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Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
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Nicholas Nickleby (1836)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
5,641741,251 (3.93)1 / 416
The most gorgeously theatrical of all Dickens's novels, Nicholas Nickleby follows the delightful adventures of a hearty young hero in nineteenth-century England. Nicholas, a gentleman's son fallen upon hard times, must set out to make his way in the world. His journey is accompanied by some of the most swaggering scoundrels and unforgettable eccentrics in Dickens's pantheon. From the dungeon-like Yorkshire boys' boarding school run by the cruel Wackford Squeers to the high-spirited stage of Vincent Crummles's extraordinary acting troupe, Nicholas Nickleby is a triumph of the imagination, bursting with color, humor, and poignant social commentary.… (more)
  1. 50
    David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (aces)
  2. 30
    The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens (souloftherose)
    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)
  3. 20
    The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne (roby72)
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Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)
Dickens 4th book, and 3rd novel, published in 1838-39 and cementing his speedy celebrity, Nickleby combines the angry social statements of Oliver Twist with something of the sense of sharp satire of The Pickwick Papers. True, neither Nicholas nor Kate exhibit much in the way of interesting features, but as Tintin-esque Everypeople, they are surrounded by a gallery of delightful characters. The Victorian pathos is there in spades, and some of it is really quite silly, but one can feel Dickens gaining such a sense of self-assuredness as he works through this novel, and the picaresque nature of Nickleby's travels will not be equalled by any of the other novels that feature extensive journeys. The acting troupe, the brutal world of Mantilini's dress shop, and the figure of Ralph Nickleby, who extends on Fagin's sparks of life to suggest that the author might one day be interested in creating characters with more than one-and-a-half dimensions.

Excepting parts of Little Dorrit and David Copperfield, this is the Dickens novel that has the purest sense of fun, and combined with some of the powerful statements about the workhouse and the place of women, it's a very worthy read. To be honest, I think this is the height of the Dickens canon for several years, until Copperfield comes along. ( )
  therebelprince | Apr 27, 2020 |
Takes up the problem of abusive boys' schools in 19th century England. ( )
  LindaLeeJacobs | Feb 15, 2020 |
Before there was Scrooge, there was Ralph Nickleby. Years before “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens had already created a character in “Nicholas Nickleby” who could have given Scrooge lessons in miserliness.

The novel, published in 1838, opens with the death of Ralph's brother, making him responsible for his brother's widow and her two grown but not yet independent children, Nicholas and Kate. First he moves them into much more humble accommodations, then finds Nicholas a position as a tutor in a boy's school far from London. With the brother out of the way, he uses pretty Kate to entice two playboy noblemen into some business dealings, unmindful of what might happen to Kate afterward.

Nicholas soon discovers the headmaster at the school to be abusive toward the boys in his care. He flees with one of those boys and finds himself for a time with a wandering theater group before learning of his sister's situation. When he returns to rescue her, a long struggle between uncle and nephew begins, with many complications and adventures.

“Nicholas Nickleby” was not a successful novel in its day, at least in comparison with “Oliver Twist,” but it is hard to understand why. While it may not be one of the best novels Dickens wrote, it provides nonstop entertainment (except for one chapter that is obviously just padding and could be skipped without missing any of the story). It would make an excellent entry-level Dickens novel for those intimidated by that author's reputation for meandering plots and multitudes of characters. Here the plot rarely strays far from the Nicklebys, and the characters, while plentiful, are easy to keep straight. If the reader becomes confused about who a character is, Dickens soon enough makes it clear.

This was one of the early Dickens novels. He was still learning the game he would soon master, but we can already find evidence of some of the writer's greatest personal interests and concerns, among them the plight of boys in schools operated for profit, young women coerced into careers in the sex trade and the theater, his greatest love, perhaps even including writing.

There's humor here (Mrs. Nickleby ranks among his greatest comic characters), an abundance of romance (the clergy will have all the weddings they can handle by the end of the novel) and all the plot twists a reader could want. It's a massive novel, of course, but this is Dickens in an age when writers were paid for bulk. When a novel is this much fun, however, size is more blessing than curse. ( )
  hardlyhardy | Jan 25, 2020 |
Verbose, meandering and even shallow, but full of Dickens genius for sarcastic humor and memorable characters. ( )
  Westwest | Oct 31, 2019 |
It seems that I'm destined to read all of Dickens...eventually. So, I can now check off yet another of his lengthy, but engaging stories. This is the third of his novels, and the eighth or ninth one I've read. Dickens can be a bit long winded at times, but he never fails to entertain.

As with most Dickens that I've read, we have the struggle between good and evil, between malevolent and benign. Nicholas Nickelby is a young gentleman whose father lost his fortune. He, his mother (who is so silly that she makes Mrs. Bennett from Pride and Prejudice seem like a sane, rational, intelligent woman) and his sister (obviously intelligent, lovely, and saintly, right?) are thrown upon the good graces, so to speak, of Nicholas uncle Ralph, the avaricious brother of his father. Ralph is a miser and usurer who doesn't do anything without thought of personal gain. So he farms Nicholas out as an assistant schoolmaster at a boarding school in Yorkshire. The sister is sent to work for a dress maker. Naturally, both endeavors are somewhat sketchy.

So, we have a long, engaging tale of Nicholas' slow rise in fortunes and Ralph's slow descent into the pit, so to speak. Along the way, we meet all manner of strange characters, the good and righteous ones eventually succeeding and living lives of happiness and good fellowship, and the malevolent ones, failing. But the victory of good over evil is not at all obvious until we near the end. Before then, we've oodles of worries and tension. Dickens is rather a nineteenth-century version of a sit-com. The episodes appeared at regular intervals, and Dickens' readers found themselves totally engaged in finding out what happened next.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 71 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (182 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Charles Dickensprimary authorall editionscalculated
Jennings, AlexNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nicholson, MilNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, MarkContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, Christina F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maclise, DanielCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slater, MichaelIntroductionsecondary 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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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140435123, 0141199814

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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Urban Romantics

An edition of this book was published by Urban Romantics.

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