National Geographic : 1974 Apr
The legac of Dickens HIS ENERGY and imagination seemed unbounded. Dickens composed 15 novels, several plays, and innumerable short stories in a richly productive 35 years. Most of his novels were published in monthly installments (below), so the author often had to work on more than one at a time. A list of his masterpieces: The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837). A well-stuffed Christmas stocking of colorful characters, the record of Samuel Pickwick's wanderings made Dickens famous overnight. The Adventures of Oliver Twist (1838). In an angry protest against England's social system, young Oliver Twist runs off to London, where he falls into-and, happily, out of-the clutches of larcenous Fagin and murderous Bill Sikes. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (1839). In Dickens's expose of the often-cruel Yorkshire school system, Nicholas becomes a teacher at Dotheboys Hall, the boarding school of boy beating Mr. Wackford Squeers-and administers a beating of his own. The Old Curiosity Shop (1841). In a tragic tale of love, Little Nell dies just as Kit Nubbles arrives to save her. Barnaby Rudge (1841). Against the grim back ground of Newgate Prison, Barnaby Rudge tries to regain his wits while those about him are losing theirs. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844). "Ah! what a wale of grief!" cries Mrs. Gamp as she and her imaginary companion, Mrs. Harris, observe tribulations that work the moral regenera tion of the senior and junior Martin Chuzzlewit. Dombey and Son (1848). In a parable of pride and its fall, Paul Dombey heaps his hopes and expectations on the future of his son, only to see him die in childhood. The PersonalHistory of David Copperfield (1850). "Whether I shall turn out tobetheheroofmyown life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show," wrote Dickens in the autobiographical story of young David's rise from factory boy to writer. Christmas Books (1852). A collection of stories, the volume opens with Ebenezer Scrooge's rejuvenation in "A Christmas Carol." Bleak House (1853). Its pervasive element the dreary, muffling London fog, this novel centers on absurdities of the legal system and the plight of the uneducated and poor. Hard Times (1854). In a brutally materialistic world, hard-bitten Thomas Gradgrind learns to make his account books "subservient to Faith, Hope, and Charity." Little Dorrit (1857). A child of the Marshalsea the same jail in which Dickens's father was once held for debt Little Dorrit grows up to wed Arthur Clennam in the shadow of the prison walls they both have known. A Tale of Two Cities (1859). Amid the historical drama of the French Revolution, Dickens weaves a web of righteous murder and sacrifice that allows Sidney Carton his chance to make good and ruins Mme Defarge's knitting in the bargain. Great Expectations (1861). "Be grateful, boy, to them which brought you up by hand," Uncle Pumblechook advises young Philip Pirrip (Pip), whose back side shows a curious inability to be grateful for its treatment. Pip grows from orphan boy to wealthy gentleman-only to lose his happiness. Our Mutual Friend (1865). In a satire of the nouveaux riches and those who would become so, John Harmon throws off his assumed identity to claim his bride and inheritance. The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870). Heavily influenced by newly fashionable mystery novels, Edwin Drood and its secret lay unfinished at Dickens's death in 1870. A vanished era comes to life as townspeople of seaside Broadstairs take a turn about the garden of "Bleak House," for years a summer 452 home of the author, during the town's annual Dickens Festival.