Our Novel: Martin Chuzzlewit


For the 2021-2022 year, we will be reading and discussing Martin Chuzzlewit. Charles Dickens originally published the novel in monthly installments between January 1843 and July 1844.


The full title of the novel is The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, His Relatives, Friends, and Enemies: comprising all his wills and his ways: with an historical record of what he did, and what he didn't: showing, moreover, who inherited the family plate, who came in for the silver spoons, and who for the wooden ladles: the whole forming a complete key to the House of Chuzzlewit. (For obvious reasons, most of us shorten the title to just Martin Chuzzlewit!)


Initial sales of the novel were disappointing, but Dickens had recently returned from a trip to the United States, and his book about the experience, American Notes, had been received very well in Britain. His solution: Send young Martin to America! Changing course while already in the midst of publishing the book, Dickens introduced a scathing portrait of the U.S. in the 1840s, including blistering attacks on irresponsible journalism, land speculation, and of course the "peculiar institution" of slavery.


Hablot Knight Browne ("Phiz") provided the original illustrations for the novel, and if you get the Penguin edition, you should be able to see them all, as well as have access to thorough footnotes.


We hope you will join us in our year-long examination of this remarkable book!