Imprisonment; Debt; Love.
DICKENS, Charles. Little Dorrit...With Illustrations By H. K. Browne. London: Bradbury & Evans, Bouverie Street, [December, 1855 - June, 1857].
8vo., 20 monthly parts in 19 as issued, with 40 engraved plates including frontis and title vignette; original printed blue wrappers with trade advertisements to inner sides as well as outside back wrappers, with a variety of publishers ads, and slips bound-in. Wrappers have sustained a varying amount of chipping and wear, plates are foxed and damp stained, most of the parts have been repaired, otherwise a good set with most of the advertising slips intact.
First edition in original parts, with the white “Missing” slip intact in part 16.
"In Little Dorrit Dickens mounts his single most ferocious onslaught against England and English society; against its government, against its financiers, against its artists and even against its ordinary citizens who, at least in Bleeding Heart Yard, believed that foreigners were always immoral. that foreigners had no independent spirit." (Ackroyd, 758). The novel satirises the shortcomings of both government and society, including the institution of debtors' prisons, where debtors were unable to work until they repaid their debts. The prison in this case is the Marshalsea, where Dickens’ own father had been sent. Dickens is also critical of the lack of a social safety net, the treatment and safety of industrial workers, as well the bureaucracy of the British Treasury, in the form of his fictional "Circumlocution Office". In addition he satirises the stratification of society that results from the British class system.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, many reviewers were critical of the book upon its publication. However, Dickens' friend Hans Christian Andersen advised the author to ignore the critics: "They are forgotten in a week, and your book stands and lives" (Ackroyd, 780). Tchaikovsky, a voracious reader and theatre-goer when he was not composing, was similarly entranced by the book.