A beginners guide to the novels of Charles Dickens
………..or a refresher for those already familiar with his books?
Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth in 1812. He was the son of John and Elizabeth Dickens. His father was a naval clerk in the pay office on average wages. This was something of problem as John Dickens spent as though he was earning a King’s ransome! By the time Charles was 12 years old the family had moved to London. His father was sent to a debtors prison for his failure to pay money he owed. Debtors prisons were strange affairs. Privately owned those incarcerated could receive visitors more or less as and when they chose. Those with families able to afford it could bring in their own furniture and be provided with a larger room or cell in which to place it. Wives and children would usually accompany the impoverished head of the family. The problem with debtors prisons was that if you did not have a rich family or friends then the rest of your life would be spent in the prison. Those with rich friends were soon able to buy their way out. In John Dickens case he was sent to the Marshalsea the most famous of all debtors prisons. It would feature in future Dickens stories. As would his experience of working in a shoe blacking factory to help out the family income. It was in the factory that Charles met another boy whose surname was Fagin. Thus the formal education of the young Dickens came to a temporary end when he was 12; it would resume when he was 14. And yet he became the most famous novelist of Victorian England!
A few months after his imprisonment the mother of John Dickens died bequeathing him £450 which enabled him to pay his debt and leave the Marshalsea. (He owed a baker £40!) At this point there occurred an incident that would colour the view of Dickens towards his mother in particular, and women in general. She did not request his immediate removal from the blacking factory and Charles took a long time to forget and forgive. Like many a Victorian male he thought a women’s place was in the home, and such decisions about his employment should have been made by his father.
Once he became famous Dickens heard that his father was using his name as a means of underwriting his borrowing. At one time John Dickens even forged his son’s signature! He returned briefly to the Marshalsea but Charles Dickens had the money to buy him out. Undaunted John Dickens carried on behind his son’s back selling manuscript pages from his early novels! Nice man.
The house in Portsmouth where Charles Dickens was born
I can remember the first time I came across Charles Dickens. My father had been posted to Northern Malaya in 1954. Our first year was spent on Penang Island where I had to suffer Batu Ferrenghi beach almost every day! Now people pay thousands to do the same! It was off that beach that I learnt to swim. It was tough but someone had to live there! Then off we went to the mainland and married quarters at RAF Butterworth. We had a radio for company and every so often the Overseas Daily Mirror arrived to give you a months supply of papers to read! Other than that a visit to the cinema gave you Pathe News. For myself I discovered Classic Comics. They were a sort of graphic novel and portrayed famous books of the nineteenth century. They were published monthly I think and one particular month they featured ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ I was fascinated by the story. You need to bear in mind that I was almost two years ahead of my reading age as my parents had books in the house throughout my childhood. It helps! David Copperfield followed a few months later. Although my favourite story was ‘Robinson Crusoe.’ The story of someone spending his life on the beach somehow chimed with my way of life!
Back to England we came and I obtained a children’s edition of ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ Then, in 1959 I think, the BBC produced the novel on television with Peter Wyngard in the starring role. Then in October the RAF decided to send us all back to the Far East and off to Singapore we went.
‘A Tale of Two Cities’ has always been the Dickens book I know best. However having spent the last few months researching and reading and re-reading Dickens I will run through the novels that are deemed to form the Dickens Canon.
So, to start at the very beginning…….
Dickens published numerous short- stories, plays, sketches, articles essays and of course numerous novels. Fifteen of these novels are considered his main body of work and it is those I will give you a flavour of here. I will then recommend five novels for you to read as you begin your journey to becoming a Dickensian scholar!
The Pickwick Paperswas published in 1836.
Like all his novels it was published in episodic form. In this case monthly editions. It tells the story of the adventures of members of the Pickwick Club which has one Samuel Pickwick at its head. It is a series of vignettes told with a comic touch and introducing us to Nathaniel Winkle and Augustus Snodgrass. The unlikely names of his characters across all his novels is one outstanding feature of his writing. The episodes were slow to sell but in episode four Dickens, aware that he needed to introduce a livelier character, gives us Sam Weller. Or given Sam’s speech impediment,Veller! He brings much needed humour to the story. All is not sweetness and light though and drawing on his own experience Dickens has Samuel Pickwick find himself in the Marshalsea.
