Perhaps the first thing you notice when you read The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens is how little of it has to do with an old curiosity shop. The opening scenes are set in the shop, a place full of old antiques, curiosities, and junk, or “junque.” References will appear later in the sprawling tale, but they are fleeting.
The Old Curiosity Shop was Dickens’ fourth work of fiction. He began to be known with his stories published in newspapers and periodicals, later collected as Sketches by Boz. Almost all of his fictional works were first serialized before being published as books. The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, or simply, The Pickwick Papers, were published over 18 months from 1836 to 1837, and the work catapulted the author to national fame.
That was followed by Oliver Twist (1837 to 1839) and Nicholas Nickleby (1838 to 1839). Dickens’ fame was growing in Britain and the United States. The overlap in his published serials demonstrates the demand for his work – people were reading Oliver Twist as Nicholas Nickleby began to be published. He was riding the rising tide of literacy in both Britain and the U.S. His characters captured recognizable types, and he was equally at home with humor, tragedy, violence, and even farce.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Tweetspeak Poetry.
Top photograph: Little Nell and her grandfather begin their journey in The Old Curiosity Shop.