One of the most popular of the Victorian novelists was Charles Dickens. It was his stint as a reporter in The True Sun that gave him an idea about his genius. His first book Sketches by Boz was a collection of stories and descriptive pieces written for various papers. However, unlike his predecessors, Charles Dickens tended to focus on the hitherto neglected lower middle class. His fame as a novelist was cemented by the Pickwick Papers, a kind of genial picaresque novel. After this came a series of novel, whose theme often dealt the contemporary evils of society. In Oliver Twist(1838), his focus was on the evils of child-labour while Nicholas Nickleby(1839) attacked the brutality of charity schools. After The Old Curiosity Shop(1840), comes the series of holiday stories, the best of which is obviously the Christmas Carol. Thereafter, it is the time for his mature masterpieces like Dombey and Sons(1846) and David Copperfield(1849-50). Forster’s biography of Dickens entitled Life of Dickens shows how the experience of his early life had been employed imaginatively in David Copperfield. The pen which wrote the novel was often dipped in his own blood.
Although Dickens does not propound any serious social or political theory, he does not launch a scathing attack on what he considered to be the evils of time. The long drawn legal system is attached in Bleak House, the sufferings of the poor debtors is poignantly presented in Little Dorit, while Hard Times exposes the lifelessness of the mechanized society. It has been said that “his success as a novelists rests on his success as a social reformer who could moralise with a smile on his lips”.
Dickens’s representation of the spirit of Reign of Terror is excellently produced in The Tale of Two Cities (1858), that is often regarded as excellent supplement to the history of the period. As it is often the case with Dickens, He draws heavily upon his personal experiences in creating Great Expectations. Dickens enjoyed great popularity during his lifetime but his tendency to slip into bathos and his preference for caricature rather than characterization, has led to a sharp decline in his reputation as a novelist since then.