A Dickens Bookshelf

Portrait of Charles Dickens by Francis Alexander (1800-1880). Used per the James T. Fields Collection and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Mass. Image by James T. Fields Collection

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) began his writing career as a journalist, covering the London courts and Parliamentary debates in the House of Commons.

His work as a reporter taught him to write quickly to meet deadlines, and his excellent observational skills helped him to succeed in that profession. In turn, that profession provided him with a rich vein of material for his fictional works.

Dickens began publishing stories in 1833, and many of the earliest appeared under the pen name "Boz," the childhood nickname of his younger brother. His first book, Sketches by Boz, was published in 1836. His second book, The Pickwick Papers, was published in monthly installments and became a huge international hit, launching Dickens's career as a full-time novelist.

Over the course of that illustrious career, Dickens wrote almost ceaselessly and published two dozen novels, tales, Christmas books, and works of nonfiction. Thanks to Project Guttenberg, you can find most of these works online as free downloads.

Dickens's major works include:

  • The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (novel in monthly parts, April 1836 – November 1837)
  • Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress (novel in monthly parts, February 1837 – April 1839)
  • The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (novel in monthly parts, April 1838 – October 1839)
  • The Old Curiosity Shop (novel in weekly parts, April 1840 – February 1841)
  • Barnaby Rudge: A Tale of the Riots of Eighty (novel in weekly parts, February 1841 – November 1841)
  • American Notes for General Circulation (travel book, October 1842)
  • A Christmas Carol (Christmas book, December 1843)
  • The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (novel in monthly parts, January 1843 – July 1844)
  • The Chimes (Christmas book, December 1844)
  • The Cricket on the Hearth (Christmas book, December 1845)
  • The Battle of Life (Christmas book, December 1846)
  • Pictures from Italy (travel book, 1846)
  • Dombey and Son (novel in monthly parts, October 1846 – April 1848)
  • The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (Christmas book, 1848)
  • The Life of Our Lord (retelling of the New Testament, 1849, but not published until 1934)
  • David Copperfield (novel in monthly parts, May 1849 – November 1850)
  • A Child's History of England (appeared once a month in a weekly magazine, Jan. 25, 1851 to Dec. 10, 1853)
  • Bleak House (novel in monthly parts, March 1852 – September 1853)
  • Hard Times: For These Times (novel in weekly parts, April 1854 – August 1854)
  • Little Dorrit (novel in monthly parts, December 1855 – June 1857)
  • A Tale of Two Cities (novel in weekly parts and monthly illustrated serial installments, April 1859 – November 1859)
  • Great Expectations (novel in weekly parts, December 1860 – August 1861)
  • Our Mutual Friend (novel in monthly parts, May 1864 – November 1865)
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood (novel in monthly parts, April 1870 – September 1870, unfinished)
Dickens and Massachusetts: The Lasting Legacy of the Commonwealth Visits book cover

You can also find a wealth of Dickens resources online and in print, including a new book on Dickens and Massachusetts. Our top picks include:

  • Dickens and Massachusetts: The Lasting Legacy of the Commonwealth Visits, edited by Diana C. Archibald and Joel J. Brattin (University of Massachusetts Press, 2015)
  • John Forster's Life of Charles Dickens, published a few years after the author's death in 1870, is available through the Japan Chapter of the Dickens Fellowship
  • At Stanford University's Discovering Dickens site, readers can download Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, or Hard Times in the original numbers, with notes and commentary
  • UC Santa Cruz's Dickens Project offers online bibliographies, articles, and an exceptionally helpful page for teacher resources
  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute's Project Boz includes scanned original numbers of several Dickens novels, some with searchable PDFs (a joint project with UMass Lowell)
  • The British Library's Dickens in Context explores a range of Dickensian themes such as poverty and wealth, childhood, prisons, and industrialization
  • WGBH's Masterpiece Theater "Tales of Charles Dickens" page  focuses on four Dickens novels: Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Little Dorrit, and The Old Curiosity Shop
  • PBS also maintains a site on Dickens's life and works, which includes essays by Dickens in Lowell contributing scholar Joel J. Brattin.
  • The New York Public Library offers an illustrated presentation on Charles Dickens: The Life of the Author by Kenneth Benson.


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