The Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23

Wherein the 2022-23 DCRC is defined, and schedule proposed; Taking its cue from the Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club, the DCRC’s resident Wren promises to “forward, from time to time, authenticated accounts of their [re: her] journeys and investigations…and of the whole of their adventures, together with all tales and papers to which local scenery or associations may give rise.”

Happy New Year, friends of the Inimitable!

UPDATE (13 MAY 2022): WE HAVE AN UPDATED SCHEDULE WHICH CAN BE FOUND HERE.

As my friend Laura and I have commented several times, I hope that this year will be kinder, gentler, more Arthur-Clennamish for all of us. (If you don’t know who Arthur Clennam is…well, I hope you have a chance to explore Little Dorrit, as Laura did with her marvelous #DickensLiveTweet sessions!)

I explained in a previous post about how my #DickensDecember tweets have prompted me to finally undertake a chronological rereading of Dickens’ major works. So, it’s time to lay out a tentative reading schedule for my Dickens Chronological Reading Club. It could be the “DCRC” for short, I suppose? (I wasn’t going to call it a “Club” at first, since I started out with the idea that I was the only one I knew of insane enough to embark on the whole thing*, but I found out that several kind folks would at least be reading the posts for the info, and/or joining in for a book, so why not pay homage to Mr Pickwick and call it a “Club”?)

(UPDATE, Mon morning, 17 Jan: Our #DickensClub is now at 27 members! At least, those I’m aware of who are reading with us!)

A few notes beforehand:

  1. I’ll be doing the DCRC reading over the course of two years (2022-23). It could easily be stretched out or shortened, but this seems like the right balance. I’ll be starting out more slowly, with only one Sketch per day (Sketches by Boz, Jan-Feb 2022), and then picking up the pace. I wanted to allow myself some flexibility to be reading other things, including Dickens-related materials that might illumine the work I’m reading—and of course, I’ll share interesting tidbits as I learn! (Some months, I might go through the scheduled read in a week or two and leave the rest of the month for reading supplementary materials, or just…something else entirely! For some, I might pace myself throughout the whole period.)
  2. How I “figure” the chronological order: We know that Dickens wrote and published each serial novel over the course of an extended period (e.g. 18 months). One novel would often overlap with the beginning of another. (With Barnaby Rudge, he had trouble in getting going!) So, my modus operandi is to read them by publication order or in the order in which the first installment or first part of a collection was published.
  3. Why this method: Granted, I’ll probably be reading certain favorites several times in these next two years (e.g. I can’t stay long away from Pickwick, and I am dying to read Drood again sooner than late-2023). But I wanted to have one complete experience of reading his major canon as closely as I could to the order in which his Muse moved him, to get a clearer sense of the development of Dickens’ imagination.
  4. What I’m reading: all of Dickens’ major works, stories, and novels. This comprises his fifteen novels, five Christmas books (which are shorter works, like long short stories or novellas), Master Humphrey’s Clock (which is more like a frame or bookend for other work), American Notes, Pictures from Italy, and his collection of nocturnal London walking essays, The Uncommercial Traveller. Of course, Dickens has many published speeches, letters, etc, but I won’t be including these except as supplementary material to add context to the current reading. If you feel there is something I’m missing, please do let me know! 😊

So, without further ado, here is my tentative reading schedule for 2022-23:

Date(s)Work(s)Notes
4 Jan to 28 Feb 2022Sketches by BozThis is one Sketch per day (56 Sketches), but obviously, the pace is fluid! I’m deliberately starting out a little slower as I catch up on some supplementary material.
1 Mar to 11 April, 2022The Pickwick PapersI love this timing, because, in spite of a most wonderful Christmas passage in it, I cannot think of a book that has more of a Spring-like, hopeful, randomly joyful spirit.
12 April to 16 May 2022Oliver Twist 
17 May to 30 June 2022Nicholas Nickleby 
July 2022Master Humphrey’s Clock; The Old Curiosity ShopMaster Humphrey was a kind of narrative device or “frame” for The Old Curiosity Shop until Dickens decided that the latter should stand alone as a novel. If you’re joining in, feel free to just jump straight into TOCS, since Humphrey might be considered a minor work, or supplement.
August 2022Barnaby Rudge 
September 2022American Notes 
October 2022Martin Chuzzlewit 
Nov/Dec 2022A Christmas Carol; The Chimes; The Cricket on the Hearth; Pictures from Italy; The Battle of LifeThis looks like a long list, but four of the five are his “Christmas Books” and are the length of a long short story or novella. (Dying to know whether Dr. Pete Orford‘s Pictures from Italy edition for OUP will be available by then…)
Jan 2023Dombey and Son 
1 to 6 Feb 2023The Haunted ManShorter timeframe b/c it is a shorter work (his fifth and last Christmas Book)
7 Feb 2023 to 31 Mar 2023David CopperfieldI’m stretching it out a bit here. I wanted to give a little extra focus to the marvelous world of David Copperfield, which is also Dickens’ most autobiographical work. Hence, we begin the David Copperfield journey on Dickens’ birthday anniversary.
1 Apr to 8 May 2023Bleak House 
9 to 31 May 2023Hard Times 
1 June to 13 July 2023Little DorritI’m spending a little more time with this book, simply because I adore it.
14 July to 21 Aug 2023A Tale of Two CitiesI start this reading on 14 July…see what I did there? 😊
22 Aug to 18 Sept 2023Great Expectations 
19 Sept to 16 Oct 2023The Uncommercial TravellerIt was challenging to figure out where to fit this in—before or after Great Expectations, since the first of the essays was published earlier—but as Great Expectations’ first installment arrived on 1 December 1860, and the first collection of Uncommercial Traveller came just after (15 Dec), I’ll read it after GE.
17 Oct to 20 Nov 2023Our Mutual Friend 
21 Nov to 31 Dec 2023The Mystery of Edwin Drood (unfinished)Though Dickens’ last (and unfinished) work is shorter, I’ve left ample time for it, in part because I look forward to writing at more length about various theories and “solutions” to the mystery over the years, and the curiosity that is Droodism. I most definitely will be rereading Dr. Pete Orford’s marvelous book here!  
The Dickens Chronological Reading Club 2022-23 tentative reading schedule

