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Charles Dickens: a writing lifetime

Martin Chuzzlewit 1844

Front wrapper of issue no. v. in colourFront wrapper of issue no. v.Charles Dickens. The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. With illustrations by Phiz. London:Chapman and Hall, 1844 [Rare Books Collection PR4563.A1 1844]

Martin Chuzzlewit is not the most popular of Dickens's novels. Quite a large part of the story-line takes place in north America, and the book offers a not very positive impression of the country which Dickens had observed during his first journey there in 1842.

First page of textFirst page of textThe novel should be read in conjunction with American Notes, in which Dickens elaborated upon much of what he had seen. Readers in the United States did not appreciate the criticism in either volume.

Engraved illustrated frontispiece and title pageEngraved frontispiece and title pageMartin Chuzzlewit is the grandson of a rich old man (of the same name) who is surrounded by predatory relatives, including the hypocrite Mr Pecksniff, who is eventually found out.

The story is not altogether successful in terms of plot, but there are fine subsidiary characters, such as Sairey Gamp, and Mr Pecksniff, who have become more famous than the protagonist.

Illustration depicting Jonas taking control of a horse following the crash of their carriage`Mr Jonas exhibits his presence of mindWhile he was writing Martin Chuzzlewit Dickens decided – being short of money – that he would write a Christmas story on the theme of greed, which emerged as A Christmas Carol, issued for theChristmas of 1843. Sadly, the book did not yield Dickens as much as he had hoped, and he parted company with his publishers over it. It has been a Christmas bestseller ever since.

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