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Nicholas Nickleby (Oxford World's Classics) (original 1836; edition 2009)

by Charles Dickens, Paul Schlicke (Editor)

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4,698631,009 (3.95)218
Member:englishrose60
Title:Nicholas Nickleby (Oxford World's Classics)
Authors:Charles Dickens
Other authors:Paul Schlicke (Editor)
Info:Oxford University Press, USA (2009), Paperback, 926 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:1010 Challenge, England, 1001

Work details

Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens (1836)

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    souloftherose: Both books are early Dickens' novels and written in an episodic, picaresque style. Although Nicholas Nickleby is more plot-driven than The Pickwick Papers and contains some darker themes, both works are fundamentally happy Dickens novels and readers who enjoy one would probably enjoy the other.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Not my favorite of Dickens. ( )
  bookofmoons | Sep 1, 2016 |
Although it is the third of Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby is perhaps the first to feel more than prototypically Dickensian. It dances between comedy and tragedy, with a protagonist who is more than a little autobiographical and a secondary cast who are, to a man, larger than life. That Nicholas briefly spends time caught up in the inner workings of a theatre troupe is remarkably apt, because the tone of the entire book is decidedly theatrical, and it’s unsurprising to learn that it widely became the target of plagiarism for stage adaptation before it was even completed -- a practice which prompts Dickens to use Nicholas as his mouthpiece to launch a vitriolic rant at just such a plagiaristic dinner guest in the latter pages of the book.

Much as The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist before it engaged the social issues of the day in the form of, respectively, debtor’s prisons and the New Poor Law’s workhouses, Nicholas Nickleby opens by sending Nicholas to one of the infamous Yorkshire boarding schools where boys lived in conditions such as five to a bed, all sharing a towel, in rooms with sewage and effluvium in their midst. Unlike his first two novels, where Dickens was at his strongest when tackling society’s injustices, these are some of the weaker chapters in the book, perhaps because he doesn’t let himself be angry enough. During Nicholas’s time in Yorkshire, I expected to see more of the scathing sarcasm with which Dickens described Oliver Twist’s workhouses levelled at the boarding schools, and not so much of Nicholas dodging the unrequited affections of the unfortunately named Miss Fanny Squeers.

From the moment Nicholas engages with the theatre troupe, the plot becomes background noise for a good few hundred pages. What takes centre stage are Dickens’s small insights into people, into personhood, as he piles more and more into his madcap dramatis personae. Take Miss La Creevy, the little miniature painter, whose scenes bear minimal importance to the overall direction of the story but the utmost to the heart of the novel, for the grace and good-humoured patience with which she is shown to bear her loneliness, the ways in which she is shown to have drawn positivity from being her own source of company, and the ken of humanity she demonstrates in return when she is the first to recognise the changes in Smike and the most astute at bringing him out into the world.

This, writ large, is the beauty of the book. Dickens’s characters can be melodramatic, they can be caricatures, they can be unabashedly, unapologetically over the top, and that’s here too, in the form of Lord Frederick and Sir Mulberry, Kate’s contemptible harassers, but they are rarely just that. They’re also Smike and Newman Noggs and the Cheeryble brothers -- each a different facet of humanity’s capacity for warmth.

Kate’s chapters do disrupt the flow occasionally, because she borders on being another of Dickens’s repetitive illustrations of his one ideal of womanhood, but she’s not quite as tediously angelic as, say, Rose Maylie, a fate from which she is largely preserved by her hilarious relationship with her and Nicholas’s mother. Mrs. Nickleby would be too exasperating to be true if not for the fact that everyone has a relative of her ilk in their family tree somewhere, and the universality of having sat through a family dinner with one renders her exceedingly amusing.

Ultimately, the resolution is served by the fact that Dickens doesn’t strive to tie things up in as perfectly a happy bow as in Oliver Twist, but allows some bittersweetness to linger. It’s hard not to be heartbroken for Smike, but in an odd way, the heart breaks a little for Ralph Nickleby, ostensibly one of the black hats of the piece, also. He had the seeds of a better man within him, and so many opportunities where, had he simply allowed them to grow, he could’ve joined in the happy ending. Kate stood as his bridge to reconciliation with his fatherly instincts, with Nicholas and, through him, Smike, but every time he chose to protect his standing instead of the young woman appealing to his shrivelled sense of family, he took a step closer to that ending. He is one of Dickens’s more nuanced villains, and his final mental break is exceedingly well written. It’s a shame that more focus is given to the rescue of Madeline and all her entitlements, suspenseful though that plot can be, than to a more natural integration of Ralph’s downfall than having all the bad news unceremoniously dumped in his lap in the Cheerybles’ office.

