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Already the first of his nine surviving children had been born; he had married in April Catherine, eldest daughter of a respected Scottish journalist and man of letters, George Hogarth. For several years his life continued at this intensity. Finding serialization congenial and profitable, he repeated the Pickwick pattern of 20 monthly parts in Nicholas Nickleby —39 ; then he experimented with shorter weekly installments for The Old Curiosity Shop —41 and Barnaby Rudge Exhausted at last, he then took a five-month vacation in America, touring strenuously and receiving quasi-royal honours as a literary celebrity but offending national sensibilities by protesting against the absence of copyright protection.
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Some of these feelings appear in American Notes and Martin Chuzzlewit — His writing during these prolific years was remarkably various and, except for his plays, resourceful. Pickwick began as high-spirited farce and contained many conventional comic butts and traditional jokes; like other early works, it was manifestly indebted to the contemporary theatre, the 18th-century English novelists, and a few foreign classics, notably Don Quixote. But, besides giving new life to old stereotypes , Pickwick displayed, if sometimes in embryo, many of the features that were to be blended in varying proportions throughout his fiction: attacks, satirical or denunciatory, on social evils and inadequate institutions; topical references; an encyclopaedic knowledge of London always his predominant fictional locale ; pathos; a vein of the macabre; a delight in the demotic joys of Christmas ; a pervasive spirit of benevolence and geniality; inexhaustible powers of character creation; a wonderful ear for characteristic speech, often imaginatively heightened; a strong narrative impulse; and a prose style that, if here overdependent on a few comic mannerisms, was highly individual and inventive.
Rapidly improvised and written only weeks or days ahead of its serial publication, Pickwick contains weak and jejune passages and is an unsatisfactory whole—partly because Dickens was rapidly developing his craft as a novelist while writing and publishing it.
What is remarkable is that a first novel, written in such circumstances, not only established him overnight and created a new tradition of popular literature but also survived, despite its crudities, as one of the best-known novels in the world. His self-assurance and artistic ambitiousness appeared in Oliver Twist , where he rejected the temptation to repeat the successful Pickwick formula.
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Browne ] for most of the other novels until the s. The currency of his fiction owed much, too, to its being so easy to adapt into effective stage versions.
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Sometimes 20 London theatres simultaneously were producing adaptations of his latest story, so even nonreaders became acquainted with simplified versions of his works. The theatre was often a subject of his fiction, too, as in the Crummles troupe in Nicholas Nickleby. This novel reverted to the Pickwick shape and atmosphere, though the indictment of the brutal Yorkshire schools Dotheboys Hall continued the important innovation in English fiction seen in Oliver Twist —the spectacle of the lost or oppressed child as an occasion for pathos and social criticism.
Like his later attempt in this kind, A Tale of Two Cities , it was set in the late 18th century and presented with great vigour and understanding and some ambivalence of attitude the spectacle of large-scale mob violence. Its American episodes had, however, been unpremeditated he suddenly decided to boost the disappointing sales by some America-baiting and to revenge himself against insults and injuries from the American press.
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