It is late 1860. British explorers are in Africa, seeking the source of the Nile River. The Second Opium War has just been brought to an end in China. The first professional golf tournament has been held in Scotland, and would soon become known as the British Open. In the United States, Abraham Lincoln has just been elected President, and South Carolina is preparing to vote to secede from the Union.
And in London, Charles Dickens sends his friend John Forster a letter, describing a new “little piece” he’s been working on and is on the verge of completing. Dickens needed something for his magazine All the Year Round; a novel by writer Charles Lever which was being serialized was simply not drawing the interest Dickens had hoped for. He described his new story as “fine, new, and grotesque,” and he said planned to publish it in 20 numbers or installments, beginning Dec. 1 (there would be a total of 36 episodes.
That “little piece” was Great Expectations, which came to be one of the author’s best and most beloved works. It was a success from the very first episode.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Top illustration: Pip meets the convict Abel Magwith in the churchyard in Great Expectations.