Introduced by D. J. Taylor
Illustrated by Marcus Stone
This exquisite edition reproduces the famous Nonesuch text and features Marcus Stone’s original illustrations.
On the misty Kent marshes an escaped convict wrestles with his irons; in a ruined mansion a withered spinster in a yellowed wedding dress waits in vain for her bridegroom. In the hands of Abel Magwitch and the vengeful Miss Havisham lies the destiny of 'Pip' – a young orphan who dreams of becoming a gentleman.
Great Expectations is one of Dickens’s best-loved novels, written in 1860–1, at the peak of his powers. This edition, the first in our new Dickens series, includes Marcus Stone’s atmospheric illustrations, commissioned for the first book edition on Dickens’s recommendation. The Nonesuch Press text, used here, is taken from the 1867 Chapman and Hall edition, the last to be corrected by the author.
Magwitch, Miss Havisham and Pip are among Dickens’s most enduring creations, and Great Expectations is often considered to contain his most fully developed female characters. His 13th novel is a subversive take on the bildungsroman: its hero embarks on a path towards success and self-improvement, but discovers that his progress is built on false assumptions, his cherished ideals full of illusions.
'Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape'
Pip is haunted by his lowly beginnings, and ashamed of Joe, his kind but poor adoptive father. When the wealthy Miss Havisham makes him a playmate for her protégé, the beautiful but cruel Estella, he enters a strange and emotionally perilous world. His love for Estella fuels his longing for gentility, but uniting the pair is far from Miss Havisham's embittered designs. Just as Pip believes he is consigned to the life of a commoner, a windfall from a secret benefactor transforms his fate. London-bound, he imagines his dreams fulfilled and his unrequited love returned … but all is not what it seems, and Pip's transition from poverty to wealth will threaten the very sense of integrity that he strives for.
'A work of great psychological accuracy and observation'
Great Expectations is a fascinating exploration of how riches and poverty alike can corrupt: Pip’s happiness does not increase with social elevation, while Magwitch's inner nobility has been compromised by his deprived childhood. It also contains Dickens’s most masterly evocations of landscape and townscape, and is imbued with an unsentimental melancholy that is perhaps unique in all his opus. No library is complete without this powerful tale of destiny, ambition and class identity, and this elegant edition is the perfect tribute to Dickens's talents.
Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Landport, England. His family moved to London in 1816, and then to Chatham in 1817, where Dickens spent the happiest years of his childhood. They returned to London in 1822, and two years later Dickens’s father was imprisoned for debt. Dickens was sent to work in a shoe-polish factory – a period that would come to influence much of his later writing. In 1833 he began contributing stories and essays to newspapers and magazines, and The Pickwick Papers, his first commercial success, was serialised in 1836. He went on to complete 15 novels, all now considered classics of English literature, and became a celebrity in America as well as Britain. He also established, edited and regularly contributed to the journals Household Words (1850–9) and All the Year Round (1859–70). Dickens died in 1870; he is buried in Westminster Abbey.
Marcus Stone was born in 1840. He began to exhibit his work at the Royal Academy before he was 18, having been trained by his father, Frank Stone, a self-taught English painter and lifelong friend of Dickens. The elder Stone died in 1859, at which time Dickens – taking on a fatherly role to his children – recommended a 19-year old Marcus to his publishers. They commissioned him to create frontispieces for Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities and illustrations for Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend. Later turning away from book illustration, Marcus became an accomplished painter, and was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1877 and an Academician in 1887. He died in 1921.
D. J. Taylor is a British critic, novelist and biographer. A graduate of St John’s College, Oxford, he published his first novel, Great Eastern Land, in 1986. He received the 2003 Whitbread Biography Award for his biography of George Orwell, and his novel Derby Day was longlisted for the 2011 Man Booker Prize. He is a regular contributor to The Guardian, The Independent and the New Statesman, among others
Dickens was a powerhouse of creativity. For ordinary mortals just one of his many jobs would have been sufficient (let alone a family of ten children). Yet despite his tours and editorial responsibilities, he wrote fifteen novels, three works of non-fiction and numerous shorter works. No wonder he should be called ‘the great inimitable’. From his pen flowed a seemingly inexhaustible series of characters who have enchanted generations of readers, whether we laugh at his comic creations or suffer alongside his heroes and heroines.
When the first serialisations of Bleak House and Oliver Twist appeared, readers thronged docksides and railway stations waiting for them to be unloaded. Today, the popularity of Dickens for TV series suggests his appeal is as strong as ever. His exceptional eye for character and voice keeps his books fresh, even though the milieu of workhouse and industry has changed. Mr Pickwick remains as funny as when he first stood to deliver his lecture on the Theory of Tittlebats, and young Pip trembling on the Kent marshes as Magwitch looms out of the mist, just as compelling an image.
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