The Dickens Christmas Novellas

We want to thank all of you for going on this fantastic Dickens adventure with us this year. Whether you finished all the novels or not, it has been a wonderful experience reading with you!

Although we read Dickens’s novels in the order in which they were published in our Dickens 2021 Project this year, we saved the five Dickens Christmas novellas, published between 1843-1848, for the Christmas holiday season. 

A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas (December 1843)

The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells that Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year In (December 1844)

The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home (December 1845)

The Battle of Life: A Love Story (December 1846)

The Haunted Man & the Ghost’s Bargain, A Fancy for Christmas-Time (December 1848)

In this, our final official post for the Project, we share just a few ways to enjoy the novellas and learn more about the stories behind the stories.

Listen to the Christmas stories on Librivox:

A Christmas Carol 

The Chimes 

The Cricket on the Hearth

The Battle of Life 

The Haunted Man & the Ghost’s Bargain

Watch adaptations of some of the tales (some IMDB matches may not be to adaptations, so check records before you watch!):

A Christmas Carol

The Chimes

The Cricket on the Hearth

Read about Christmas traditions and their origins in Victorian Christmas by Judith Flanders and more specifically about Charles Dickens and the Victorian Christmas Feast by Simon Callow on the British Library Discovering Literature site.  

Renata Goroshkova discusses the novellas’ reception in one part of the world in her blog post The Reception of Charles Dickens’s Christmas Stories of the 1840s in Russia up to 1917 on The Dickens Society site. Goroshkova also provides an interesting analysis on Dickens’s use of framework images in another two-part post entitled Crossing the Borders: Windows and Thresholds in Dickens’s Christmas Stories of the 1840s.

Learn a bit more about the background context for and importance of A Christmas Carol in a short video by Michael Slater and a related article by John Sutherland in The Origins of A Christmas Carol from the British Library. 

Further attention is given to the ghosts of the story in John Mullan’s Ghosts in A Christmas Carol also on the British Library Discovering Literature site. 

And, finally, there is a wealth of information about the novellas on The Victorian Web, including links to the original illustrations. 

Image of the second of the three spirits visiting Scrooge in Dickens's A Christmas Carol.
Leech, John. “The Second of The Three Spirits” or “Scrooge’s third Visitor” (1843). The Victorian Web.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood

April 1870 – September 1870

Congratulations, Dickensians, we’ve made it to the last, and most mysterious of Dickens’s novels! Dickens did not share his plans for the novel’s resolution, but before the serial was abruptly interrupted by Dickens’s death on June 9, 1870, he implied that Drood’s uncle murdered young Edwin. But did he? Was Edwin Drood actually murdered? Did he fake his own death?? After all, this is a Dickens novel, so anything is possible.

Here are some resources if you want to learn more:

The Charles Dickens Page provides an abundance of resources, including a useful map, a complete description of characters, and a facsimile of the final page written by Dickens’s hand:

The original illustrations are also found on the Charles Dickens Page:

If you have Britbox, you can watch the 2012 BBC adaptation:

Some Early Dramatic Solutions to Dickens’ Unfinished Mystery, courtesy of The Victorian Web:

Rupert Holmes’s clever approach to “solving the mystery” was to create a musical and allow audience members to vote on the ending:

The Haunting Mystery of ‘Edwin Drood’ That Charles Dickens Left Behind
“When Charles Dickens died, he left behind an unfinished book containing unresolved mysteries. In ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood,’ who killed Drood—and is Drood really dead?”

Picture of man looking at woman sitting on a bench. Illustration from Dickens's The Mystery of Edwin Drood
“Under the Trees” by Sir Luke Fildes. Facing page 25 for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Scanned image and text by Philip A. Allingham. The Victorian Web.

Our Mutual Friend

1864 – 1865

This is the last full-sized, complete novel in our Dickens reading challenge!

Start here for an assortment of interesting facts about Our Mutual Friend on the Charles Dickens Page.  

‘Our Mutual Friend’ and the Making of the Modern Narrative
In this short video, Murray Baumgarten, Founding Director of the Dickens Project, describes how Charles Dickens’s innovative use of dynamic visuals in Our Mutual Friend changed the narrative form and served as a precursor to early films. 

Also check out the Dickens Project’s Our Mutual Friend: The Scholarly Pages for more on the novel. Did you know that Henry James called Dickens “the greatest of superficial novelists?” Here is James’ scathing review of Our Mutual Friend.

The following is an assortment of essays exploring a variety of themes found within Our Mutual Friend

Read the original serial here! The University of Victoria’s 19th Century Serials collection.

The 1998 BBC film adaptation of Our Mutual Friend is available via Amazon Prime. 

