London: Richard Bentley, 1838. First edition. First issue, with Boz title pages and the “Fireside” plate, a nice copy in the original cloth. 3 volumes, octavo. Original reddish brown fine-diaper cloth, spines lettered in gilt with author and title, covers stamped in blind with an arabesque cartouche, yellow endpapers. Complete with 24 etched plates by George Cruikshank including the “Fireside” plate (facing page 313 in volume III), half-titles to volumes I and II as issued, publisher’s advertisements at end of volume I and beginning of volume III. 19th-century bookplates of Courtenay F. Wilson to front pastedowns. Lightly shaken with slight lean to spines as usual, minor bumping and rubbing to cloth, spine of volume III with very minor ink mark, pages 131-135 expertly re-inserted in volume I, light toning to contents and foxing to plates but contents unmarked and generally clean. A very good copy.
Dickens' second novel, Oliver Twist, is a dark and biting work, but one that is balanced with Oliver's indefatigable innocence and charm. Often cited as the first Victorian novel to feature a child protagonist, it was developed as a social commentary and a call for improving the conditions of London's destitute and orphan children. In recent scholarship, critics have noted that Dickens also sought to find balance, as many of his contemporaries did, between Darwin's theories about human nature and those from the Christian tradition; as the characters make their way through a seemingly uncaring world, they are ultimately drawn back to reward or retribution based on their individual level of goodness. The story was immensely successful, both as a novel filled with memorable characters and also as a work prompting much needed reform. Today it remains high within the pantheon of Victorian literature and is a work that has been successfully adapted to both the stage and screen. (Item #4083)