Oliver Twist's famous cry of the heart — "Please, sir, I want some more" — has resounded with generations of readers of all ages. The author poured his own youthful experience of Victorian London's unspeakable squalor into this realistic depiction of a spirited young innocent's unwilling but inevitable recruitment into a scabrous gang of thieves.
Masterminded by the loathsome Fagin, the underworld crew features some of Dickens's most memorable characters, including the vicious Bill Sikes, gentle Nancy, and the juvenile pickpocket known as the Artful Dodger.
From Jill Muller's Introduction to Oliver Twist
Second novels separate the sheep from the goats, the possessors of enduring talent from the mere purveyors of flash-in-the-pan literary sensation. Many writers embark on a second novel with a good deal of trepidation, especially if their first book has achieved the kind of instant acclaim awarded to Charles Dickens's Pickwick Papers. If Dickens experienced any such anxiety when he set out to write Oliver Twist, he countered it with his lifelong drug of choice, a frenetic and compulsive productivity. Appearing in monthly installments, the usual mode of publication for novels until late in the nineteenth century, Oliver Twist was mostly written in tandem with other projects.
When the first two chapters were published in Bentley's Miscellany in February 1837, Dickens was still writing Pickwick Papers as a serial for Chapman and Hall. With Pickwick Papers completed in November 1837, the twenty-five-year-old Dickens devoted himself to Oliver Twist for a mere four months before beginning a third novel, Nicholas Nickleby. Oliver Twist was finished and published in three volumes in November 1838, while the serial version in Bentley's still had five months to run.
This frenzied pace of production was halted only once, in June 1837, when the intensity of his grief over the sudden death of his seventeen-year-old sister-in-law, Mary Hogarth, forced Dickens to postpone that month's installments of both Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist. Mary Hogarth is memorialized as Rose Maylie in Oliver Twist.
About the Author
Charles John Huffam Dickens (/ˈtʃɑrlz ˈdɪkɪnz/; 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's most memorable fictional characters and is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. During his life, his works enjoyed unprecedented fame, and by the twentieth century his literary genius was broadly acknowledged by critics and scholars. His novels and short stories continue to be widely popular.
Born in Portsmouth, England, Dickens was forced to leave school to work in a factory when his father was thrown into debtors' prison. Although he had little formal education, his early impoverishment drove him to succeed. Over his career he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.
Dickens sprang to fame with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication.
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