113 Facts About Dickens


Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic.

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Dickens created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.

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Dickens's works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime and, by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius.

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Dickens edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, for education, and for other social reforms.

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The instalment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience's reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback.

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Dickens's plots were carefully constructed and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives.

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Dickens's father was a clerk in the Navy Pay Office and was temporarily stationed in the district.

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Dickens asked Christopher Huffam, rigger to His Majesty's Navy, gentleman, and head of an established firm, to act as godfather to Charles.

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In January 1815, John Dickens was called back to London and the family moved to Norfolk Street, Fitzrovia.

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Dickens read and reread The Arabian Nights and the Collected Farces of Elizabeth Inchbald.

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Dickens later imitated Grimaldi's clowning on several occasions, and would edit the Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi.

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Dickens retained poignant memories of childhood, helped by an excellent memory of people and events, which he used in his writing.

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The family had left Kent amidst rapidly mounting debts and, living beyond his means, John Dickens was forced by his creditors into the Marshalsea debtors' prison in Southwark, London in 1824.

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Dickens later used the prison as a setting in Little Dorrit.

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Dickens later wrote that he wondered "how I could have been so easily cast away at such an age".

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Dickens's name was Bob Fagin; and I took the liberty of using his name, long afterwards, in Oliver Twist.

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Small audiences gathered and watched them at work – in Dickens's biographer Simon Callow's estimation, the public display was "a new refinement added to his misery".

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Under the Insolvent Debtors Act, Dickens arranged for payment of his creditors and he and his family left the Marshalsea, for the home of Mrs Roylance.

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Charles's mother, Elizabeth Dickens, did not immediately support his removal from the boot-blacking warehouse.

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Dickens was eventually sent to the Wellington House Academy in Camden Town, where he remained until March 1827, having spent about two years there.

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Dickens worked at the law office of Ellis and Blackmore, attorneys, of Holborn Court, Gray's Inn, as a junior clerk from May 1827 to November 1828.

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Dickens was a gifted mimic and impersonated those around him: clients, lawyers and clerks.

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Dickens went to theatres obsessively: he claimed that for at least three years he went to the theatre every day.

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In 1830, Dickens met his first love, Maria Beadnell, thought to have been the model for the character Dora in David Copperfield.

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Dickens enjoyed mimicry and popular entertainment, lacked a clear, specific sense of what he wanted to become, and yet knew he wanted fame.

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Dickens prepared meticulously and decided to imitate the comedian Charles Mathews, but ultimately he missed the audition because of a cold.

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In 1833, Dickens submitted his first story, "A Dinner at Poplar Walk", to the London periodical Monthly Magazine.

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Dickens rented rooms at Furnival's Inn and worked as a political journalist, reporting on Parliamentary debates, and he travelled across Britain to cover election campaigns for the Morning Chronicle.

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Hogarth invited him to contribute Street Sketches and Dickens became a regular visitor to his Fulham house – excited by Hogarth's friendship with Walter Scott and enjoying the company of Hogarth's three daughters: Georgina, Mary and 19-year-old Catherine.

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Dickens began a friendship with William Harrison Ainsworth, the author of the highwayman novel Rookwood, whose bachelor salon in Harrow Road had become the meeting place for a set that included Daniel Maclise, Benjamin Disraeli, Edward Bulwer-Lytton and George Cruikshank.

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Seymour committed suicide after the second instalment and Dickens, who wanted to write a connected series of sketches, hired "Phiz" to provide the engravings for the story.

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Dickens ensured that his books were available in cheap bindings for the lower orders as well as in morocco-and-gilt for people of quality; his ideal readership included everyone from the pickpockets who read Oliver Twist to Queen Victoria, who found it "exceedingly interesting".

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Oliver Twist, published in 1838, became one of Dickens's better known stories and was the first Victorian novel with a child protagonist.

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On 2 April 1836, after a one-year engagement, and between episodes two and three of The Pickwick Papers, Dickens married Catherine Thomson Hogarth, the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle.

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Dickens became very attached to Mary, and she died in his arms after a brief illness in 1837.

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Dickens declared they were both to drown there in the "sad sea waves".

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Master Humphrey's Clock was shut down, though Dickens was still keen on the idea of the weekly magazine, a form he liked, an appreciation that had begun with his childhood reading of the 18th-century magazines Tatler and The Spectator.

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Dickens wrote three anti-Tory verse satires which were published in The Examiner.

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Dickens remained with them as housekeeper, organiser, adviser and friend until Dickens's death in 1870.

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Dickens modelled the character of Agnes Wickfield after Georgina and Mary.

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Dickens described his impressions in a travelogue, American Notes for General Circulation.

