunderstandings and lost opportunities. They reaffirm the virtue of nurturing our traditions and offer a master storyteller's vision of the real meaning of Christmas.
Summary: This sinister masterpiece was Dickens’ last completed novel and perhaps his....+
This sinister masterpiece was Dickens’ last completed novel and perhaps his ultimate vision of a dark, macabre London and the corrupting power of money. Opening with a father and daughter scavenging for corpses on the Thames, this chilling tale unfolds around drownings, disguises and doubles, violence, murder, and triumphant love.
Young John Harmon, presumed killed on his return home to England, is very much alive. The heir to a dust merchant’s fortune, he goes to work under an assumed name for his father’s current heirs, the amiable, elderly Boffins--who are about to be blackmailed by the unscrupulous one-legged Wegg.
So begins the intrigue in a novel that is quintessentially Dickensian in flavor--in its grotesque caricatures, its rich symbolism, and in the astonishing realism of its heroine, Bella Wilfer, one of Dickens’ most splendid female characters.
Summary: The most gorgeously theatrical of all Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby....+
The most gorgeously theatrical of all Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby follows the delightful adventures of a hearty young hero in nineteenth-century England. Nicholas, a gentleman's son fallen upon hard times, must set out to make his way in the world. His journey is accompanied by some of the most swaggering scoundrels and unforgettable eccentrics in Dickens’s pantheon.
From the dungeon-like Yorkshire boys’ boarding school run by the cruel Wackford Squeers to the high-spirited stage of Vincent Crummles’s extraordinary acting troupe, Nicholas Nickleby is a triumph of the imagination, bursting with color, humor, and poignant social commentary.
Summary: Little Amy Dorrit was born in debtor’s prison, where her father, an aristocrat....+
Little Amy Dorrit was born in debtor’s prison, where her father, an aristocrat by birth, has been an inmate for the past twenty years. Though her father is too proud to acknowledge their reduced status, Amy secretly works as a seamstress to support her family. In this way she meets and befriends Arthur, her employer’s son, who wants to help.
When Arthur uncovers an unknown inheritance due to Mr. Dorrit, the family is finally freed from prison. Newly wealthy, they travel to Italy, where Mr. Dorrit instructs his children to sever old connections and learn the ways of the upper class. But leaving their past behind proves not to be so easy.
Meanwhile, their benefactor, Arthur, falls on hard times himself when he becomes the victim of a gigantic financial fraud. When he next meets Little Dorrit, their places are reversed: Arthur is imprisoned in the Marshalsea, too ashamed of his reduced status to declare his love. But to Little Dorrit, love has always transcended class.
A masterly evocation of the state and psychology of imprisonment, Little Dorrit is one of the supreme works of Dickens’ maturity.
Summary: Originally written for Dickens’ weekly magazine, Household Words, this short....+
Originally written for Dickens’ weekly magazine, Household Words, this short novel follows the fate of Sissy Jupe, a warm-hearted circus child, and the family that adopts her. Deserted by her ailing father, Sissy is taken into the cold household of the Gradgrind family, which operates a school. The “eminently practical” Thomas Gradgrind believes only in facts and figures and has raised his children accordingly, thoroughly suppressing the imaginative sides of their nature. They grow up in ignorance of love and affection, of beauty and culture, or of empathy for others, and the consequences are devastating. Only after numerous crises does Thomas realize that his principles have corrupted their lives.
Dickens’ satirical exposé of the Industrial Revolution condemns the utilitarianism that exploited the bodies, minds, and souls of the vulnerable labor class.
Summary: Bleak House opens in a London shrouded by fog--a fog that swirls most densely....+
Bleak House opens in a London shrouded by fog--a fog that swirls most densely about the Court of Chancery, where the obscure case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce lies lost in endless litigation, slowly devouring an inheritance in legal costs.
Against this ominous background, Dickens’ rich tapestry of a novel weaves together the fortunes and desires of several characters whose fates are tied to the case: Ada and Richard, two young orphans who stand to inherit and wish to marry when they do; the worthy John Jarndyce, their voluntary guardian while the case is pending; and Esther Summerson, Jarndyce’s protégée, whose romance is complicated by torn loyalties and whose heritage is shrouded in mystery and scandal. This darkly comic portrait of London society is often regarded as Dickens’ best.
Summary: Dickens’ first historical novel is set in 1780s England at the time of the....+
Dickens’ first historical novel is set in 1780s England at the time of the Gordon Riots. In a case of mistaken identity, Barnaby Rudge--a pale half-wit with long red hair who dresses all in green and carries a large raven on his back--is arrested as the leader of a mob of anti-Catholic rioters. He is condemned to death on the gallows, but an upright locksmith named Gabriel Varden comes to his aid.
