Dickens from the Start, No. 1

So, I've been thinking: the bicentenary of Charles Dickens' birth is next year, on the 7th February, and I'd really, really like to do something to commemorate it on this blog, Dickens being awesome and all. Also, I really wish I'd read more of his books by now than I have. 

Having mulled this over for a few weeks (can you see where I might be going with this?), the answer suddenly became clear - the best way to commemorate Dickens, or any writer, is to read, comment on and discuss his work, so that's what I'm going to do! I'm going to read Dickens from start to finish and talk about it on this blog, charting the changes in his political thinking, his writing style and personal life along the way. 

It shall be known as Dickens from the Start.

Here is the detail of the task:

  1. I am going to read all of Dickens' books that are classed as novels by the Dickens Fellowship, therefore excluding his short stories, non-fiction, poetry and plays, with the exception of 'A Christmas Carol', which earns a place amongst his longer tomes thanks to its ubiquitous and enduring popularity. This means I have 16 books to read - 14 classic novels, 'A Christmas Carol' and the incomplete 'Mystery of Edwin Drood'. 
  2. I am  going to read them all by the 13th August 2013, which is the day that the new statue of Charles Dickens will be unveiled as part of the International Dickens Fellowship Conference in Portsmouth next year. It is the first statue of Dickens to ever be erected in the UK and I like the idea of it being in Portsmouth, which is the city of his birth (and not too far from me). 
  3. I will read only paperback editions, as cheaper editions seem more in keeping with his egalitarian vision of literature and life. I will also, as far as possible, read one copy from each publisher to have Dickens' books in print, excluding those that are particularly expensive, obscure or difficult to obtain. The only book I already have in my possession is the Penguin Classics 2005 edition of 'Oliver Twist, so that's Penguin Classics out, but the rest of them are up for grabs.
  4. I will, as one might expect, talk about each book on this blog as I read them, linking them all with the 'Dickens from the Start' tag.
So, I guess that's it! I would love it if other people wanted to join in too. By my estimation, there are 324 days left until the 13th August 2012, which gives us an average of 20.25 days per book, (presuming they're all the same length, which they aren't) which I'm sure you'll agree seems eminently do-able! Or at least suitably daunting to be worth having a crack at.

I want to finish my current book ('The Woman in White' by Wilkie Collins, which actually has quite a strong Dickens link) and then I will begin. 'Pickwick Papers' will be first, at a totally non-intimidating 784 pages. Easy.

Wish me luck! I'll report back once I've made a start.


  1. I'd like to read your Dickens from the Start. I've only ever read one Dickens novel, Dombey and Son, when I was fifteen. It was a nightmare to get through. Half the time I had no idea what he was talking about. I haven't touched a Dickens novel since but maybe your enthusiasm might rub off on me?
    Good to luck to you with your reading!

  2. Hi Helen, how are you? I do share some of your trepidation, to be honest - of the 16, I've read Oliver Twist, Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol - and they were excellent, as far as I remember, but LONG. I anticipate getting bogged down some what, but I'm also v excited about seeing how different things are now I'm older etc. It'll also be great to know all the characters and all the references that people make.

    Maybe you should join me? Get through Dombey and Sons together? It'd excellent to have a partner in crime... :)

  3. This is a wonderful idea. I have almost done it myself - two novels left, with a couple of re-reads also likely. This has been over the course of several years.

    Now, if you really want to do something a little more challenging, may I suggest: Mega-Dickens.

  4. Tom, I have actually broken out in a cold, cold sweat! I can't believe how many people thought you were actually going to do that. Although I kinda wish you had - you could be the MEGA-DICKENSIAN - chattering raven and all. I would happily fashion you some kind of medal.

    It's freaked me out though - if Mega-Dickens take 19 months, Dickens from the Start should be just as long at 50 pages a day, as it's the same number of books...I haven't even got a copy of the Pickwick Papers ready as I wanted to finish Woman in White first. I really need to make a start, don't I?

    Btw, if there will be some re-reads in your existing Dickens odyssey, maybe you should re-read from the start? With me? :)

  5. As much as I love Dickens, I would - I do - need long breaks. 50 pages a day for a while.

    Hey, I just picked up The Woman in White at the library - just started it. Subconscious influence, I guess.

    A more or less simultaneous re-read here and there does not sound so crazy.

  6. Alright, it's a deal.

    I'll be starting with Pickwick Papers and going from there, so let me know when you want to tag in.

    Enjoy 'The Woman in White'!


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