50 Comments

  1. Dickensian Wren, what a noble (and daunting!) undertaking!

    Several things strike me, besides the beautiful layout of your blogsite.

    1. the Inimitable!: Indeed, truly inimitable!

    2. “more Arthur-Clennamish”: Precisely what we need in our lives, in the world.

    3. Brilliant and bold: Dickens Chronological Reading Club!

    4. Basic plan with flexibility: Great to have a “flight plan” that can be “course-corrected” as you/we go!

    I look forward to “flying” with you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yay!!!! Warm welcome!!!! 🥳🥳 We’re at the very beginning of Sketches by Boz! Whatever pace works well for you, but today I’ll be reading the second sketch, “The Curate–The Old Lady–The Half-pay Captain” ✨

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    1. YAY! Warm welcome, Cassandra!! So happy to have you here! We’re only on Day 3 so far, and the first 2 months (reading “Sketches by Boz”) are really slow paced, just a sketch a day ~ but whatever pace is good for you! If it’s helpful, I wrote up a little intro to the Sketches here (https://wreninkpaper.com/2022/01/04/sketches-by-boz-a-brief-introduction/ ) , and we’ve been commenting on reactions to it below that post (also on twitter with the hashtag #DickensClub), and I’ll probably just do a blog post of a weekly wrap-up and look ahead to the next week, so that we can start commenting under a new post and not have a super huge thread under the first Sketches post, if that makes sense! 🙂 Anyway, Welcome to the Dickens Club! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perfectly. I don’t know if I’ll follow thr schedule exactly–I’ve read a lot of Dickens already and don’t know if I want to reread them all–but I’m excited to read along and discuss with other Dickens-lovers!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastic!!! Yes, join in for as much or little as you’d like! 🙂 I’ll be posting little updates here weekly (which will allow for a new space to add comments on the current read so we don’t get one post with too long a thread) and I’m also on twitter if you like to share there also! 🙂

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  3. Joined today and very much looking forward to The Pickwick Papers – the novel is full of fun and laughter, and the world needs that more than ever right now!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Steve! I’ve been especially looking forward to this one, for that very reason…light, good humor, empathy but also joyfully random rambles! I daydream about journeying with Mr Pickwick & Co 😄✨

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  4. Hi, Found your site today and looking forward to joining in with your read-a-longs. Only recently re-read Our Mutual Friend, Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist. Currently re-reading Bleak House but will now put this on hold and follow along with your schedule. Going to jump back into Pickwick at what ever point you’re currently at. Pickwick is one of my favourites. I have never read Sketches by Boz so have added this to my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Glenn!! Thank you so much for your comment and warm welcome to the group!!! We just finished Pickwick and are on week 2 of Oliver Twist (chapters 12-22) but we’d love to have you join us at whatever point you’d like!! 🙂 I’ll add you to the member list, and I’ve been doing weekly summaries and wrap ups of the text and the discussions we have here (mostly in thr comments section under each week’s read). Just a heads up…based on a little vote today, the group decided (looks like) that I’ll adjust the schedule a bit so that we have a break of a week or two between reads. Just fyi…I’ll post the adjusted schedule probably next week 🙂

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      1. Hi Rach, Thanks for the welcome. Just finding my way around your schedule……Just opened my Penguin Classic Oliver Twist paperback…..Book the First….Chapter the 12th…page 86. All Dickens novels are wonderfully re-readable.

        Having a break between reads makes good sense 👍. I find a short break away from Dickens makes me enthusiastic to get reacquainted with his wonderful character’s again.

        Liked by 1 person

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