Nicholas Nickleby can be a long and scattered book. It’s perhaps one of the best early examples of Dickens’s powerful descriptive prose, but he has yet to touch the heights of A Tale of Two Cities or Great Expectations. It is, however, unfairly subject to oversight, and there’s a lot here that is well worth your time.

Review from Bookette.net ( )
  Snumpus | Aug 10, 2016 |
Book Description One of the touchstones of the English comic novel, the Penguin Classics edition of Charles Dickens's Nicholas Nickleby is edited with an introduction by Mark Ford. When Nicholas Nickleby is left penniless after his father's death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby proves both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, and Nicholas finds himself forced to make his own way in the world. His adventures gave Dickens the opportunity to portray an extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics: Wackford Squeers, the tyrannical headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys, the slow-witted orphan Smike, rescued by Nicholas, the pretentious Mantalinis and the gloriously theatrical Mr and Mrs Crummels and their daughter, the 'infant phenomenon'. Like many of Dickens's novels, Nicholas Nickleby is characterised by his outrage at cruelty and social injustice, but it is also a flamboyantly exuberant work, whose loose, haphazard progress harks back to the picaresque novels of Tobias Smollett and Henry Fielding. In his introduction Mark Ford compares Nicholas Nickleby to eighteenth-century picaresque novels, and examines Dickens's criticism of the 'Yorkshire schools', his social satire and use of language. This edition includes the original illustrations by 'Phiz', Dickens's original preface to the work, a chronology and a list of further reading. Charles Dickens is one of the best-loved novelists in the English language, whose 200th anniversary was celebrated in 2012. His most famous books, including Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield and The Pickwick Papers, have been adapted for stage and screen and read by millions. If you enjoyed Nicholas Nickleby, you might like Dickens's David Copperfield, also available in Penguin Classics. 'The novel has everything: an absorbing melodrama, with a supporting cast of heroes, villains and eccentrics, set in a London where vast wealth and desperate poverty live cheek-by-jowl' Jasper Rees, The Times
My Review I found Nicholas Nickelby to be a very entertaining book with lots of humor. It is a long book but holds your attention because of the quirky characters that Dickens is noted for. In Nicholas Nickelby, Dickens is showing us the social injustice mainly to children. The theme of good vs. evil is also very prevalent but in the end good is victorious and the novel finishes with the characters living happily ever after. I would recommend this novel to anyone who is interested in reading about Victorian England. ( )
  EadieB | Jun 1, 2016 |
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby - Charles Dickens
Audio version narrated by Simon Vance
5 stars

Nicholas is one of Dickens’ earlier novels, published serially about 10 years before David Copperfield. Although, David Copperfield is my favorite Dickens novel, as a character, I prefer Nicholas to David. Nicholas is humorous and charming. He’s a flirt. He’s loyal, chivalrous and kind. He takes on the world and its villains and triumphs over all. Of course he has help from an incredible Dickensian cast of characters; Miss La Creevy, Newman Noggs and the Cheeryble brothers to name a few. As usual with Dickens some of the most memorable characters are the most evil. Ralph Nickleby is the unredeemed Scrooge of the story. Wackford Squeers is Dotheboy Hall’s vicious school master. Both men naturally come to their well-earned bad ends. As always with Dickens, he uses his writing to take on the social causes of his times. In this book he successfully attacked the abusive small private schools of Yorkshire while lampooning the British aristocracy and preaching the evils of avarice.
This was another excellent audio performance by Simon Vance. Thoroughly enjoyable.
( )
  msjudy | May 30, 2016 |
Very entertaining and fast-moving, although quite fairy-tale like in places: Nicholas seemed to lead a charmed life. I particularly enjoyed his stint as an actor/playwright and most of his mother's speeches. The Cheerybles were too good to be true (did Nicholas ever do any real work for them), but handy for the resolution of the plot. I found Madeline to be very underwritten, and Smike's true identity came completely out of left-field, but it was such a romp that it didn't really matter.

