CFP Dickens Day 2015: Dickens, Readers and Reading

Dickens Our Mutual Friend Reading Project

Reading is a powerful thing in Dickens’s novels. David Copperfield says of his childhood that ‘reading was my only and my constant comfort’. He goes on, ‘when I think of it the picture always rises in my mind, of a summer evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I sitting on my bed, reading as if for life’. If the lonely and unhappy David found reading life-saving, Oliver Twist experiences its deathly associations. He is so disturbed by reading the Newgate Calendar that its pages seem to turn red with gore and he hears its words sounding in his ears.

Contemporaries of Dickens were also keenly aware of the power of literature and they worried about Dickens’s own influence over his vast numbers of readers, particularly the ‘impressionable’ ones – women, younger readers and the lower classes. Despite such concerns, Dickens’s popularity remained undimmed throughout his life and…

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