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The Old Curiosity Shop was expanded from a short tale to save Dickens's failing periodical Master Humphrey's Clock (1840-1); it is the first of his novels of which the complete manuscript, many corrected proofs, and some working notes survive. This makes it uniquely interesting to both the textual critic and general reader. Forster's Life of Dickens played down the novelist's dependence on his friend's help, but the proofs reveal at first hand the nature of Forster's assistance as well as Dickens's own practice. In conjunction with the manuscript, which contains two previously unprinted notes to his publisher, they show Dickens dealing with the unexpected demands of weekly serialization of an unplanned, full-length novel. This is most obvious as he approaches the death of Little Nell, in whose fate both he and his readers became emotionally involved. This is the first edition to benefit from the recent revelation of material which Dickens had himself obscured or discarded on manuscript versos, and the first to scrutinize the importance and impact of the wood engravings dropped into the text.
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