The legendary Charles Dickens, considered by many to be the greatest writer of the Victorian era as well as one of the greatest authors of all time, wrote many famous novels and a number of memorable short stories including such favorites as A Tale of Two Cities; A Christmas Carol; and The Adventures of Oliver Twist. A recurring theme in Dickens’ literature is, of course, the plight of the poor, often focusing on the abuse of children and inhumane labor conditions. The fact that Dickens’ father went to debtors’ prison, prompting him to leave school in order to work in a factory, probably served as inspiration for such stories.
Although most of Dickens’ novels are very well known, there are a few volumes that are somewhat obscure. Those who are not fervent Dickens-philes are probably not familiar with these titles. But that may be a good thing. After all, what can be better than discovering new titles by a great author?
Despite the fact that Dombey and Son has been critically acclaimed, adapted to film and television, and is the original source for the expression; “Good riddance to bad rubbish”, today it is not one of the author’s best remembered works. Initially, published in serial form, between 1846 and 1848 and subsequently as a novel with the title Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation, the story concerns the wealthy owner of a shipping company who desperately wants a son to carry on his business. The book which, is something of a family saga, focuses in part on Dombey’s strained relationship with his daughter, the much neglected Florence, which completely deteriorates following the death of his six-year-old son Paul.
Our Mutual Friend, serialized 1864-1865 and published in one volume in 1865, was the last book completed by Charles Dickens. In contrast to its popularity at the time of publication, the critical reception for the book has often been poor. The story, which explores the power of money and the importance of human values, revolves around an inheritance and the body of a man fished out of the Thames who was due to receive the money upon his marriage to a woman he had never met.
Dickens’ fifth novel Barnaby Rudge published in 1841, after being serialized in the periodical Master Humphrey’s Clock, has never been among Dickens’ most popular works. It was the author’s first attempt at a historic novel, taking place in the late 18th century, and was largely centered on a murder mystery. Typical of Dickens this novel features colorful and unusual characters as well as political themes. An interesting footnote is the fact that the book, which features a pet raven, inspired fellow author Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem The Raven. In fact, Poe wrote a review of Barnaby Rudge for Graham’s Magazine in which he observed that the raven should have had a more symbolic prophetic purpose.