Robert McParland

Material Production and Circulation of Charles Dickens 1837-1870

Material Production and Circulation of Charles Dickens 1837-1870

Charles Dickens's relationship with his audience has been called "the greatest love affair of his life," by Kathleen Tillotson and John Butt. The goal of my research has been to seek that audience, the actual Victorian readers  and listeners for Dickens's work, through their letters, journal entries, diaries. publisher records, letter to periodical editors, marginalia, newspaper accounts of his public readings, and library records.

The material production and circulation of Dickens's texts in America, 1837-1870, contributed to the making of an American audience, as well as to the growth of American publishing, literature, and the national consciousness. Indeed, Charles Dickens, a British author, was arguably the most popular writer in America. Dickens was appropriated and printed in American journals, without any international copyright, amid nationalistic and economic tensions. This helped to define an ideal audience. Dickens addressed some of this audience in his public readings, 1867-68. 

In this paper, I trace the ambivalent reception by American readers to  American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit. I also look at the more hospitable reception of David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and other novels.

My work on Dickens's audience was guided by Jonathan Rose and my book-length studies are currently in press.

Making Books, Shaping Readers

School of English, O' Rahilly Building, University College Cork, Ireland.