And finally, Illustrations by James Mahoney for Charles Dickens’ works collected in their entirety on The Victorian Web: 

James Mahoney's thirty-second illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend entitled Jenny twisted her venerable friend aside to a brilliantly-lighted toy-shop window, and said: "Now look at 'em. All my work!"
Jenny twisted her venerable friend aside to a brilliantly-lighted toy-shop window, and said: “Now look at ’em. All my work!” — P. 223 [pagination for the British edition; “P. 187” in the American], James Mahoney’s thirty-second illustration for Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition (New York & London), 1875.
James Mahoney's Illustration for Dickens's Our Mutual Friend entitled Lizzie, looking for her father, saw him coming, and stood upon the causeway that he might see her,
“Lizzie, looking for her father, saw him coming, and stood upon the causeway that he might see her,” James Mahoney’s Illustration for Dickens’s Our Mutual Friend, Household Edition, Frontispiece (p. 37). 1875.

Great Expectations

1860 – 1861

As with several of the other novels we’ve read, Stanford’s Discovering Dickens makes available a serialized version of Great Expectations along with notes and explanations of allusions and references to help enrich your reading experience: Like A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations first appeared in Dickens’s weekly journal All the Year Round. The story began in the December 1, 1860 issue and ended in the issue from August 3, 1861.

Dickens-to-Go from UC Santa Cruz’s The Dickens Project provides a couple of video clips of readings from Great Expectations that may be of interest:

  1. John O. Jordan, Professor of Literature and Director of The Dickens Project reads a couple of his favorite selections from the novel in “Delicious Passages from ‘Great Expectations’” (Sept. 2020):
  2. Summer Star, Professor of English, shares one of her favorite passages from the novel in “Conscience is a Dreadful [and Slippery] Thing” (Jan. 2021):

If you want to listen to a full audio recording of the novel, there are three versions available on LibriVox:

A number of film and television versions of the story have been released:,tv_movie,tv_miniseries&view=advanced (note – the documentaries on architecture and education on this list are not adaptations of the novel!).

Learn more about particular themes in Great Expectations in articles from the British Library including: 

Finally, you can view 18 illustrations depicting Miss Havisham (one of my favorite characters) on the Victorian Web: Below are a couple to enjoy:

LIthograph from pen and ink of Miss Havisham.
Miss Havisham. Lithograph from pen-and-ink by Harry Furniss. 1910.
Lithograph of Miss Havisham in front of a mirror.
Miss Havisham. Lithograph by Charles Green. 1898.

A Tale of Two Cities

April 1859 – November 1859

The serialized version of A Tale of Two Cities, originally published in All the Year Round from April 30, 1859 to November 26, 1859, is available on Stanford University’s Discovering Dickens site: Along with PDFs of the novel in its original form, the site provides brief historical context for both the time in which the novel is set (1757-1794) and the year in which it was written. Notes, illustrations, and further historical context are provided with each of the fifteen issues.

Several audio recordings of readings of the novel can be found on LibriVox:

The Charles Dickens Museum in London owns Dickens’s annotated reading copy of The Bastille Prisoner, a version of Book 1 of A Tale of Two Cities that Dickens adapted for public reading, but, according to the Museum site, never performed. An image of the cover of the work and an example of Dickens’s many annotations are available below, but interested readers can also download a full digitized copy of the book, if interested, from the Museum’s site:–lib-6689–1971-1-96 (under Related Documents).

Cover of The Bastille Prisoner originally owned by Dickens
Cover. Charles Dickens, The Bastille Prisoner / A Tale of Two Cities, privately printed, n.d. [1861]. Charles Dickens Museum, London.–lib-6689–1971-1-96

Pages 32-33 of Charles Dickens's The Bastille Prisoner showing Dickens's annotations.
Inside annotations pages 32-33. Charles Dickens, The Bastille Prisoner / A Tale of Two Cities, privately printed, n.d. [1861]. Charles Dickens Museum, London.–lib-6689–1971-1-96

There are many film adaptations out there. Here is a list of titles, but there are many more. Beware, not every “Tale of Two Cities” is about the cities we’re reading about!,tv_movie,tv_miniseries

David Perdue provides a timeline of events from the novel as well as maps of locations in the novel on his Charles Dickens Page: that might be useful for reference as you read. 

Finally, if you’re looking for articles related to the novel, check out The Victorian Web: A couple that piqued our interest:

  1. “The French Revolution in the Popular Imagination: A Tale of Two Cities” by Meltem Kiran-Raw.
  2. “Images of the French Revolution from Various Editions of A Tale of Two Cities (1859-1910)” by Philip V. Allingham.

