Charles Dickens finished the serialization of his autobiographical novel David Copperfield in 1850. More than a year would pass before he began the monthly installments for Bleak House in March of 1852. The intervening time wasn’t a gap or rest year; “rest” is not usually a word one associates with the British author.
But it was certainly more than time off between novels. In fact, argues Robert Douglas-Fairhurst in The Turning Point: A Year That Changed Dickens and the World, that year marked a change in Dickens’ writing, which with Bleak House took a darker turn. It was the year of Prince Albert’s Great Exhibition, with the famous Crystal Palace in Hyde Park containing wonders and technology from the world over. Dickens himself was becoming more involved in social causes and projects, like Urania Cottage to provide a haven for prostitutes to leave that life behind. At the same time, his lease on #1 Devonshire Place near Regents Park was ending, and he had to find a new place for his large and growing family to live. And it was a year of personal tragedy for Dickens, with the death of his young daughter and his father.
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