Dickens and the Short StoryUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Anniversary Collection Anniversary Collection
At the height of his career, writing short stories provided Dickens with a release from the formal constraints of his novels and gave free reign to his creative imagination. Ranging from "flights of fancy" to literary masterpieces, Dickens's short stories contained artistic experiments that inspired fuller developments in his novels. Yet the short stories have been all but overlooked in critical discussions.
Deborah A. Thomas focuses directly on this body of work, tracing three stages of development. In the early stage until 1840, Dickens produced numerous short stories, culminating in his experience with the abortive Master Humphrey's Clock. In the following ten years, he restricted his writing of short stories to the five Christmas Books but refined his theories about the value of the genre in the context of his work. In the third stage, 1850-1868, Dickens again turned actively to the writing of short stories, many of them the "Christmas Stories" appearing in the weeklies Household Words and All the Year Round, which Dickens edited successively from 1850 to 1869 and from 1859 until his death in 1870. The author concentrates primarily upon the more notable stories, drawing for a perspective upon Dickens' own concept of "fancy." In an increasingly factual age, Dickens—attracted to the unusual and the unknown—found the short story a form in which he could indulge his high degree of fantasy and explore the hidden corners of the mind. Dickens' fascination with psychological abnormality and the supernatural—reflected in his novels—reveals itself even more intriguingly in his short stories.
In Thomas's analysis, Dickens' short stories appear as an important key to understanding the novels, while proving worthy in themselves of critical attention. Essential to a thorough study of Dickens, her book sheds light upon previously obscure facets of his developing artistry.
"There is no study in print that covers the range of Dickens's short fiction. . . . Thomas's work definitely is original."—Richard J. Dunn University of Washington
"[Thomas's] major achievement is to have rescued so much brilliant writing from obscurity and neglect."—Coral Lansbury, Rutgers University