The potential fates of both Madeline and Kate, while realistic, seemed quite racy for a Victorian novel, especially as I have read of Dickens asking Trollope to alter things in his novels on morality grounds... ( )
  pgchuis | Feb 26, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
This was Dickens' third novel which he started writing in 1838, while he was finishing Oliver Twist, and finished writing in 1839, while he was starting The Old Curiosity Shop. Like most of his novels, it was originally published in monthly instalments before being published in a single volume.

Initially I found Nicholas Nickleby a strange mixture of styles; Dickens' contract with his publishers was to write something 'of a similar character and of the same extent and contents in point of quantity' to The Pickwick Papers, Dickens' first novel, which was a lighter, more episodic work than Oliver Twist. However, Dickens' had been doing some investigative work in respect of the infamous 'Yorkshire schools' of the period and wanted to include some criticism of these schools in Nicholas Nickleby in the same way that he criticised the Poor Laws in Oliver Twist so it has some darker sections unlike The Pickwick Papers.

Nicholas Nickleby follows the adventures of our eponymous hero, Nicholas Nickleby, his mother and his sister Kate after the death of their father. The family begin the story in a very bad way as Nicholas' father was in debt when he died. They are forced on the mercy of their uncle, the dastardly Ralph Nickleby who obtains a position for Nicholas as a teacher at a Yorkshire boarding school. The first quarter of the book shows us the appalling realities of life in a boys' boarding school in Yorkshire through the eyes of Nicholas. The villains who run the school are appropriately grotesque and their pupils appropriately pathetic so it would be easy for the reader to assume that Dickens' descriptions of these schools was an exaggeration. However, from the information in the introduction to my edition (the Penguin Classics edition) it seems that Dickens' description of these schools was all too accurate. Thankfully, the popularity of Nicholas Nickleby meant that most of these schools were forced to close down over the next ten years.

As with all of Dickens' stories, the family who are obviously good and begin the book in poverty don't end the book that way, although there are many twists and turns before all the characters get what they deserve. I initially found the story somewhat rambling in nature and it felt like a lot of the incidents described, although amusing, didn't really have a bearing on the main plot. It helped me to think of these asides as being similar to The Pickwick Papers which is less plot driven and apparently this style of writing is similar to the picaresque style used by Henry Fielding in Tom Jones and Tobias Smollett's Humphrey Clinker.

In terms of characters there were some wonderful villains such as Wackford Squeers, the owner of the Yorkshire school, and Ralph Nickleby, Nicholas' uncle who takes an immediate dislike to his nephew. Both were so deliciously villainous that I felt myself wanting to boo or hiss at them in pantomime style every time they entered the story. There are also many ridiculous characters to laugh at such as Nicholas' mother who never fails to wander from the point in the most amusing fashion and the deceitful yet entertainingly flattering Mr Mantalini.

To me Nicholas Nickleby seems to lie somewhere in between Dickens' first two novels in terms of style, or rather, it seems to be combine aspects of both and so overall, I didn't think it worked quite as well as either. However, I still enjoyed it a lot, especially once I was past the slower first quarter of the book
 

» Add other authors (51 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, MarkContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorndike, Dame SybilIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married, and not being young enough or rich enough to aspire to the hand of a lady of fortune, had wedded an old flame out of mere attachment, who in her turn had taken him for the same reason.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0140435123, Paperback)

When Nicholas Nickleby is left penniless after his father’s death, he appeals to his wealthy uncle to help him find work and to protect his mother and sister. But Ralph Nickleby proves both hard-hearted and unscrupulous, and Nicholas finds himself forced to make his own way in the world.

Nicholas’s adventures gave Dickens the opportunity to portray a extraordinary gallery of rogues and eccentrics: Wackford Squeers, tyrannical headmaster of Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys; the slow-witted orphan Smike, rescued by Nicholas; and the gloriously theatrical Mr and Mrs Crummle, and their daughter, the ‘infant phenomenon’. Like many of Dickens’s novels, Nicholas Nickleby is characterized by his outrage at cruelty and social injustice, but it is also a flamboyantly exuberant work, revealing Dickens’s comic genius at its most unerring.

Mark Ford’s introduction compares Nicholas Nickleby to eighteenth-century picaresque novels, and examines Dickens’s criticism of the ‘Yorkshire Schools’, his social satire and use of language. This edition also includes the original illustrations by ‘Phiz’, a chronology and a list for further reading.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:07 -0400)

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