In Pickwick’s case it is refusal to pay a court order that lands him in trouble. While not a profound novel or one with a complex plot it established Charles Dickens on the literary scene. The gentle humour of the stories and the description of the English country life proved very popular. In Sam Weller Dickens had his first star character!
The story was published in book form the following year.
And in that same year the story of Oliver Twistbegan its journey. It was published in twenty-four episodes between February 1837 and April 1839. The novel was published in book form in November 1838! Seems a strange marketing ploy but there you go! I have to confess this is my least favourite Dickens story. I know that the purpose of the author was to highlight the cruel and squalid lives of street children and the way they were driven into criminal activity. However poor old Oliver is captured not once but twice by Fagin’s gang. It seems as though Dickens has had writers block and decides to recycle the plot? It is one of those books that make you want to have a shower after you have read it? And yet the Victorians loved it! It was good versus evil with evil being conquered. What was not good was the portrayal of Fagin. In the first part of the
story Dickens is constantly referring to ‘The Jew.’ Protests from his friends and Jewish people affected him and in the second half of the story ‘Jew’ is not mentioned. But the damage had been done. Illustrations of Fagin showed him as the stereotypical Jewish villain. Over one hundred years later Alec Guinness would bring that villain to life in David Lean’s film. Much was made in 1948 of the time it took for Guinness to be made up to look like he did. I am sure that in later years Lean must have had some regret about how he depicted Fagin? Anti-semitism has never gone away. There are many musicals out there that have great songs and daft plots but they provide enjoyment. I just wonder how Lionel Bart pitched his idea to would-be producers. ‘Well you see gov, all these kids is criminals, they are led by a Jewish criminal who sends them out to rob people. One of the main characters murders another of the main characters but not before she has sung one of my best songs, like.’ I really don’t get it. Never have. Yet for a while it made Mr Bart a very rich man. Not my favourite musical.
George Cruikshank’s iconic illustration from ‘Oliver Twist.’ “More boy!”
Charles Dickens took various jobs before settling down to writing. At one time he was a House of Commons reporter. He had various jobs in journalism and edited a monthly magazine. All this helped him make the right contacts and quite soon he was combining his journalism with writing his first book. Following the publication of The Pickwick Papershe eased off his other work and soon became a full time author.
Moving right along….
While writing Oliver TwistDickens also started writing the Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby. And what adventures they were. One of the few novels that Dickens featured people living outside London. There are a multitude of characters in this book with some glorious names. Wackford Squeers the cruel schoolmaster is my favourite. His school was Dotheboys Hall which Dickens based on a school he had once visited in Yorkshire. Then there is Newman Noggins and Peg Sliderskew! Mind you even Dickens ran out of names and one character is simply, ‘The Man Next door!’ Like a lot of Dickens stories you do need to read the book over continuous days otherwise you literally lose all of the plots! Of which there are many. Events take place in Yorkshire and Devon but most of the action is in London and provides a wonderful commentary on Victorian life for both rich and poor. Yet it lacks a solid core and when I finished reading the book for the first time in many years I was hard put to really understand what it had all been about. Worth a read though just to tick off all the character names! Of course nearly all of Dickens books contain his favourite character…. London. When it was published Oliver Twist still had a year to run so his readers were well served during that time.
They would have a break until May 1840 when The Old Curiosity Shopwas published in weekly parts quickly followed in February 1841 when Barnaby Rudgewas published in weekly parts until November of that year. Barnaby Rudge first! This novel is one of two historical novels written by Dickens. It is set during the anti-Catholic riots of 1780. They were known as the Gordon Riots. The dubious honour belonged to Lord George Gordon who was considered to be the leader of the Protestant Association. Over 200 people were killed during the rioting across a few days in June. The situation was not helped by the Lord Mayor refusing to read the riot act which just encouraged the rioters to inflict more damage and violence on the Catholic population. And all because a bill enacted two years earlier in favour of Catholics was now the subject of dispute. Into this melting pot of malevolence steps Barnaby Rudge, a simple soul with a pet raven called ‘Grip.’ Poor old Barnaby is led into trouble and almost finds himself on the executioner’s step. At the other end of the social scale rich men taunt each other, true love is vanquished albeit temporarily. On the way to a happyish ending there is trouble aplenty.
