Charles John Huffam Dickens FRSA (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime and, by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.
Use the links below to read some of his work (opens in new tab):
1. Barnaby Rudge (1841)
Barnaby Rudge begins in 1775, with America on the brink of revolution, inciting English military strategy discussions. Debate eventually escalates into the Gordon Riots, which various characters take part in, including the simple-minded and easily swayed Barnaby Rudge.
2. The Battle of Life: A Love Story (1846)
A story of the heart in a historical setting. Two sisters live with their widowed father and a pair of house-servants. One sister is betrothed to a man who left town to better himself — leaving her open to the advances of another. A farce offering a satisfying romantic twist.
3. Bleak House (1853)
Bleak House centers around the drawn-out court case of Jarndyce v. Jarndyce and the question of who gets the large family inheritance. The complex case takes decades to settle.
A dramatic satire of the court system and often-gratuitous nature of the court.
4. The Chimes (1844)
The Chimes is similar to Scrooge's story, in the sense that an old man has his mind changed by supernatural means.
5. A Christmas Carol (1843)
On the night of Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the three ghosts warning he’ll be cursed for all eternity if he continues down the same embittered path.
6. The Cricket on the Hearth (1845)
John Peerybingle is a simple man caught up in a web of romance so tangled it requires a guardian angel
7. David Copperfield (1850)
A thorough biography of the eponymous Copperfield, tracking his life from happy childhood to troubled adolescence to his eventual marriage and career. During this time he contends with his mother’s tragic death, malicious contemporary Uriah Heep, and his own internal conflict over whether to pursue a lucrative career (law) or one that’s more creatively and personally fulfilling (writing, of course).
8. Dombey and Son (1848) - Audio Version
This story focuses on the complex relationship between shipping firm owner Paul Dombey and his daughter, Florence. Already a misogynistic, emotionally abusive father to “Floy,” Dombey becomes even more hostile toward her after the death of his young son. He runs off to marry Edith Granger — but after becoming acquainted with Floy, Edith turns against Dombey as well. Both women then abandon Dombey, who must learn the hard way to take responsibility for his actions and the harm he has caused.
9. Edwin Drood (1870)
Edwin Drood offers six out of twelve installments - the remaining six left undone at the time of Dickens’ death. The title character is an orphan-done-good who is betrothed to fellow orphan, Rosa Bud. When he disappears in a storm, suspicion is laid at the feet of Edwin’s uncle, John Jasper: a sinister choirmaster with an unhealthy obsession with Rosa.
10. Great Expectations (1861)
Determined to prove himself, Pip begins a career in blacksmithing and lives in London with the financial help of a mysterious benefactor — but is heartbroken when Estella falls in love with (or rather, strategically decides to marry) somebody else. Pip must then come to terms with the fact that his “great expectations” may never be met… but of course, this is hardly the end of the story, which takes a huge twist as the identity of Pip’s benefactor is revealed.
11. Hard Times (1854)
Hard Times weaves the tale of a school superintendent named Thomas Gradgrind and his associates. Gradgrind’s no-nonsense approach to both education and parenting has left his children, especially his daughter Louisa, severely out of touch with their emotions — to the point that when Gradgrind suggests she marry the much-older Bounderby, citing statistics about marital age differences, she simply submits. His son Tom, on the other hand, has his own ideas about getting along in the world — and all his father’s logic can’t keep him from a life of delinquency, including a scheme in which an innocent mill worker becomes implicated.
12. The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain (1848)
A supernatural holiday fable. A bitter teacher named Redlaw is alone Christmas eve, haunted not only by past traumas but also by his spectral doppelganger. The ghost offers to wipe away Redlaw’s gloomiest memories, Eternal Sunshine-style, which the teacher only too eagerly accepts.
13. Little Dorrit (1857)
Little Amy Dorrit was born and raised in a debtors’ prison where her father has been confined for twenty years and unable to work off his debts. Little Dorrit supports them both until a large Jarndyce-like inheritance comes into play but their troubles are far from over. Inspired by his own father’s time at Marshalsea, Little Dorrit is a scathing critique of both the unjust, ineffectual nature of debtors’ prisons and the fragility of wealth and social circumstance.
14. Martin Chuzzlewit (1841)
Martin Chuzzlewit's wealthy grandfather disowns him after he falls in love with his nursemaid. Now needing to make his own fortune, Martin becomes an apprentice to conniving architect Seth Pecksniff, who steals his students’ work and claims it for his own. When Pecksniff gives Martin the boot, his true adventure can begin: a trip to America with his friend Mark, whose optimism turns out to be a great asset under the circumstances they encounter.
15. Nicholas Nickleby (1839)
Nicholas Nickleby's father’s death leaves him to fend for his mother and sister. He wrangles a job at the Dotheboys Hall school where the wretched boardmaster Wackford Squeers makes Nicholas’ life miserable. This work is packed with both melodrama and humor.
16. The Old Curiosity Shop (1841)
The story of Nell Trent, a sweet young girl who lives with her grandfather and works at the titular shop. When her grandfather loses all their money, Nell must take the reins to lead them out of London only to have the bad guys follow.
17. Oliver Twist (1839)
The story of a helpless orphan taken in by pickpockets and forced into horrific circumstances. Despite the bad luck and cruel treatment that befalls him, Oliver manages to mostly resist the temptation of corruption, remaining a beacon of hope and purity.
18. Our Mutual Friend (1865)
The story begins with a shocking discovery: the heir to a fortune is found dead and bloated in the River Thames. This means the money will go to his family’s loyal employees, the Boffins, instead.
Sophisticated and complex work. The last of Dicken's completed novels.
19. The Pickwick Papers (1837)
A loose collection of stories that center around one Mr. Samuel Pickwick: an elderly gentleman who gallivants around England with fellow members of his very own “Pickwick Club.” Along their journey they meet unusual people, drink lots of alcohol, and step into some sticky situations.
20. A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
A French doctor is imprisoned in the Bastille for eighteen years and only just freed — to the immense surprise of his daughter who believed him to be dead. After Lucie and Dr. Manette reunite in Paris, they travel back to London to begin a new life. This is where Lucie meets and falls in love with Charles Darnay, a wealthy Frenchman who nevertheless takes a progressive stance against the poor treatment of the lower classes. The rest of Darnay’s family is not so noble...