In this Oxford World’s Classics audio guide, listen to Robert Douglas-Fairhurst of Magdalen College, Oxford University–who edited and selected this new edition–introduce Henry Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor.
‘What connexion can there be between the place in Lincolnshire, the house in town, the Mercury in powder, and the whereabouts of Jo the outlaw with the broom,’ asks Dickens’s narrator in Bleak House. As the novel develops, it offers various possible answers, including disease, family, money, and friendship.
Do you know your Magwitch from your Miss Havisham? Your Philip Pirrip from your Mr Pumblechook? Perhaps Dickens’s best-loved work, Great Expectations features memorable characters such as the convict Magwitch, the mysterious Miss Havisham and her proud ward Estella, as Pip unravels the mystery of his benefactor and of his own heart.
We’re just over a fortnight away from the end of our third season of the Oxford World’s Classics Reading Group. It’s still not too late to join us as we follow the story of young Pip and his great expectations. If you’re already stuck in with #OWCReads, these discussion questions will help you get the most out of the text.
According to George Orwell, the biggest problem with Dickens is that he simply doesn’t know when to stop. Every sentence seems to be on the point of curling into a joke; characters are forever spawning a host of eccentric offspring. “His imagination overwhelms everything”, Orwell sniffed, “like a kind of weed”.
The first time I tried to read The Water-Babies I was 7 or 8 years old. I was sitting on a beach near Margate, during a summer when my other reading had mostly been American comics: Spiderman, Superman, and the rest. Then I opened up a strange story about a hidden underwater world, in which a young chimney sweep is transformed into a newt-like baby who swims around the world righting wrongs, and eventually discovers that the most important battles are inside him. He was like a tiny Victorian superhero.