Worth a read for its historical background describing one of the more shameful episodes of English history. One of the least popular of all Dickens novels. It could be because memories of the Gordon riots would still be quite vivid for older members of the then population. One person who reviewed the novel was Edgar Allen Poe who thought more use could have been made of the raven. But then, as the scholars among you will know, Mr Poe had a thing about ravens. His famous poem ‘The Raven’ was published in 1845. Did he derive inspiration from Grip? No one knows!
Dickens readers were not short of reading material during this time as ‘ The Old Curiosity Shop’was published at the same time. Now, just off Lincolns Inn Fields in Portsmouth Street you will find a sixteenth century building called ‘The Old Curiosity Shop.’ Charles Dickens lived for a while in the nearby Holborn/Bloomsbury area and may well have passed the building on a number of occasions. At this point you need to know that the building was christened ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ thirty years after publication of the novel. The shrewd owner cashing in on Little Nell! This is probably the most depressing of the Dickens Canon but was very popular. American readers waited at the wharves in New York docks anxious for the last episode to arrive! The novel of course contains a wonderful nasty villain in Daniel Quilp. It is a fairly straight- forward story with fewer sub-plots than other Dickens novels. But, once Nell and her grandfather are evicted from the shop by Quilp, the ending is not hard to guess. Oscar Wilde was not a Dickens fan. Of this book his comment was, ‘One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing.’ But then it is easy to be brave when the person you are criticising has been dead for over twenty years?
In December 1842 ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’appeared in its first monthly part. Its final part would be published in July 1844. Thought by many to be one of Dickens favourites as far as his own work was concerned. Not so with the public. By October 1843 sales had slowed down so much that his publishers were threatening to reduce his monthly income. Time then to write another book?
If a quiz show were to ask their usually less than bright contestants to name a Dickens novel the likelihood is that the reply would be, ‘A ChristmasCarol.’ The novel is generally recognised as being instrumental in creating the traditional British Christmas along with Prince Albert and his introduction of the Christmas tree. Written in double quick time between October and December of 1843 ‘A Christmas Carol’is usually referred to as a novella as it is much shorter in length than all his other work. Published on the 19 December it had sold out all 6000 copies by Christmas Eve. There were a further eleven editions published in 1844. In the hundred years from publication in America it had sold two million copies. Far and away his most popular novel stateside. ‘A ChristmasCarol’ is a mixture of an old- fashioned ghost story and the trials and tribulations of Bob Cratchit as he strives to provide his family with a suitable Christmas celebration. Tiny Tim is the hero of the piece and, who else, (?) Ebenezer Scrooge the villain. Scrooge is a name of course that has passed into the English language. A number of literary people over the years have rated this book as the finest example of prose in Victorian literature. Some accolade!
In the meantime ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’continued its laborious sales. The Penguin edition runs to 920 pages before it reaches the appendices! There are just too may sub-plots. John Forster is generally regarded as Dickens closest confident on literary matters. Well if he did read the draft of MC then he really should have advised cutting it by a third! Just to confuse the reader there are two Martin Chuzzlewits and various other members of the family. The plot revolves around the senior Chuzzlewit safe guarding his will and pretending to be friends with one character and the enemy of another when the reverse is actually the case! It is well written and contains one of Dickens enduring characters, Mrs Gamp. A lady partial to a drink or three, and always seemingly carrying an umbrella. Although a minor character in terms of the story her umbrella made her famous. ‘Gamp’ became a Victorian nickname for an umbrella. Unfortunately for Charles Dickens the sales of the book did not really improve but his publishers could bask in the glory of ‘A Christmas Carol.’
The next novel published was ‘Dombey & Son.’ Generally rated as the most Victorian of the Dickens Canon. It was published in twenty monthly parts between 1846 & 1848. It features old Dombey who had always wanted a son but was presented with a daughter whom he chose to ignore. Along comes a sickly son who lives for only six years and whose mother dies along the way! Cheerful stuff. However the world as seen through the young boy’s eyes received critical acclaim for the sensitivity of its writing. Fear not, redemption and salvation are at hand. It is a novel that provided the reader with all they would expect from a Dickens story. Not too many character names that one could call memorable. My favourite is Polly Toodle! Is it an instrument or a dance!?