Set beneath the cloud of an unsolved murder, this classic tale of treachery and forbidden love is often overlooked by present-day readers. Nevertheless, Dickens provides another memorable cast of characters, including the dull-witted, tyrannical John Willet, Dennis the Hangman, and Hugh the savage ostler.
Summary: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (commonly known as The Pickwick....+
The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (commonly known as The Pickwick Papers) is the first novel by Charles Dickens. The book became the first real publishing phenomenon, with bootleg copies, theatrical performances, Sam Weller joke books, and other merchandise. Written for publication as a serial, The Pickwick Papers is a sequence of loosely-related adventures. The novel's main character, Mr. Samuel Pickwick, Esquire, is a kind and wealthy old gentleman, and the founder and perpetual president of the Pickwick Club. To extend his researches into the quaint and curious phenomena of life, he suggests that he and three other "Pickwickians" (Mr. Nathaniel Winkle, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Tracy Tupman) should make journeys to remote places and report on their findings to the members of the club. Their travels throughout the English countryside provide the chief theme of the novel. Its main literary value and appeal is formed by its numerous memorable characters. Each character in The Pickwick Papers, as in many other Dickens novels, is drawn comically, often with exaggerated personalities. Alfred Jingle provides an aura of comic villainy. His misadventures repeatedly land the Pickwickians in trouble. These include Jingle's elopement with the spinster, Aunt Rachael of Dingley Dell manor, misadventures with Dr. Slammer, and others.
Summary: Wealthy and old, Martin Chuzzlewit, Sr., is surrounded by greedy relatives....+
Wealthy and old, Martin Chuzzlewit, Sr., is surrounded by greedy relatives hoping to obtain a portion of his estate upon his death. His two descendants, Martin, Jr., and Jonas, have been born and bred in the same heritage of selfishness, the Chuzzlewit tradition. Set partly in America, of which Dickens offers a searing satire, this novel follows and contrasts the opposing fates of Martin and Jonas. While one achieves worldly success and, eventually, moral redemption, the other sinks deeper into the darkness--and pays the ultimate price. This powerful black comedy is a tale of hypocrisy, greed, and blackmail, and it introduces the most famous of Dickens’ grotesques: Mrs. Gamp.
Summary: Paul Dombey is a wealthy shipping merchant and formidable patriarch who runs....+
Paul Dombey is a wealthy shipping merchant and formidable patriarch who runs his family with the same cold calculation he applies to his business. Evaluating his children’s worth by what he thinks they can add to his bottom line, he dotes on the son he hopes to make his heir, while neglecting his affectionate elder daughter. But through his pride and selfishness, Dombey is sowing the seeds of his own destruction. Once his heart is broken, can it finally be redeemed?
A sensitive family drama infused with social and moral commentary, Dombey and Son combines grim psychological realism with Dickens’ faith in the redemptive power of love.
Summary: “Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should....+
“Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding,” says Scrooge. Mean old Scrooge despises Christmas until Christmas Eve, when a haunted voice from the past changes his life––overnight! Many know the story but few have experienced the marvel of the book.
Summary: Little Dorrit, one of the three great novels of Charles Dickens’ last period,....+
Little Dorrit, one of the three great novels of Charles Dickens’ last period, was produced in monthly installments from 1855 to 1857, and is considered one of his most profound. Dickens’ father spent three months in Marshalsea Prison for debt, which made a lasting impact on his life. This story centers around life in Marshalsea Prison and, as always, society in general.
Book One begins in the infamous Marseilles Prison in France, where two prisoners, Rigaud the French rogue and the ever cheerful Italian Cavaletto, share a cell. We meet them again later, but the scene shifts quickly to the English debtor’s prison, The Marshalsea, where Mr. Dorrit is confined. His daughter Amy is born there, the only baby ever born in that prison. Tiny as a baby, she grows into a sweet-natured tiny adult, better known as “Little Dorrit.” The other inmates love and respect the child and the caring woman she becomes. Mr. Dorrit is also revered by them, and as the inmate with the longest term of imprisonment, he becomes “Father of the Marshalsea.”
Enter Arthur Clennam, who meets Mr. Dorrit and Amy. He notes that she takes care of her father’s every need, and also cooks, cleans, and mends the clothes of her older siblings. Arthur suspects that Dorrit was wrongly imprisoned, and begins investigating the case, which may involve his own family as well.
