Reissued in new bindings
With their labyrinthine plots, evocative settings and unforgettable characters, the novels of Charles Dickens have delighted generations of readers. To celebrate the 2012 bicentenary of his birth, The Folio Society presents five new editions of his works, based on the celebrated 1930s Nonesuch editions, with original illustrations by artists including Dickens’s long-term collaborator ‘Phiz’. Each volume features an introduction specially commissioned from an esteemed writer, such as A. N. Wilson and Peter Ackroyd. They also feature individual new binding designs, with a quote from the novel blocked in gold on the front.
Introduced by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst
A Christmas Carol is perhaps Dickens’s best-loved book – forever associated with the Christmas season. The story of the miser Scrooge, who mends his ways after visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, caught the world’s imagination when it was first published in 1843. It summons a delightful vision of a Victorian Christmas, with its plum-puddings and skating, but most importantly it still radiates a message of benevolence and generosity. It is accompanied here by Dickens’s four other Christmas books: ‘The Chimes’, ‘The Cricket on the Hearth’, ‘The Battle of Life’ and ‘The Haunted Man.’ Many of them are supernatural tales of visitations and spirits – but they are kindly ones. As introducer Robert Douglas-Fairhurst puts it, the message of these stories is that of the carol sung through Scrooge’s letter-box: ‘God rest you merry, gentlemen, /Let nothing you dismay.’ 512 pages.
Introduced by D. J. Taylor
Out on the eerie Kent marshes an escaped convict tries to free himself from his irons; in a dismal shut-up house an old woman in a yellowed wedding dress waits in vain for her bridegroom. In the hands of Abel Magwitch and Miss Havisham lies the destiny of young 'Pip' – the blacksmith's apprentice who comes suddenly into money and prospects. Who is his mysterious benefactor? Will Miss Havisham's protege, the cruel beauty Estella, ever return his love? In one of Dickens's best-loved and most enduring novels, written in 1860-1 at the height of his powers, the hero finds that 'great expectations' are not enough when it comes to the real business of living. 496 pages.
'My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening'
Introduced by Peter Ackroyd
Bleak House (1852-3) is a devastating satire on the evils of the English legal system and the state of Victorian society. A young couple arrive in fog-bound London as claimants in Jarndyce and Jarndyce, a suit that has dragged through the Court of Chancery for so long 'no man alive knows what it means'. Meanwhile, a chance discovery sets a Machiavellian lawyer on the scent of scandal in the aristocracy. Populated by an astonishing cast of characters – ghoulish lawyers, pompous baronets, love-sick clerks, irresponsible philanthropists, wretched crossing-sweepers, homely detectives, penniless scriveners – and distinguished by some of Dickens's greatest, most allusive writing, Bleak House moves beyond the exposure of particular abuses to portray a whole society in need of 'spontaneous combustion'. 976 pages.
Introduced by A. N. Wilson
The Pickwick Papers (1836-7) launched Dickens's career in riotous style. The format of monthly serial publication, together with the picaresque nature of the comic subject matter, created a huge popular following for the young novelist. 'The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club' is a rumbustious romp through the coaching England of Dickens's youth – a world that was fast disappearing, ironically, beneath the railways that sped his work around the globe, but rich in sentimental appeal for both Dickens and his public. From the cricket match at Dingley Dell to the Parliamentary hustings at Eatanswill, from the aphorisms of 'Cockney Boots' himself, Sam Weller, to the somnambulant Fat Boy and crafty Mr Jingle, The Pickwick Papers radiates, in the words of G. K. Chesterton, 'that sense of everlasting youth - a sense as of the gods gone wandering in England'. 928 pages.
'It's a wery remarkable circumstance, sir, that poverty and oysters always seem to go together'
Introduced by Kathryn Hughes
The shame and horror of the blacking factory, the trips to the pawn shop, the fecklessness that reduced his father to the debtors' prison - all the trauma of Dickens's childhood can be found within the pages of David Copperfield (1849-50), the classic account of the rootless orphan who overcomes the disadvantages of his birth to become a famous novelist. We can do nothing but rejoice in one of Dickens's finest gallery of grotesques and eccentrics – the well-intentioned but impecunious Micawber; the fawning monster Uriah Heep; Barkis 'who is willing'; the cruel headmaster Creakle, and the fallen angel, Steerforth. 'Of all my books', Dickens said of David Copperfield, 'I like this the best'. 976 pages.
'I came upon a pasteboard placard, beautifully written, which was lying on the desk and bore these words: 'TAKE CARE OF HIM. HE BITES.'
Read more about the life and work of Charles Dickens
Dickens was a one man 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 nonfiction 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. It is Dickens's exceptional eye for character and voice, which keeps the 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 the escaped convict looms out of the mist, just as compelling an image.
Review by tomhumphreys on 6th Feb 2013
"Such a wonderful edition of some of the greatest novels of one of the world's greatest novelists. Such a shame that the edition is being discontinued."