Around the central story of Nicholas Nickleby and the misfortunes of his family, Dickens created some of his most wonderful characters: the muddle-headed Mrs Nickleby, the gloriously theatrical Crummles, their protegee Miss Petowker, the pretentious Mantalinis and the mindlessly cruel Squeers and his wife. Nickolas Nickleby's loose, haphazard progress harks back to the picaresque novels of the eighteenth-century particularly those of Smollet and Fielding. Yet the novel's exuberant atmosphere of romance, adventure and freedom is overshadowed by Dicken's awareness of social ills and financial and class insecurity. But, as Mark Ford writes in his introduction to this new Penguin Classics edition, it is precisely these anxieties which 'Nicholas Nickleby so often succeeds in transfiguring ...into the wildest, most exhilarating forms of comedy.'
'The novel has everything: an absorbing melodrama, with a supporting cast of heroes, villains and eccentrics, set in a London where vast wealth and desperate poverty live cheek-by-jowl' Jasper Rees, The Times
When Nicholas Nickleby is left penniless after his father's death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby proves both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, and Nicholas finds himself forced to make his own way in the world. His adventures gave Dickens the opportunity to portray an extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics: Wackford Squeers, the tyrannical headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys, the slow-witted orphan Smike, rescued by Nicholas, the pretentious Mantalinis and the gloriously theatrical Mr and Mrs Crummels and their daughter, the 'infant phenomenon'. Like many of Dickens's novels, Nicholas Nickleby is characterised by his outrage at cruelty and social injustice, but it is also a flamboyantly exuberant work, whose loose, haphazard progress harks back to the picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding. In his introduction Mark Ford compares Nicholas Nickleby to eighteenth-century picaresque novels, and examines Dickens's criticism of the 'Yorkshire schools', his social satire and use of language. This edition includes the original illustrations by 'Phiz', Dickens's original preface to the work, a chronology and a list of further reading.
For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He died in Kent on June 9, 1870. The second of eight children of a family continually plagued by debt, the young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation,but also the horror of the infamous debtors prison and the evils of child labor. A turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and "slave" factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years formal schooling at Wellington House Academy. He worked as an attorneys clerk and newspaper reporter until his Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837) brought him the amazing and instant success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. In later years, the pressure of serial writing, editorial duties, lectures, and social commitments led to his separation from Catherine Hogarth after twenty-three years of marriage. It also hastened his death at the age of fifty-eight, when he was characteristically engaged in a multitude of work.
Mark Ford is currently lecturer at University College, London and writes regularly for the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian.
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