And then in 1849 over the usual twenty episodes comes the favourite Dickens novel of a good many people: ‘David Copperfield.’ It was an open secret that this was Dickens camouflaged autobiography. Child cruelty, villains, benefactors and of course, Wilkens Micawber. My favourite Dickensian character whose pecuniary advice echoes down the ages, ‘ Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery!’ Micawber was loosely based on John Dickens who could never heed his own financial advice! It is a story with two villains. In the first half we have Edward Murdstone, David’s cruel step-father. The second – half bring us the ever so ‘umble Uriah Heep. Along with Great Expectations perhaps the Dickens novel most adapted to the screen both large and small.
So there you are. The literary agent of Charles Dickens, fresh from his outstanding success with David Copperfield. There he is sitting across the desk from you. ‘So Charles, what do you have in mind for your next two novels?’
CD: ‘ Bleak House and Hard Times!’
Can you think of two more uninviting titles for a novel? Hard Times was a rarity in that it was set wholly outside London. Bleak House also broke the mould by introducing the first female narrator in a Dickens novel.
Hard Times is as its title suggests hard going. But Bleak House was the first of the two to be published between March 1852 and September 1853. Esther Summerson is the heroine of the novel. She is taken into care by John Jarndyce following the death of her guardian. The novel is famous for its scathing satirical attack on the judicial system which operated in the House of Chancery. A case called Jarndyce & Jarndyce is the main feature as an argument about wills rolls on for years. Dickens would not live to see it but a law reform act in the 1870s was helped on its way by the outcry caused by the plot in Bleak House. Great character names abound; Lord and Lady Dedlock, Mr Tulkinghorn. William Guppy, Caddy Jelleby and many, many more. My favourite is the wonderful Inspector Bucket! An uninviting title but an outstanding book.
Hard Times gives us Thomas Gradgrind a name that makes you instantly dislike its owner! Set wholly outside London it is one of the shortest of the books written by Dickens. It is one of two books published originally without any illustrations. Published between April and August 1854 in Dickens own magazine, ‘ Household Words.’ Published alongside it in the same magazine was ‘North and South’by Mrs Gaskell. A novel with a similar theme. Hard Timesproved a successful book telling the tale of a school (Gradgrinds) and its pupils on the one hand and mill workers on the other. Dickens was not convinced that the industrial revolution was a total cause for good. His book is seen as a satire on that industrial society. I have always found it hard to read.
And so we come to Little Dorritt. Published in monthly parts between December 1855 and June 1857. Here Dickens calls on his childhood experience as the first half of the book takes place in the Marshalsea Prison. William Dorritt has been incarcerated for over twenty years and his daughter Amy was born there. His two other children entered the prison with their parents. Her sister chooses to live outside the prison but Amy’s brother remains with her and her father. Amy’s mother has died many years previously. William Dorritt lives what he considers a normal life and makes no attempt to resolve his situation. Then Arthur Clenham appears. His investigations and adventures cause a seismic shift in the life of the Dorritt family as the Marshalsea is left behind and they spend some time in Rome. This is another of those books with an off-putting title. Little Dorritt? Do not be deceived, it is one of his best novels.
No less a personage than Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky thought highly of the book. It gives a wonderful evocation of life in a debtors prison. Not too many great names though, Minnie Meagles and Jeremiah Flintwich are about the best I can do! The book is also famous for Dickens attack on Victorian bureaucracy in the shape of the Circumlocution Office. This is a place where applications just go round and round and nothing gets done! (Sound familiar? Nothing changes!)
Published in 1859 in 31 weekly editions A Tale of Two Cities is reckoned to be the best selling Dickens book. Two hundred million is claimed in some cases but disputed by other experts. Given that book counting was not a primary concern in the nineteenth century it is doubtful if anyone has an accurate figure. What can be stated is that the book has sold a lot of copies! There are books with good opening lines, one or two with great end lines. But only this book can claim both. I would say it has the best beginning and ending of any other book ever published? And no I have not read them all! Here are the opening lines:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
All in one sentence!
