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The Railroad During the time Dombey and Son was being serialized London was buzzing with the development of the railroad and this theme looms large throughout the novel.

Read this excerpt from from chapter 6 of Dombey and Son where Dickens describes the coming of the railroad to Camden Town, a suburb in the north of London.

The Toodles
The Toodles represent a Cratchit-like poor, loving family. Polly is hired by Paul Dombey to nurse his newborn son, Paul Jr after his wife dies in childbirth. Her husband, a stoker and later an engine-driver on the railroad, echos Dickens sentiments in this exchange with the proud Mr Dombey:

'You have a son, I believe?' said Mr Dombey.
'Four on 'em, Sir. Four hims and a her. All alive!'
'Why, it's as much as you can afford to keep them!' said Mr Dombey.
'I could hardly afford but one thing in the world less, Sir.'
'What is that?'
'To lose 'em, Sir.'

Leamington Spa
After the death of his son, Paul Dombey goes to recuperate at Leamington Spa with his friend Joe Bagstock. The Royal Pump Room and Baths, where Dombey and Bagstock would have visited, opened in 1814 and were available to the well-to-do, the restorative waters were said to cure a variety of afflictions.

Warwick Castle
While in the area Dombey and Bagstock meet Edith Granger and her mother and the group visits Warwick castle and "the haunted ruins of Kenilworth."

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Dickens' life during the serialization of Dombey and Son
Oct 1846 - Apr 1848

Dickens' age: 34-36

October 1846

December 1846

The Battle of Life, his Christmas book for 1846, published.

April 1847

Son Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens born

July 1847

Directing and acting in amateur theatricals throughout England and Scotland with a group of friends including George Cruikshank, John Leech, Mark Lemon, Augustus Egg, and George Henry Lewes. The group continued the theatricals through the publication of Dombey and Son and beyond.

November 1847

Working with friend and philanthropist Angela Burdette Coutts opens Urania Cottage, a home for 'fallen' women.

December 1847

Wife Catherine, six months pregnant, suffers a miscarriage in a railway car between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

April 1848



Buy Dickens at Huckleberry and Hodge
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Dombey and Son

Dombey and Son - Published in monthly parts Oct 1846 - Apr 1848
Read it online | Shop for the Book | Shop for the Video | Locations

Wooden Midshipman Dickens' seventh novel, illustrated by Phiz, was the first with his new publishers, Bradbury and Evans. Dickens worried about his new publisher's abilities to sell his work but the new novel's monthly installments were soon selling at up to 40,000 copies a month. William Thackeray, whose monthly installments of Vanity Fair were being sold by Bradbury and Evans during this same time, was selling at best only 5000 copies a month.

In Dombey and Son, considered Dickens first artistically mature work, he began using notes he called "mems" to outline how the novel would progress. It was after Dombey and Son was published that Dickens' reputation as a world class author was established.



Plot (contains spoilers)

The novel tells the story of Paul Dombey, powerful head of the House of Dombey. He wants a son and when a daughter (Florence) is born he despises her. His second child, a son (Paul), is weak and sickly and dies a child. Paul's first wife dies with the birth of Paul Jr and he remarries. His second wife, Edith, does not love him and eventually runs away with Carker, a manager at the firm. With Carker gone, Paul is incapable of managing the business and it fails. In the end Paul is reconciled with his daughter, living with her family, and doting on his grandchildren.

Mingled with this central thread is the story of Walter Gay and his uncle Solomon Gills, owner of the Wooden Midshipman, a nautical instruments shop. Walter Gay goes to work for the firm of Dombey and Son. Dombey and Son illustration by PhizWhen Florence is lost in the London streets and captured by Good Mrs Brown, who steals her clothes, she is rescued by Walter. Walter and Florence become friends, which causes Mr Dombey uneasiness, as he loathes his daughter. When a position in the firm opens in Barbados, Dombey sees an opportunity to get rid of Walter and sends him. Walter's ship is lost and all hands are feared drowned.

Solomon Gills goes in search of Walter, leaving the Wooden Midshipman to his friend Captain Ned Cuttle. After the breakup of her home, Florence leaves and is taken in by Captain Cuttle. Walter has survived the shipwreck and returns home. Walter and Florence are to be married, on the eve of their wedding day Solomon Gills returns home after wandering the earth looking for Walter. After the wedding Walter and Florence go to sea for a year. On the day of their return Florence is reconciled to her father. Solomon Gills produces the last bottle of the old Madeira he has been saving for just such an occasion, and all drink to Walter and Florence.

Principal Characters:
Character descriptions contain spoilers
Major Joseph Bagstock
Mr Baps
Berinthea(Berry)
Betsy Jane
Cornelia Blimber
Dr Blimber
Mrs Blimber
Bill Bitherstone
Master Bitherstone
Briggs
Mr Brogley
Alice Brown (alias Marwood)
Good Mrs. Brown
Jack Bunsby
Harriet Carker
James Carker
John Carker
John Chick
Louisa Chick
Captain Cuttle
Fanny Dombey
Florence Dombey
Paul Dombey
Paul Dombey Jr
Mr Feeder
Cousin Feenix
The Game Chicken
Walter Gay
Solomon Gills
Edith Granger
John
Johnson
Kate
Alexander MacStinger
Mrs MacStinger
Martha
Rev Melchisedech
Melia
Mrs Miff
Mr Morfin
The Native
Susan Nipper
Miss Pankey
Dr Parker Peps
Perch
Mr Pilkins
Mrs Pipchin
Sir Barnet Skittles
Lady Skettles
Master Skettles
Mrs Skewton
Mr Sownds
Toodle
Jemima Toodle
Polly Toodle (Richards)
Rob Toodle (The Ginder, Biler)
Mr Toots
Towlinson
Lucretia Tox
Tozer
Mrs Wickham
Withers

Dombey and Son Links:
The Dickens Page
Bartleby.com
The Literary Network
Classic Reader
The Victorian Web
Wikipedia - Dombey and Son

Hablot Browne's disappointing
illustration for Dombey and Son


Locations in Dombey and Son





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