Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) is one of the best-known and most enduringly popular Victorian novelists. His unique blend of wit, social satire, astute observation and compelling storytelling earned him extraordinary levels of popularity in his own lifetime, and innumerable adaptations of his works testify to his continuing appeal, relevance and cultural legacy. Although Dickens’s social commentary addressed issues that dominated the mid-Victorian public consciousness, many of his prescient observations resonate as strongly with readers today as they did with his contemporaries. Besides writing fifteen novels, including his last unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, he also published numerous short stories and articles, edited popular weekly journals such as Household Words and All the Year Round, wrote plays, gave public readings and lectures and campaigned for a variety of philanthropic causes.
Dickens has been at the heart of the Victorian Studies Centre ever since its inception fifty years ago. Initially, this was due to the research interests of its co-founder, Philip Collins. However, Dickens Studies has remained an essential element of the Centre’s research: Holly Furneaux’s innovative readings of Dickensian domesticity, and Claire Wood’s research on Dickens and the commercialisation of death, represent important recent contributions to Dickens scholarship. The University holds an extensive collection of Dickens’s works and a wide range of books in the field of Dickens Studies. This section demonstrates a small selection of the rare archival pieces held in Special Collections and some examples of the research carried out by Dickens scholars in the Victorian Studies Centre.