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At the Circulating Library

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837–1901

Title: Oliver Twist

Author and Title: Charles Dickens. Oliver Twist: or, The Parish Boy's Progress

First Edition: London: Bentley, 1838. 3 volumes, post 8vo., 31s. 6d.


  • Bentley's Miscellany, illustrated by George Cruikshank, February 1837 to April 1839 (monthly), irregular
  • 10 parts, 1s per part, illustrated by George Cruikshank, London: Bradbury and Evans, January 1846 to October 1846 (monthly)

Summary: Illustrated by George Cruikshank. A mysterious woman arrives at the workhouse in the middle of the night where she gives birth to a boy and dies. The orphan is raised at a baby farm until the age of ten then sent back to the workhouse. Despite his vicious upbringing, Oliver remains preternaturally good. In what has become an iconic scene, he raises the ire of the authorities by innocently asking for more gruel—in response, he is apprenticed to an undertaker. After his mistreatment there, Oliver runs away to London where he meets the pickpocket Artful Dodger, his fence Fagin, and the good-hearted prostitute Nancy. They train Oliver in their ways until he witnesses the Artful Dodger attempt a theft in the street—horrified, Oliver runs away but is caught by the authorities. The victim, Mr. Brownlow, intercedes with the judge and takes Oliver home. While running an errand for Brownlow, Oliver is kidnapped by Fagin's gang. Under the direction of the odious Monks (who wants Oliver hung or transported), Fagin gives Oliver to the housebreaker Bill Sykes. While burgling a house in the country, Oliver is shot and nursed back to health by Rose Maylie and her aunt. Meantime, the repentant Nancy meets with Rose and Brownlow to warn them about Monk's and Fagin's conspiracy against Oliver. Bill learns of Nancy's deceit and murders her. During his flight from justice, he is accidently hung. The Artful Dodger is arrested and transported, and Fagin is tried and sentenced to death. Brownlow forces Monks to confess: he is the half-brother of Oliver, both sons of the same father. Oliver's mother, pregnant but not married, fled London in shame. Monks hoped to get rid of Oliver in order to keep their inheritance for himself. Oliver ends the novel safely returned to his family and middle-class comfort. Monks leaves England for the colonies. (TJB)

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References: EC; NYPL (parts); Sutherland; Vann; Wolff