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Nicholas Nickleby (1836)

by Charles Dickens

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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6,880961,335 (3.92)2 / 452
Nicholas Nickleby is left responsible for his mother and sister when his father dies. The novel follows his attempt to succeed in supporting them, despite his uncle Ralph's antagonistic lack of belief in him. It is one of Dickens' early comic novels.
  1. 60
    David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (aces)
  2. 40
    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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» See also 452 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)
Well, neither the story nor the characters in this one are all that great. Nicholas is far less compelling than, say, David Copperfield, and his circumstances far less appalling than, say, Oliver Twist's. Really his situation never gets worse than moderately unappealing, and his character never rises above moderately interesting. It leaves him surely about the least memorable main character of a Dickens novel.

The primary villain, his uncle Ralph, is a proto-Scrooge, a heartless and scheming older man who cares only for making money. The novel makes an early feint towards him developing a twinge of conscience and complication as provoked by feeling for his neice Kate, but Dickens quickly abandons that alleyway in favor of keeping him simple and one-dimensional. His ultimate end doesn't ring true, and seems calculated for mass appeal popularity.

The novel does have some fun episodic sojourns away from the main storyline, reminiscent of Dickens' first novel The Pickwick Papers. The theater troupe Nicholas briefly becomes part of in the country, with its eye-rolling Infant Phenomenon, is an entertaining diversion, as is the ridiculous female-flattering spendthrift Mr. Mantilini. His downfall is the most comic moment and perhaps the accidental highlight.

And then there is the Dickens prose, clever and surprising and sardonic and entertaining and brilliant as ever. Even when his plot and characters disappoint, his writing makes the 900 pages worth reading. He zings the hypocritical:
When men are about to commit, or to sanction the commission of some injustice, it is not uncommon for them to express pity for the object either of that or some parallel proceeding, and to feel themselves, at the time, quite virtuous and moral, and immensely superior to those who express no pity at all. This is a kind of upholding of faith above works, and is very comfortable.
and the feel-good delusions society tells itself:
There are many pleasant fictions of the law in constant operation, but there is not one so pleasant or practically humorous as that which supposes every man to be of equal value in its impartial eye, and the benefits of all laws to be equally attainable by all men, without the smallest reference to the furniture of their pockets.
but my favorite passage could be this description of the apartment of Arthur Gride, Ralph Nickelby's fellow miser and conspirator, so illuminative of the space and of Gride:
No fireside couch was there, to invite repose and comfort. Elbow-chairs there were, but they looked uneasy in their minds, cocked their arms suspiciously and timidly, and kept upon their guard. Others were fantastically grim and gaunt, as having drawn themselves up to their utmost height, and put on their fiercest looks to stare all comers out of countenance. Others, again, knocked up against their neighbours, or leant for support against the wall - somewhat ostentatiously, as if to call all men to witness that they were not worth the taking. The dark square lumbering bedsteads seemed built for restless dreams; the musty hangings seemed to creep in scanty folds together, whispering among themselves, when rustled by the wind, their trembling knowledge of the tempting wares that lurked within the dark and tight-locked closets.
Absolutely brilliant, that. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
Romance
  BooksInMirror | Feb 19, 2024 |
There is everything here you expect in a Dickens novel. In the end it was one that did not shine brighter than any other. Nicholas is so young and rash, and Kate is so angelic, that I couldn't feel much sympathy for either. The most interesting character to me was Ralph Nickelby. He is thoroughly bad, but you see glimmers of internal struggle. He is much more complex than the usual Dickens character.
In the end, three solid stars instead of two for the character of Ralph Nickelby and a few humorous situations with the theater group. ( )
  wvlibrarydude | Jan 14, 2024 |
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 | Oct 24, 2023 |
You know what you're getting yourself into with a Dickens book usually, humor, melodrama, intricate plots and absurd characters, and this was all that and more. There's a reason Dickens was such a celebrity in his day, he can tell quite an entertaining story. For me this book faltered a bit towards the end and I got the impression the author killed off Smike (poor Smike!) because he didn't quite know what to do with him, but it was still a very enjoyable read . ( )
  Autolycus21 | Oct 10, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 91 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (126 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Dickens, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Browne, Hablot KnightIllustratormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Courtenay, TomNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dame Sybil Thorndikesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ford, MarkContributorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jennings, AlexNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Knox, Christina F.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maclise, DanielCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Meyrinck, GustavTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nicholson, MilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Parker, DavidEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schlicke, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Slater, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thorndike, Dame SybilIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vance, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilhelm, WalterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Everyman, I will go with thee, and be thy guide,
In thy most need to go by thy side.
Dedication
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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.
[Introduction] When Dickens started writing Nicholas Nickleby on 6 February 1838 -- the day before his twenty-sixth birthday -- he was riding the crest of a wave.
[G. K. Chesterton Introduction] Romance is perhaps the highest point of human expression, except indeed religion to which it is closely allied.
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Nicholas Nickleby is left responsible for his mother and sister when his father dies. The novel follows his attempt to succeed in supporting them, despite his uncle Ralph's antagonistic lack of belief in him. It is one of Dickens' early comic novels.

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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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