Sir Walter Besant, a novelist of undoubted experience, has remarked: "It would be to me, and I believe to everybody, utterly impossible to write two novels at the same time" (The City of Refuge, vol. i. p. vi.: 1896). Hard as the feat seems, it was certainly achieved by Scott, by Lever, and, in Oliver Twist, by Dickens. The history of Oliver Twist is, indeed, curious in itself, and a perpetual warning to successful young authors.
Mr. Forster writes:
"It was not until the fourth or fifth number of Pickwick (in the latter Sam Weller made his first appearance) that its importance began to be understood by 'the trade, 1 and, on the eve of the issue of its sixth number, the 22nd August, 1836, Dickens had signed an agreement with Mr. Bentley to undertake the editorship of a monthly magazine, to be started the following January, to which he was to supply a serial story; and soon after he had agreed with the same publisher to write two other tales, the first at a specified early date; the expressed remunerations in each case being certainly inadequate to the claims of a writer of any marked popularity."
Thus the first half of Oliver Twist was being written