[Note: Many of the books listed here have useful bibliographies which will guide you to further sources of information and ideas.]

Works by Charles Dickens

Dickens wrote a great deal of fiction and the novels listed here are the ones most readily comparable with the plot and themes of Great Expectations. Good editions of the novels are available from Penguin, Oxford World's Classics and Wordsworth Classics.

Charles Dickens:

Oliver Twist

Nicholas Nickleby (1838-9)

David Copperfield (1849-50)

Little Dorrit (1855-7)

Our Mutual Friend (1864-5)

Editions of Great Expectations

Great Expectations. Ed. John Bowen. Ware: Wordsworth Classics, 1992.

Great Expectations. Ed. Margaret Cardwell. Introduction by Kate Flint. Oxford: World's Classics, 1998.

Great Expectations (1860-1). Ed. Charlotte Mitchell. Introduction by David Trotter. London: Penguin, 2005.

  • all these editions include helpful explanatory notes, introductions and selections of criticism of the novel.


Peter Ackroyd: Dickens. London:Sinclair-Stevenson, London 1990: revised 1994.

  • an idiosyncratic book, but full of interesting insights.

John Forster: Life of Charles Dickens (1872-4), ed. A. J. Hoppé, 2 vols, London: Dent, 1969.

  • by Dickens' closest friend, with all the advantages and drawbacks of the author's intimacy with his subject.

Edgar Johnson: Charles Dickens: his Tragedy and Triumph. London: Gollancz, 1953.

  • very solid and reliable, but takes Dickens on his own terms.

Fred Kaplan: Dickens: a Biography, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1988.

  • a highly professional and interesting account.

Grahame Smith: Charles Dickens: a Literary Life. Basingstoke: Macmillan Press, 1993.

Robert L. Patten: Charles Dickens and his Publishers. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1978.

  • excellent studies of the development of Dickens' literary career.

Angus Wilson: The World of Charles Dickens. London: Secker and Warburg, 1970.

  • well-illustrated and valuable for being by a fellow-novelist

Social, political and cultural context

Asa Briggs: The Age of Improvement. London: Longman, 1959.

Eric Hobsbawm: The Age of Capital, 1848-1975. London: Weidenfeld & Nicholson, 1975.

F. M. L. Thompson: The Rise of Respectable Society. A Social History of Victorian Britain. 1830-1900. London: Fontana, 1988.

  • these books offer good historical surveys of the period in which Dickens was writing.

Philip Davis: The Victorians. The Oxford English Literary History 1830-1880. Volume 8. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Jerome H. Buckley: The Victorian Temper: a Study in Literary Culture. London: Cass, 1966.

William F. Houghton: The Victorian Frame of Mind 1830-1870. London: Yale University Press, 1957.

Michael Wheeler: English Fiction of the Victorian Period. 1830-1890. London: Longman, 1985.

  • general surveys of various aspects of the literary and intellectual history of the period.

John Sutherland: Victorian Novelists and Publishers. London: Athlone Press, 1976

  • complements Grahame Smith and Robert L. Patten's books (see above) with a general discussion of the world of Victorian publishing.

Peter Coveney: The Image of Childhood. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1967.

David Grylls: Guardians and Angels. Parents and Children in Nineteenth-Century Literature. London: Faber & Faber, 1978.

James Walvin: A Child's World. A Social History of English Childhood 1880-1881. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1982.

  • three useful studies relating to a key theme in the novel; the first two have chapters on Dickens and childhood.

General critical works on Dickens

John Butt and Kathleen Tillotson: Dickens at Work. London: Methuen, 1957.

  • fascinating study of how Dickens went about planning and writing his novels.

John Carey: The Violent Effigy: A Study of Dickens' Imagination. London: Faber, 1973, 1991.

  • a stimulating discussion of Dickens' themes and use of symbols.

Philip Collins: Dickens and Crime. London: Macmillan, 1962.

Philip Collins: Dickens and Education. London: Macmillan, 1963.

  • two very thorough thematic studies.

Philip Collins (ed): Charles Dickens: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge, 1971.

  • includes early reviews of Great Expectations.

Humphry House: The Dickens World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1940.

  • readable general introduction.

F. R. and Q. D.: Leavis Dickens the Novelist. London: Chatto and Windus, 1970

John Lucas: The Melancholy Man: A Study of Dickens's Novels. London: Methuen, 1980.

  • two well-known and influential critical studies; both very persuasive in different ways.

George Orwell: ‘Charles Dickens' (1940). The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell. Ed. Sonia Orwell and Ian Angus, vol. 1, pp. 454-504.

  • very influential essay, still relevant nearly seventy years after it was written.

Michael Slater: Dickens on Women. London: Dent, 1983

  • one of the most controversial subjects concerning Dickens.

Stephen Wall (ed): Charles Dickens: a Critical Anthology. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1970.

  • a good selection of critical essays on a variety of topics.

Paul Schlicke (ed): The Oxford Reader's Guide to Charles Dickens. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

John O. Jordan (ed): The Cambridge Companion to Charles Dickens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Andrew Sanders Authors in Context: Charles Dickens. London: Penguin, 2003.

  • three good general reference / critical works, all with useful bibliographies.

Criticism of Great Expectations

Many of the general books listed in the previous section have chapters or sections on Great Expectations, easily found from the contents page or the index. A very helpful guide to criticism of the novel is:

Nicolas Tredell (ed): Charles Dickens: Great Expectations. Cambridge: Icon Books, 1998.

  • as well as its useful booklists, this guide includes a survey of the history of the critical reaction to the novel since it was published.

Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.