And the ending spoken by Sydney Carton:
It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.
And in between all that you have a relatively peaceful London and the Reign of Terror in Paris as the lives of Sydney Carton and Charles Darney start to intertwine. One of my favourite books. A TV production a few years back was sadly lacking in production values. At the point where the Bastille is stormed it seemed you had about two dozen Parisians on the attack!
For his next novel Dickens returned to childhood and a first-person narrator. It is a companion novel to David Copperfieldin that both explore similar themes and both have same narration device. GreatExpectations received universal acclaim when it was published between December 1860 and August 1861. It has a dramatic opening scene beloved of television producers. The meeting with Magwich in the graveyard sends young children behind the sofa! By 1860 Dickens seems to have eased off on character names. Here Mr Pumblechook is the only one to raise a smile. The book takes us from childhood to manhood as Pip (Philip Pirrip) narrates his adventures. Love and betrayal, secrets revealed, violent enemies causing problems but in the end good friends who see him through. One of the most performed Dickens stories across all types of media. It is a story made for television.
Dickens was not to know it but ‘Our Mutual Friend’ would be his final completed novel. Published in monthly parts between May 1864 and November 1865 it was not one of the more popular novels. It has rather too many sub-plots and a convoluted main plot. Its redeeming features are as always the characters; Georgiana Podsnap, Sophronia Lammie and Bradley Headstone to name but three!
The plot hinges on a will, or maybe two wills, or is it three, and the untimely death of the would-be heir? But just who is ‘Our Mutual Friend?’ You will work it out as the book draws to its close!
Time for a note about the various illustrators of the novels. Dickens worked closely with his artists and it is accepted that the illustrations in the books match those imagined by Dickens when writing the books. He had one or two illustrators (George Cruikshank for one) before Hablot Knight Brown took up residence. More commonly known by his nom-de-plume of ‘Phiz.’
This particular artist stayed with Dickens for twenty-three years although he did not do the illustrations for ‘A Christmas Carol.’ These were done by another friend of Dickens called John Leech. The last book illustrated by Browne was a Tale of Two Cities. They were not well received and Dickens sensed that Hablot Browne was losing his touch. He employed the son of a friend to illustrate Our Mutual Friend. Marcus Stone was the son of Frank Stone who had helped out with the illustrations on the earlier books.
So there you have the fifteen books. A mixture, most certainly. Any pick of five books is subjective but here are the five I would recommend to you if you have never read Dickens before:
In order of reading I would suggest you start with Pickwick Papers. It will be a gentle introduction to the way Dickens writes and the stories themselves are enjoyable. Follow that with David Copperfield. Without reading the book you may have seen a TV version of it. However it is wise to remember that television productions cut hugh chunks out of any book they adapt for television. Here Dickens will introduce you to child cruelty, devious characters and on the other side of the coin wonderful friends who see him through his difficult start in life. And as I mentioned before this book introduces you to Wilkins Micawber not to mention the equally delightful Betsy Trotwood.
It will be no surprise to you I am sure that the next book on my list is Great Expectations. A slightly different view of childhood to the previous book, and, perhaps, a little darker in places. Both books keep your attention and give a wonderful evocation of Victorian life. Dickens always used his books to satirise the class divisions of contemporary life. In Great Expectations Pip finds himself embarrassed by his Uncle Joe. He has risen in class but forgotten where he came from. It is a book for which Dickens wrote a number of final scenes. Did Pip marry Estella? Or not? Mmmm.
Having read two novels that started with childhood time to read about revolution! ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ alternates the action between London and Paris. As the revolution approaches a Doctor Manette is released from a Paris prison. Arrangements have been made for him to meet his daughter who thinks her father is long dead. This meeting and its consequences provide the central thread of the story. Love, betrayal, revenge, and finally, redemption. It is all here. There is a wonderful villain in Madam Defarge who carries on with her knitting as the tumbrils roll and the guillotine falls! Sydney Carton is the dissolute hero who finally makes himself fatally useful. The number one Dickens best seller by a country mile!
