decorated initial 'T'he form, tone, and humor of Great Expectations derive from Dickens's economic and editorial concerns, as well as from more personal ones. Having completed A Tale of Two Cities (1859), in October 1859, Dickens celebrated his release from the horrors of the French Revolution by undertaking a short provincial reading tour. He contributed a short story to the special Christmas issue of his weekly periodical, and afterwards the series of essays that were published in volume form as The Uncommercial Traveller.

He was not in a hurry to write another novel for weekly serialization himself, and was delighted with his friend Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White. After the huge success of that sensation novel, Dickens hoped to publish a new novel by either Sir Edward G. D. Bulwer Lytton, George Eliot (whom he affectionately nick-named “Adam Bede"), or Elizabeth Gaskell, but settled for A Day's Ride, a "horse-racious and pugnacious" silver-fork (high society) novel by the Irish romance-writer Charles Lever.

In September, 1860, Dickens wrote to his confidant Forster, complaining that sales of All the Year Round were falling because A Day's Ride was proving a disaster.

I have therefore decided to begin the story [which had occurred to him just recently, and which he had intended for monthly serialization in twenty parts] as ofthe length of the Tale of Two Cities on the first of December. . . .

To Charles Lever he wrote that he would abandon the monthly design of Great Expectations “and forego its profits (a very serious consideration, you may believe)" and strike in as soon as possible, “For as long as you continue afterwards, we must go on together." To save the valuable property that All the Year Round represented to him, Dickens submitted himself to a process he had termed “crushing."


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens

Last modified 9 November 2000