Cover image for Oliver Twist : authoritative text, backgrounds and sources, early reviews, criticism
Oliver Twist : authoritative text, backgrounds and sources, early reviews, criticism
Dickens, Charles, 1812-1870.
First edition, Norton critical edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton, 1993.
Physical Description:
xii, 611 pages ; 22 cm
Added Author:
Format :


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PR4567.A2 K35 1993 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PR4567.A2 K35 1993 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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The editor has corrected printers' errors and annotated unfamiliar terms and allusions.Three illustrations by George Cruikshank and a map of Oliver's London accompany the text."Backgrounds and Sources" focuses on The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, central both to Dickens and to the characters in Oliver Twist. The act's far-reaching implications are considered in source materials that include parlimentary debates on The Poor Laws, a harrowing account of an 1835 Bedfordshire riot, and "An Appeal to Fallen Women," Dickens' 1847 open letter to London's prostitutes urging them to turn their backs on "debauchery and neglect."Ten letters on Oliver Twist, written between 1837 and 1864, are reprinted, including those to the novel's publisher, the novel's illustrator, and John Forster, Dickens' close friend and future biographer.In addition, readers can trace the evolution of the novel by examining Dickens' installment and chapter-division plans and enjoy "Sikes and Nancy," the text of a public reading Dickens composed and performed often to large audiences."Early Reviews" provides eight witty, insightful, and at times impassioned responses to the novel and to Oliver's plight by William Makepeace Thackeray and John Forster (anonymously), among others."Criticism" includes twenty of the most significant interpretations of Oliver Twist published in this century. Included are essays by Henry James, George Gissing, Graham Greene, J. Hillis Miller, Harry Stone, Philip Collins, John Bayley, Keith Hollingsworth, Steven Marcus, Monroe Engel, James R. Kincaid, Michael Slater, Dennis Walder, Burton M. Wheeler, Janet Larson, Fred Kaplan, Robert Tracy, David Miller, John O. Jordan, and Gary Wills.A Chronology and Selected Bibliography are also included.

Author Notes

Charles Dickens, perhaps the best British novelist of the Victorian era, was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England on February 7, 1812. His happy early childhood was interrupted when his father was sent to debtors' prison, and young Dickens had to go to work in a factory at age twelve. Later, he took jobs as an office boy and journalist before publishing essays and stories in the 1830s.

His first novel, The Pickwick Papers, made him a famous and popular author at the age of twenty-five. Subsequent works were published serially in periodicals and cemented his reputation as a master of colorful characterization, and as a harsh critic of social evils and corrupt institutions. His many books include Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Bleak House, Great Expectations, Little Dorrit, A Christmas Carol, and A Tale of Two Cities.

Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and the couple had nine children before separating in 1858 when he began a long affair with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. Despite the scandal, Dickens remained a public figure, appearing often to read his fiction. He died in 1870, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

The inimitable Martin Jarvis brings his talents to bear on Charles Dickens's classic in an audiobook that will delight listeners with its superb recreations of gritty 19th-century London. To escape Mr. Bumble and life in the workhouse, Oliver flees to London where he meets the Artful Dodger and becomes embroiled with Fagin's ragtag band of thieves. Jarvis simply dazzles: his performance captures both the humor and sorrow of the text, his narration is crisp, and his characterizations-his rendition of the terrifying district magistrate, Mr. Fang, is particularly memorable-are as varied as they are energetic, befitting, and enjoyable. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Booklist Review

Dickens is a popular author among those reframing classic stories as graphic novels, and Oliver Twist has been adapted by a variety of American cartoonists in the past 50 years. In this French team's hands, however, we are treated to a much fuller version of Dickens' original, fully exploring the role of Oliver's half brother and the power play between Bill Sykes and Fagin. (The French edition, intended for children and students, appeared across five volumes, all of which are bound together in this Classics Illustrated Deluxe edition.) The full-color cartoon images show the literal warts of the bad guys, incorporate such Victorian idiomatic reflections of class as Fagin's pickle of a nose and Mr. Brownlow's lush facial hair, and the high energy of the numerous boys in the story. Variously sized panels shaped to facilitate the narrative flow communicate to the reader the states of mind of the characters. An excellent addition to any classics-adaptation shelf.--Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2010 Booklist

Library Journal Review

This original radio dramatization is a first-rate production offering a middle ground between straight narrations of Dickens's novel about an abused orphan and its various film adaptations. It should appeal strongly to readers who dislike abridgements but aren't up to devoting 13 hours to unabridged productions. Its script uses as much of the novel's original dialog as possible, and actor James Fox narrates segues bridging scenes. Listeners unfamiliar with the story should have no trouble following along. Its large and uniformly excellent English cast brings scenes to life in ways a single narrator cannot. Sound effects and background music lend authenticity and energy to the production, which should delight older children. A DVD accompanying the package contains documentaries about the program and about modern orphans. Verdict Highly recommended.-R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

