Dombey and Son - Published in monthly parts Oct 1846 - Apr 1848
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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. When 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.