However as much as I like ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ I have to admit that ‘Bleak House’in terms of its characters, main plot and sub-plots is the finer novel. Esther Summerson becomes the first female narrator of a Dickens novel alternating with an omniscient narrator later in the book.
Esther has a back story that is touched on in the book but never fully explored. An adopted child; her guardian has died. Her new guardian is the kindly John Jarndyce. It becomes obvious that Esther’s former guardian was not a very nice person and Esther sees her prospects improving. (Charlotte Bronte was unimpressed with Esther Summerson as a character. Well Jane Eyre was not exactly a bundle of fun Charlotte?) Various characters pass through the Jarndyce residence building the story. As the sub-plots drop in to the story we are introduced to Lord and Dedlock and their lawyer Mr Tulkinghorne. The sub-plots seem unrelated but as the novel progresses they start to become as one with the main plot. The Chancery case described in the book providing Dickens with a wonderful opportunity to attack the appalling justice system in place in Victorian England. Bleak House is one of those books you will read late into the night. Then look up and realise you should have been in bed an hour ago? If you only read one Dickens novel; read this one!
And there you have your novels. The Dickens stories lend themselves to television and there have been some outstanding productions over the years. Back in 2005 there was a superb production of Bleak House. It had a stellar cast. Anna Maxwell Martin as Esther, Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock. Charles Dance, Timothy West, Denis Lawson, Carey Mulligan all appeared in the production as did Alan Armstrong as Inspector Bucket. The production was shown in half hour episodes which at first seemed a strange approach. However it heightened the tension and turned out to be very clever idea! Great Expectations and David Copperfield are the most produced novels across all media and in the former Gillian Anderson starred as Miss Havisham in a 2011 production. Ray Winstone could be seen enjoying himself immensely as Abel Magwitch!
But if you only watch one television programme about Charles Dickens then make it ‘Dickensian.’ A masterpiece of television. I would read the books first before you watch as that will make it more enjoyable but it is worth watching as a stand-alone programme. The set is brilliant. Snow falling as Christmas approaches in a true Dickensian setting. Here you will find Miss Havisham preparing for her marriage. Here is the back -story of Esther Summerson. Bill Sykes and Nancy before they met Oliver. The Artful Dodger and Little Nell. (Both sadly showing the political correctness of the BBC extends even to Dickens as they are played by actors from an ethnic minority.) We have Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit. Fagin is there as are Mr and Mrs Bumble. Pauline Collins has the time of her life as Mrs Gamp. The stand-out performance for me was Stephen Rea as Inspector Bucket. Given free rein in this production Inspector Bucket is the central character as he seeks to find the murderer of Jacob Marley. It is a wonderful, crazy, Dickens fantasy! There was expected to be a second production but the BBC in their wisdom decided we were all enjoying ourselves far too much and cancelled!
Charles Dickens started work on ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’ in April 1870. Sadly he would never live to finish it. He died on 9 June. He had set himself a punishing schedule giving a speaking tour in the USA and following it with another speaking tour on his return to England. He was ordered to rest by his doctor and did so for a few weeks. However he felt he had let down his sponsors and returned to the tour which would eventually lead to his death from sheer exhaustion despite what it may say on his death certificate. He must be one of the few people in the western world to die from overwork. (Isambard Kingdom Brunel is another one!)
Charles Dickens novels have never been out of print. He retains his place as the greatest novelist this country has ever produced. Only Shakespeare is ranked above him on the list of the all time greatest writers in this country. On the world list Shakespeare remains top of the list but in second place some see Dickens, others see Tolstoy. In America you might think a Victorian English author would be long forgotten but Charles Dickens remains one of their favourite writers along with Twain, Hemingway, Scott-Fitzgerald, Steinbeck and the more modern day American writers. When I visited the Dickens House in Portsmouth a few weeks ago I was the only English visitor. The others were Japanese, German, Indian and American.
Despite his earlier relations with both his parents when his father died Dickens paid off all his debts of which there were many. He also set up a trust fund that enabled his mother to live the life to which she had become accustomed!
I hope this rather long blog has encouraged you to re-read or read for the first time the novels of our greatest author?