In Book Two, Mr. Dorrit has been freed, and his family begins a new life. Arthur Clennam, now a dear friend of Little Dorrit, becomes partner with an engineer and inventor named Daniel Doyce, but a surprising event occurs which puts Arthur into prison. The twists and turns of fortune for himself, the Dorrit family and many others are changed forever. (Summary by Mil Nicholson)
Summary: A sportsman who doesn't hunt; a poet who doesn't write; a lover with no one....+
A sportsman who doesn't hunt; a poet who doesn't write; a lover with no one to love; all three are devoted to their cheerful and benevolent leader, Mr. Pickwick. Join him and his friends, Winkle, Snodgrass, and Tupman, as they tour the country in search of adventures, knowledge, and stories. Along the way, they have their share of mishaps, and meet plenty of interesting characters, both the good and the not so good. (Mr. Pickwick's dedicated manservant, Sam Weller, is a scene-stealer sure to delight just about everybody.)
You may shed a few tears along the way, but usually of the pleasant sort. This is a mostly lighthearted and humorous tale, with a number of subplots woven in, in Dickens’ incomparable style.
(Introduction by Debra Lynn)
Summary: One of Dickens’ Christmas stories, this was first published as part of the....+
One of Dickens’ Christmas stories, this was first published as part of the Christmas number of Household Words for 1854. The first chapter relates Dickens’ visit to the ancient Richard Watts’s Charity at Rochester. The second chapter is the touching story of “Richard Doubledick”, which Dickens supposedly told the travellers, and Dickens’ journey home on Christmas morning provides the short concluding chapter. (Summary by Ruth Golding)
Summary: While "The Battle of Life" is one of Charles Dickens' Christmas Books - his....+
While "The Battle of Life" is one of Charles Dickens' Christmas Books - his annual release of a story just before Christmas - this one breaks the tradition by not being concerned with Christmas. Rather, its subtitle, "A Love Story", reveals more of the plot.
The major events of this book take place on land that once was a battleground. That is just a backdrop for Dickens' idea of the real battle of life - finding and winning the right partner, so that life will go on to the next generation. The family that lives there is rather confused in its affections and intentions regarding who should end up with whom. We are thrust into the fight to make things work out, and, happily for a Christmas book, Dickens leads us on to a happy ending. (Summary by Mark F. Smith)
Summary: Two boys from the Foundling Hospital are given the same name, with disastrous....+
Two boys from the Foundling Hospital are given the same name, with disastrous consequences in adulthood. Two associates, wishing to right the wrong, are commissioned to find a missing heir. Their quest takes them from fungous wine cellars in the City of London to the sunshine of the Mediterranean — across the Alps in winter. Danger and treachery would prevail were it not for the courage of the heroine and the faithful company servant.
The story contains crafted descriptions, well-drawn and diverse characters, eerie and exotic backgrounds, mystery, semi-concealed identities, brinkmanship with death, romance, the eventual triumph of Good over Evil, and many other elements expected in classic Dickens.
First published in 1867 there are thematic parallels with other books from Dickens’ mature writings, including Little Dorrit (1857) and especially Our Mutual Friend (1865). The Listener will decide if this story yields insights into The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished 1870).
Wilkie Collins collaborated with Charles Dickens to produce this ‘Christmas’ book and the stage play of the same name. In the book Collins assisted in Act 1 and Act 4; Collins scripted most of the stage play with Dickens’ assistance. If this book were released today it would be splashed “THE BOOK OF THE FILM”.
Summary by Alan Chant.
Summary: Hard Times, the shortest of Dickens’s full-length novels, is set in the fictitious....+
Hard Times, the shortest of Dickens’s full-length novels, is set in the fictitious Victorian-England city of Coketown, where facts are the rule and all fancy is to be stamped out. The plot centers around the men and women of the town, some of whom are beaten down by the city’s utilitarian ideals and some of whom manage to rise above it. The novel was written in 1854 and was a scathing attack on then-current ideas of utilitarianism, which Dickens viewed as a selfish and at times oppressive philosophy. Perhaps the novel’s best features are its clever, ironic narration and the larger-than-life characters that push the plot forward, such as the upper-class banker and hypocritical braggart, Josiah Bounderby, and the fact-driven schoolmaster, Thomas Gradgrind. (Summary by Rosalind Wills).
Summary: The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, A Fancy for Christmas-Time, (better....+
The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, A Fancy for Christmas-Time, (better known as The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain) is a novella by Charles Dickens first published in 1848. It is the fifth and last of Dickens' Christmas novellas. The story is more about the spirit of the holidays than about the holidays themselves, harking back to the first of the series, A Christmas Carol. The tale centers around a Professor Redlaw and those close to him. (Summary from the Wikipedia).
Summary: As a gifted writer with a strong interest in supernatural phenomena, Charles....+
As a gifted writer with a strong interest in supernatural phenomena, Charles Dickens produced a string of ghost stories with enduring charm. Three of them are presented here, of which The Signal Man is one of the best known. Though quite different from his most celebrated realistic and humorous critical novels, these ghost stories, Gothic and grotesque as they are, are of good portrayal, and worth a read/listen.
Summary by Vivian Chan