Gr 6 Up-This adaptation is well done. The pictures and panels match the tone of the story of one orphan boy's struggle to survive, and the text maintains enough of the classic for readers to understand Oliver's plight. Readers will especially like the character portraits on the inside and back covers. The art clearly defines the difference between good and evil in the story. This version opens the readership to a younger or reluctant reader audience as Dickens is long and challenging for many students.-Jessica Lorentz Smith, BendSenior High School, OR (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter I Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was Born; and of the Circumstances attending his Birth. Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small: to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was born: on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all events: the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of this chapter. For a long time after it was ushered into this world of sorrow and trouble, by the parish surgeon, it remained a matter of considerable doubt whether the child would survive to bear any name at all; in which case it is somewhat more than probable that these memoirs would never have appeared; or, if they had, that being comprised within a couple of pages, they would have possessed the inestimable merit of being the most concise and faithful specimen of biography, extant in the literature of any age or country. Although I am not disposed to maintain that the being born in a workhouse, is in itself the most fortunate and enviable circumstance that can possibly befal a human being, I do mean to say that in this particular instance, it was the best thing for Oliver Twist that could by possibility have occurred. The fact is, that there was considerable difficulty in inducing Oliver to take upon himself the office of respiration,-a troublesome practice, but one which custom has rendered necessary to our easy existence; and for some time he lay gasping on a little flock mattress, rather unequally poised between this world and the next: the balance being decidedly in favour of the latter. Now, if, during this brief period, Oliver had been surrounded by careful grandmothers, anxious aunts, experienced nurses, and doctors of profound wisdom, he would most inevitably and indubitably have been killed in no time. There being nobody by, however, but a pauper old woman, who was rendered rather misty by an unwonted allowance of beer; and a parish surgeon who did such matters by contract; Oliver and Nature fought out the point between them. The result was, that, after a few struggles, Oliver breathed, sneezed, and proceeded to advertise to the inmates of the workhouse the fact of a new burden having been imposed upon the parish, by setting up as loud a cry as could reasonably have been expected from a male infant who had not been possessed of that very useful appendage, a voice, for a much longer space of time than three minutes and a quarter. As Oliver gave this first proof of the free and proper action of his lungs, the patchwork coverlet which was carelessly flung over the iron bedstead, rustled; the pale face of a young woman was raised feebly from the pillow; and a faint voice imperfectly articulated the words, "Let me see the child, and die." The surgeon had been sitting with his face turned towards the fire: giving the palms of his hands, a warm and a rub alternately. As the young woman spoke, he rose, and advancing to the bed's head, said, with more kindness than might have been expected of him: "Oh, you must not talk about dying yet." "Lor bless her dear heart, no!" interposed the nurse, hastily depositing in her pocket a green glass bottle, the contents of which she had been tasting in a corner with evident satisfaction. "Lor bless her dear heart, when she has lived as long as I have, sir, and had thirteen children of her own, and all on 'em dead except two, and them in the wurkus with me, she'll know better than to take on in that way, bless her dear heart! Think what it is to be a mother, there's a dear young lamb, do." Apparently this consolatory perspective of a mother's prospects, failed in producing its due effect. The patient shook her head, and stretched out her hand towards the child. The surgeon deposited it in her arms. She imprinted her cold white lips passionately on its forehead; passed her hands over her face; gazed wildly round; shuddered; fell back-and died. They chafed her breast, hands, and temples; but the blood had stopped for ever. They talked of hope and comfort. They had been strangers too long. "It's all over, Mrs. Thingummy!" said the surgeon at last. "Ah, poor dear, so it is!" said the nurse, picking up the cork of the green bottle which had fallen out on the pillow as she stooped to take up the child. "Poor dear!" "You needn't mind sending up to me, if the child cries, nurse," said the surgeon, putting on his gloves with great deliberation. "It's very likely it will be troublesome. Give it a little gruel7 if it is." He put on his hat, and, pausing by the bed-side on his way to the door, added "She was a good-looking girl, too; where did she come from?" "She was brought here last night," replied the old woman, "by the overseer's order. She was found lying in the street. She had walked some distance, for her shoes were worn to pieces; but where she came from, or where she was going to, nobody knows." Excerpted from Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Introductionp. xv
