Page:Works of Charles Dickens, ed. Lang - Volume 4.djvu/13

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


INTRODUCTION.

ON November 19, 1837, Dickens, who had not nearly finished Oliver Twist, entered into an agreement with Messrs. Chapman and Hall "to write a new work, the title whereof shall be determined by him, of a similar character and of the same extent as" Pickwick. The book ran from April, 1838, to October, 1839. The germinal idea which every novel must have was probably that attacking the cheap schools in Yorkshire. In the new preface of the edition of 1848, Dickens speaks of his earliest recollections of talk about these dark places of the earth. Stories of horrid cruelty occupied a mind already full of Strap and Partridge. "The impression never left me." Certain legal proceedings in 1836, or 1837, revived the topic, and in the Christmas of 1837, Dickens went into Yorkshire with Mr. Hablot Browne, his illustrator, to collect information. His own interesting account of this journey, and of the original John Browdie, need not be abridged here. There is one curious point. In his original preface (1839) Dickens speaks of a schoolmaster who "perfectly remembers being waited on, last January twelve month, by two gentlemen, one of whom held him in conversation while the other took his likeness," which, he owns, does not