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In Notes, Dickens includes a powerful condemnation of slavery which he had attacked as early as The Pickwick Papers, correlating the emancipation of the poor in England with the abolition of slavery abroad citing newspaper accounts of runaway slaves disfigured by their masters.

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From Richmond, Virginia, Dickens returned to Washington, D C, and started a trek westward, with brief pauses in Cincinnati and Louisville, to St Louis, Missouri.

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Dickens persuaded a group of 25 writers, headed by Washington Irving, to sign a petition for him to take to Congress, but the press were generally hostile to this, saying that he should be grateful for his popularity and that it was mercenary to complain about his work being pirated.

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Dickens writes that he assumed a role of "influential commentator", publicly and in his fiction, evident in his next few books.

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This, along with scenes he had recently witnessed at the Field Lane Ragged School, caused Dickens to resolve to "strike a sledge hammer blow" for the poor.

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Dickens later wrote that as the tale unfolded he "wept and laughed, and wept again" as he "walked about the black streets of London fifteen or twenty miles many a night when all sober folks had gone to bed".

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Dickens immediately sent a letter to Lewis Gaylord Clark, editor of the New York literary magazine The Knickerbocker, saying that Powell was a forger and thief.

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Dickens did receive a reply confirming Powell's embezzlement, but once the directors realised this information might have to be produced in court, they refused to make further disclosures.

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Dickens authored a work called The Life of Our Lord, a book about the life of Christ, written with the purpose of sharing his faith with his children and family.

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Dickens disapproved of Roman Catholicism and 19th-century evangelicalism, seeing both as extremes of Christianity and likely to limit personal expression, and was critical of what he saw as the hypocrisy of religious institutions and philosophies like spiritualism, all of which he considered deviations from the true spirit of Christianity, as shown in the book he wrote for his family in 1846.

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Dickens lasted only ten weeks on the job before resigning due to a combination of exhaustion and frustration with one of the paper's co-owners.

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Francophile Dickens often holidayed in France and, in a speech delivered in Paris in 1846 in French, called the French "the first people in the universe".

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In late November 1851, Dickens moved into Tavistock House where he wrote Bleak House, Hard Times and Little Dorrit .

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When he and Layard were accused of fomenting class conflict, Dickens replied that the classes were already in opposition and the fault was with the aristocratic class.

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Dickens used his pulpit in Household Words to champion the Reform Association.

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In 1857, Dickens hired professional actresses for the play The Frozen Deep, written by him and his protege, Wilkie Collins.

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Dickens fell in love with one of the actresses, Ellen Ternan, and this passion was to last the rest of his life.

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Dickens was 45 and Ternan 18 when he made the decision, which went strongly against Victorian convention, to separate from his wife, Catherine, in 1858; divorce was still unthinkable for someone as famous as he was.

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Dickens's "Drooping Buds" essay in Household Words earlier on 3 April 1852 was considered by the hospital's founders to have been the catalyst for the hospital's success.

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Dickens's first reading tour, lasting from April 1858 to February 1859, consisted of 129 appearances in 49 towns throughout England, Scotland and Ireland.

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Dickens's continued fascination with the theatrical world was written into the theatre scenes in Nicholas Nickleby, but more importantly he found an outlet in public readings.

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In early September 1860, in a field behind Gads Hill, Dickens made a bonfire of most of his correspondence; only those letters on business matters were spared.

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On his death, Dickens settled an annuity on Ternan which made her financially independent.

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Dickens was enthusiastic, and even planned a travel book, The Uncommercial Traveller Upside Down, but ultimately decided against the tour.

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On 9 June 1865, while returning from Paris with Ellen Ternan, Dickens was involved in the Staplehurst rail crash in Kent.

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Dickens later used the experience of the crash as material for his short ghost story, "The Signal-Man", in which the central character has a premonition of his own death in a rail crash.

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Dickens based the story on several previous rail accidents, such as the Clayton Tunnel rail crash in Sussex of 1861.

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Dickens managed to avoid an appearance at the inquest to avoid disclosing that he had been travelling with Ternan and her mother, which would have caused a scandal.

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On 9 November 1867, over two years after the war, Dickens set sail from Liverpool for his second American reading tour.

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Dickens shuttled between Boston and New York, where he gave 22 readings at Steinway Hall.

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Dickens managed, of a contracted 100 readings, to give 75 in the provinces, with a further 12 in London.

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Dickens collapsed on 22 April 1869, at Preston, Lancashire; on doctor's advice, the tour was cancelled.

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On 8 June 1870, Dickens had another stroke at his home after a full day's work on Edwin Drood.

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Dickens never regained consciousness and, the next day, he died at Gads Hill Place.

