‘David Copperfield’ is the eighth serialised novel by Charles Dickens, first published in 1850. Many elements within the novel follow events in Dickens’ own life, and it is probably the most autobiographical of all of his novels. The debt-ridden Micawber acts as a feckless yet charming mentor to the young David Copperfield, and eventually emigrates to Australia where he enjoys a successful career as a sheep farmer and becomes a magistrate. Mr. Micawber is apparently based on Dickens’ father- John Dickens.
‘Oliver Twist’ is the second novel by Charles Dickens. The story is about an orphan who endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and then is placed with an undertaker. He escapes and travels to London where he meets the Artful Dodger, leader of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Oliver is led to the lair of their elderly criminal trainer Fagin, naively unaware of their unlawful activities. It is likely that Dickens’ own early youth as a child labourer contributed to the story’s development. Uncompassionate, greedy and pompous, Mr Bumble is the minor church official for the workhouse where Oliver Twist was born.
‘Barnaby Rudge’ is one of two works that Dickens published in his short-lived weekly serial Master Humphrey’s Clock. Barnaby Rudge is the village idiot, who drifts in and out of Dickens’ first historical novel, with his pet raven, Grip. Written at a time of social unrest in Victorian Britain and set in London at the time of the anti-Catholic Gordon Riots, Dickens’s brooding novel of mayhem and murder in the eighteenth century tells a story of individuals caught up in the mindless violence of the mob.
Dickens turns his satirical eye on America in ‘The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit’ (serialized 1843-44), when young Martin embarks on a voyage that is destined to affect the fortunes of his family and his love. This comic masterpiece is the last of Dickens’s picturesque novels. An alcoholic nurse, midwife, and layer-out of the dead, Mrs. Gamp habitually carries with her a battered black umbrella. So popular with the Victorian public was the character, that Gamp became a slang word for an umbrella in general. To quote Dickens, ‘she was a fat old woman, this Mrs. Gamp, with a husky voice and a moist eye.’
Written for publication as a serial, ‘The Pickwick Papers’ is the first novel by Charles Dickens that launched his career. The founder of the Pickwick Club, our protagonist Pickwick is a kind and wealthy old gentleman who goes in search of adventure with his friends Winkle, Snodgrass and Tupman, and his manservant Sam Weller.