Chronologyp. xxxi
The Author's Preface to the Third Edition (1841)p. xxxv
Chapter 1 Treats of the place where Oliver Twist was born, and of the circumstances attending his birthp. 1
Chapter 2 Treats of Oliver Twist's growth, education, and boardp. 5
Chapter 3 Relates how Oliver Twist was very near getting a place, which would not have been a sinecurep. 17
Chapter 4 Oliver, being offered another place, makes his first entry into public lifep. 27
Chapter 5 Oliver mingles with new associates. Going to a funeral for the first time, he forms an unfavourable notion of his master's businessp. 35
Chapter 6 Oliver, being goaded by the taunts of Noah, rouses into action, and rather astonishes himp. 47
Chapter 7 Oliver continues refractoryp. 53
Chapter 8 Oliver walks to London. He encounters on the road a strange sort of young gentlemanp. 61
Chapter 9 Containing further particulars concerning the pleasant old gentleman, and his hopeful pupilsp. 71
Chapter 10 Oliver becomes better acquainted with the characters of his new associates; and purchases experience at a high price. Being a short, but very important chapter, in this historyp. 79
Chapter 11 Treats of Mr. Fang the Police Magistrate; and furnishes a slight specimen of his mode of administering justicep. 85
Chapter 12 In which Oliver is taken better care of than he ever was before. And in which the narrative reverts to the merry old gentleman and his youthful friendsp. 95
Chapter 13 Some new acquaintances are introduced to the intelligent reader, connected with whom, various pleasant matters are related, appertaining to this historyp. 105
Chapter 14 Comprising further particulars of Oliver's stay at Mr. Brownlow's, with the remarkable prediction which one Mr. Grimwig uttered concerning him, when he went out on an errandp. 115
Chapter 15 Showing how very fond of Oliver Twist, the merry old Jew and Miss Nancy werep. 127
Chapter 16 Relates what became of Oliver Twist, after he had been claimed by Nancyp. 135
Chapter 17 Oliver's destiny continuing unpropitious, brings a great man to London to injure his reputationp. 147
Chapter 18 How Oliver passed his time in the improving society of his reputable friendsp. 157
Chapter 19 In which a notable plan is discussed and determined onp. 167
Chapter 20 Wherein Oliver is delivered over to Mr. William Sikesp. 179
Chapter 21 The Expeditionp. 189
Chapter 22 The Burglaryp. 197
Chapter 23 Which contains the substance of a pleasant conversation between Mr. Bumble and a lady; and shows that even a beadle may be susceptible on some pointsp. 205
Chapter 24 Treats of a very poor subject. But is a short one, and may be found of importance in this historyp. 213
Chapter 25 Wherein this history reverts to Mr. Fagin and Companyp. 221
Chapter 26 In which a mysterious character appears upon the scene; and many things, inseparable from this history, are done and performedp. 229
Chapter 27 Atones for the unpoliteness of a former chapter; which deserted a lady, most unceremoniouslyp. 243
Chapter 28 Looks after Oliver, and proceeds with his adventuresp. 251
Chapter 29 Has an introductory account of the inmates of the house, to which Oliver resortedp. 261
Chapter 30 Relates what Oliver's new visitors thought of himp. 267
Chapter 31 Involves a critical positionp. 275
Chapter 32 Of the happy life Oliver began to lead with his kind friendsp. 287
Chapter 33 Wherein the happiness of Oliver and his friends, experiences a sudden checkp. 297
Chapter 34 Contains some introductory particulars relative to a young gentleman who now arrives upon the scene; and a new adventure which happened to Oliverp. 307
Chapter 35 Containing the unsatisfactory result of Oliver's adventure; and a conversation of some importance between Harry Maylie and Rosep. 319
Chapter 36 Is a very short one, and may appear of no great importance in its place, but it should be read notwithstanding, as a sequel to the last, and a key to one that will follow when its time arrivesp. 327
Chapter 37 In which the reader may perceive a contrast, not uncommon in matrimonial casesp. 331
Chapter 38 Containing an account of what passed between Mr. and Mrs. Bumble, and Mr. Monks, at their nocturnal interviewp. 343
Chapter 39 Introduces some respectable characters with whom the reader is already acquainted, and shows how Monks and the Jew laid their worthy heads togetherp. 355
Chapter 40 A strange interview, which is a sequel to the last chapterp. 371
Chapter 41 Containing fresh discoveries, and showing that surprises, like misfortunes, seldom come alonep. 379
Chapter 42 An old acquaintance of Oliver's, exhibiting decided marks of genius, becomes a public character in the metropolisp. 391
Chapter 43 Wherein is shown how the Artful Dodger got into troublep. 403
Chapter 44 The time arrives for Nancy to redeem her pledge to Rose Maylie. She failsp. 415
Chapter 45 Noah Claypole is employed by Fagin on a secret missionp. 423
Chapter 46 The Appointment keptp. 427
Chapter 47 Fatal Consequencesp. 439
Chapter 48 The Flight of Sikesp. 447
Chapter 49 Monks and Mr. Brownlow at length meet. Their conversation, and the intelligence that interrupts itp. 457
Chapter 50 The Pursuit and Escapep. 469
Chapter 51 Affording an explanation of more mysteries than one, and comprehending a proposal of marriage with no word of settlement or pin-moneyp. 483
Chapter 52 Fagin's last night alivep. 497
Chapter 53 And Lastp. 507