Little Dorrit

1855 – 1857

If you’re keeping up with our reading schedule, we’ve only got four (and a half – The Mystery of Edwin Drood was unfinished when Dickens died) novels and some short stories to go! 

Little Dorrit, published in serial form 1855-57, takes a look at prisoners of many sorts and satirizes the Victorian era government and society.  David Perdue summarizes the novel, writing: 

“In his eleventh novel, illustrated by Phiz and published by Bradbury and Evans, Charles Dickens’ childhood memories of his father’s imprisonment in the Marshalsea for debt are brought forth again as the centerpiece of the story of William Dorrit, whose family is also imprisoned there.

Dickens sets the novel in the 1820’s, around the time his father was an inmate in the Marshalsea, but virtually ignores that time period during the novel in favor of the present time (mid 1850’s) introducing many anachronisms. The theme of imprisonment, both physical and psychological, carries throughout the novel.
(

As with Dickens’s other novels, you can find copies online for your reading or listening pleasure, if you wish:

Free ebook via Project Gutenberg:

Little Dorrit in its original serial form from the University of Victoria’s Victorian Serial Novels Collection:

And don’t forget, you can find audiobook recordings on Librivox and Audible. 

Looking for a version to watch? You can find options for watching the 14 episode 2008 BBC miniseries starring Claire Foy, Matthew Macfadyen, and Tom Courtenay at

Glorious ironies
“In the exuberant sprawl of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit, Anne Stevenson discovers a rich and painfully recognisable allegory of our struggle towards disinterested love.”
Introspective essay written by the late British poet, Anne Stevenson, for The Guardian on December 31, 2004.

Little Dorrit and Arthur Clennam: A Modest Life of Usefulness and Happiness
October 12, 2020 The Dickens Project’s Peter Ponzio examines the “fallen state of mankind” within and outside of the Marshalsea Prison in Little Dorrit

Interesting blog site:
The Circumlocution Office. Defines quotes from Little Dorrit and other Dickens novels.

You can access all of Phiz’s original illustrations on The Victorian Web: Illustrations by “Phiz” (Hablot Knight Browne) for “Little Dorrit,” December 1855 — June 1857

Illustration by Phiz from Dickens' LittleDorrit. Chapter 20
Miss Dorrit and Little Dorrit by Phiz (Hablot K. Browne) from Dickens’s Little Dorrit, Book the First, “Poverty,” Chapter 20, “Moving in Society” (May 1856: Part Six)

Hard Times

1 April – 12 August 1854

First published in Dickens’s magazine, Household Words, Hard Times was published in 20 weekly installments. The novel can be read in its original serial form through Stanford’s Discovering Dickens project: Although the original weekly serial was not illustrated, the Stanford site also includes links to illustrations from the 1870s edition of the novel that was illustrated by Harry French. Also accompanying the installments are a key to allusions in each issue, a historical glossary including key passages for the text, and contextual information on other articles that appeared in the issue that published that installment. A treasure trove of information for understanding the novel!

Illustration by Harry French from Dickens' Hard Times
“Louisa, my dear, you are the subject of a proposal of marriage that has been made to me.” Illustration by Harry French that was the frontispiece of the Household Edition of Hard Times published by Chapman and Hall in the 1870s.
Illustration by Harry French from Dickens' Hard Times
“He went down on his knee before her on the poor mean stairs, and put an end of her shawl to his lips.” Illustration by Harry French from the Household Edition of Hard Times published by Chapman and Hall in the 1870s.

A nice overview of one of the key themes of the novel can be found on the British Library’s Discovering Literature site:

“Hard Times: fact and fancy” by Paul Schlicke. 15 May 2014. 

For your reading pleasure, here are a few other articles/posts that discuss Hard Times (among other works by Dickens): 

For your viewing pleasure, there are two award winning series available:

And don’t forget, there is a free audio recording on Librivox:

Bleak House

March 1852 – September 1853

August is our month for reading Bleak House (if you’re keeping up with our schedule). Dickens’s 9th novel, Bleak House, like many of the other novels, is filled with a plethora of characters. Having trouble keeping everyone straight? Refer to a handy complete character list (and more) on David Perdue’s page dedicated to the novel on The Charles Dickens Page site:

Looking for a free copy to read? You can find a copy on Project Gutenberg (, or, if you prefer, you can read it in its original serial form through Project Boz from Digital WPI:

Find Kathryn Hughes’s sassy review of the novel in The Guardian at, or, if you want to read further about particular themes and topics, here are some articles to pique your curiosity:

An interesting article on Dickens’s use of bird imagery in Bleak House that won The Dickens Project’s high school student essay contest in 2013: “Birds and Cages in Bleak House,” by Emma Brodey:

For more on epidemics in the time of Dickens, see The New Yorker article, “The Fever Room: Epidemics and Social Distancing in “Bleak House” and “Jane Eyre,” published in March, 2020. Access requires a subscription:

Read about Dickens’s use of Gothic imagery in the novel in a 2014 article by Greg Buzwell on the British Library’s Discovering Literature site:

Many more musings on a variety of topics can be found linked from The Victorian Web’s Bleak House page:

Also on The Victorian Web, you can find images and commentary on all of the illustrations for the original serial by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz):

Want to watch a film version?  The X Files’ Gillian Anderson is a chilling Lady Deadlock in this faithful BBC adaptation:

Original Illustration for Bleak House. ca. 1852
Browne, Hablot Knight, 1815-1882 – Illustrator, Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870 – Author. Original Illustration for Bleak House. ca. 1852. Illustrations. Free Library of Philadelphia: Philadelphia, PA.
Bleak house. Browne, H. K. Original drawing, "The ghosts walk"
Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library. “Bleak house. Browne, H. K. [Original drawing, “The ghosts walk”]” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1835 – 1882.

David Copperfield

May 1849 – November 1950

Congratulations, Dickens Readers, you’ve made it to David Copperfield and the approximate half-way point of our reading challenge! 

The first issue of the serial release of David Copperfield in 1849 came with the lengthy title: The Personal History, Adventures, Experience, & Observation of David Copperfield the Younger of Blunderstone Rookery (Which He never meant to be Published on any Account). The novel follows the trials and triumphs of Copperfield from boy to adult. 

Readers have seen young Copperfield’s work for Murdstone and Grinby’s warehouse as linked to Dickens’s own history as a child worker at Warren’s Blacking Warehouse (see image of an  advertisement for the warehouse from the British Library below). If interested, you can also find out more about the real working conditions of children in Victorian Britain in the post:
“Child Labour” by Emma Griffin (May 2014) at the British Library Discovering Literature: Romantics & Victorians site – The essay provides context for child labor as portrayed in works by Dickens including David Copperfield and Oliver Twist as well as works by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and others.

Perhaps you are more interested in the interactions between humans and animals in the novel? If so, check out the post “‘Take Care of Him. He Bites’: Dogs in David Copperfield” by Molly Katz and Erin Horákova (May 2017) on the Dickens Society Blog,

Many more essays discussing aspects of David Copperfield can be found on The Victorian Web:

Finally, watch a short video of Professor Juliet John as she relates stories of the travels of Dickens’s novels, including that of a copy of David Copperfield during the British Antarctic expedition in the early 20th century in “Dickens travels to the Ends of the Earth,” part of a  recent exhibition on Global Dickens.

Advertisement for Warren’s Blacking Warehouse with cat crest. Pencil inscription G. Ck., with additional note: ‘C. Dickens lived here’. No source apparent for either advert. [from the author’s presentation copy of The Life of Dickens, 1872-74]. British Library Dickens worked for Warren’s Blacking Warehouse when he was 12 years old. 

Dombey and Son

October 1846 – April 1848

Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son, Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation is another lengthy Dickens novel at over 900 pages and was first published in book form in 1848. 

Throughout the novel you’ll find references to the railways that were transforming Britain during the period in which Dickens was writing. Read more about how Dickens and other Victorian writers were influenced by the new form of transportation: 

Railways in Victorian Fiction by John Mullan, British Library Discovering Literature, 15 May 2014: 

Want to know more about the transformative powers of the railway system? See The Development of the Railway Network in Britain 1825-1911, by Leigh Shaw-Taylor and Xuesheng You (2018), chapter 3 of The Online Historical Atlas of Transport, Urbanization and Economic Development in England and Wales c. 1680-1911: and accompanying animation of the growth of the railway network: 

You can read Dombey and Son in the original serial  format from the University of Victoria here:

Want to watch Dombey and Son? All 10 episodes of the 1983 BBC miniseries are free to watch on YouTube (though it may be worth finding a copy in your library since the sound doesn’t align very well with the video):

The 2015 adaptation is on Amazon Prime:

Finally, enjoy a variety of illustrations and portraits depicting characters and scenes from Dombey and Son in NYPL Digital collections: 

Portrait of Edith Dombey by H.K. Browne
Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library. “Portrait of Edith Dombey” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1835 – 1882.
Illustration of Paul Dombey and Florence on the Beach at Brighton
The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “Paul Dombey and Florence on the beach at Brighton.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1937.
Illustration of William E. Burton as ‘Captain Cuttle’
William E. Burton as ‘Captain Cuttle’” Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Dombey and Son, by John Brougham” The New York Public Library Digital Collections.