The Old Curiosity Shop was Dickens’s fourth novel, and his first to be published weekly. It was serialised in Master Humphrey’s Clock from April 1840 to November 1841. The story of Nell, Kit, and the treacherous Quilp and Frederick, was wildly popular with Victorian readers, so popular in fact that the final parts of the novel were the subject of frantic speculation regarding Nell’s fate.
As well as having the fate of individuals at its centre, The Old Curiosity Shop also contains some of Dickens’s finest description, especially that of the Midlands roads walked by Nell and her Grandfather, and shows him as a novelist equally comfortable in the countryside as in the gambling dens of the capital. The journey of Nell and what Dickens calls her ‘grotesque and wild, but not impossible companions’, is part a novel of sentiment and part a modern fairy tale, a fiction that is thematically challenging whilst being formally familiar.
The Old Curiosity Shop begins on 25 April.
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