This week marked the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s death. It was nice to learn that a fancy version of one of Dickens’ most beloved novels, Oliver Twist, will be coming out soon, but man. I wish I didn’t know he’d started writing it when he was only 25…
Early chapters of Oliver Twist, one of the first and most popular examples of the “social problem novel,” were serialized in a literary magazine, Bentley’s Miscellany. The story of a young, orphaned street lad running into other young, hapless, sadly criminal street lads in 19th-century London was an immediate hit and helped launch Dickens to international stardom.
When he broke from Bentley’s, Dickens literally forgot to take his Oliver Twist manuscript with him. Many of the original pages were recovered years later, though others were lost or destroyed.
A forthcoming facsimile version of the surviving 22 chapters (published by SP Books) shows some of Dickens’ own scribbled edits. You can see where the author crossed lines out, for example, replaced character names, and censored himself.
Can you read Dickens’ handwriting?