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Biographer Claire Tomalin has suggested Dickens was actually in Peckham when he had had the stroke and his mistress Ellen Ternan and her maids had him taken back to Gads Hill so that the public would not know the truth about their relationship.

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Dickens was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world.

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On Sunday, 19 June 1870, five days after Dickens was buried in the Abbey, Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley delivered a memorial elegy, lauding "the genial and loving humorist whom we now mourn", for showing by his own example "that even in dealing with the darkest scenes and the most degraded characters, genius could still be clean, and mirth could be innocent".

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Dickens bequeathed £19 19s to each servant in his employment at the time of his death.

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Fielding's Tom Jones was a major influence on the 19th-century novelist including Dickens, who read it in his youth and named a son Henry Fielding Dickens after him.

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In 1838 Dickens travelled to Stratford-upon-Avon and visited the house in which Shakespeare was born, leaving his autograph in the visitors' book.

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Dickens's writing style is marked by a profuse linguistic creativity.

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Dickens worked intensively on developing arresting names for his characters that would reverberate with associations for his readers and assist the development of motifs in the storyline, giving what one critic calls an "allegorical impetus" to the novels' meanings.

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Dickens's literary style is a mixture of fantasy and realism.

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Dickens briefed the illustrator on plans for each month's instalment so that work could begin before he wrote them.

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Dickens employs Cockney English in many of his works, denoting working-class Londoners.

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Dickens's characters were often so memorable that they took on a life of their own outside his books.

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Dickens described London as a magic lantern, inspiring the places and people in many of his novels.

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Dickens's father was sent to prison for debt and this became a common theme in many of his books, with the detailed depiction of life in the Marshalsea prison in Little Dorrit resulting from Dickens's own experiences of the institution.

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Pioneer of the serial publication of narrative fiction, Dickens wrote most of his major novels in monthly or weekly instalments in journals such as Master Humphrey's Clock and Household Words, later reprinted in book form.

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Dickens toned down melodramatic and sensationalist exaggerations, cut long passages, and made suggestions about plot and character.

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Dickens had not thought of killing Little Nell and it was Forster who advised him to entertain this possibility as necessary to his conception of the heroine.

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Dickens's novels were, among other things, works of social commentary.

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At a time when Britain was the major economic and political power of the world, Dickens highlighted the life of the forgotten poor and disadvantaged within society.

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Dickens's writings inspired others, in particular journalists and political figures, to address such problems of class oppression.

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Karl Marx asserted that Dickens "issued to the world more political and social truths than have been uttered by all the professional politicians, publicists and moralists put together".

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Dickens is often described as using idealised characters and highly sentimental scenes to contrast with his caricatures and the ugly social truths he reveals.

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Question as to whether Dickens belongs to the tradition of the sentimental novel is debatable.

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In Oliver Twist Dickens provides readers with an idealised portrait of a boy so inherently and unrealistically good that his values are never subverted by either brutal orphanages or coerced involvement in a gang of young pickpockets.

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Dickens's fiction, reflecting what he believed to be true of his own life, makes frequent use of coincidence, either for comic effect or to emphasise the idea of providence.

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Dickens was the most popular novelist of his time, and remains one of the best-known and most-read of English authors.

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Dickens's works have never gone out of print, and have been adapted continually for the screen since the invention of cinema, with at least 200 motion pictures and TV adaptations based on Dickens's works documented.

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Dickens created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest British novelist of the Victorian era.

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Virginia Woolf had a love-hate relationship with Dickens, finding his novels "mesmerizing" while reproving him for his sentimentalism and a commonplace style.

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Dickens was a favourite author of Roald Dahl; the best-selling children's author would include three of Dickens's novels among those read by the title character in his 1988 novel Matilda.

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In 1960 a bas-relief sculpture of Dickens, notably featuring characters from his books, was commissioned from sculptor Estcourt J Clack to adorn the office building built on the site of his former home at 1 Devonshire Terrace, London.

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Dickens catalysed the emerging Christmas as a family-centred festival of generosity, in contrast to the dwindling community-based and church-centred observations, as new middle-class expectations arose.

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Dickens was commemorated on the Series E £10 note issued by the Bank of England that circulated between 1992 and 2003.

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Dickens's portrait appeared on the reverse of the note accompanied by a scene from The Pickwick Papers.

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The Charles Dickens School is a high school in Broadstairs, Kent.

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In 2002, Dickens was number 41 in the BBC's poll of the 100 Greatest Britons.

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Dickens published well over a dozen major novels and novellas, a large number of short stories, including a number of Christmas-themed stories, a handful of plays, and several non-fiction books.

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Dickens's novels were initially serialised in weekly and monthly magazines, then reprinted in standard book formats.

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