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The Old Curiosity Shop

Charles Dickens

Book Overview: 

The Old Curiosity Shop tells the story of Little Nell, a beautiful and virtuous young girl who lives with her grandfather in his shop of curiosities. Her grandfather loves her dearly, and Nell does not complain, but she lives a lonely existence without friends of her own age. Her only friend is Kit, an honest young lad who works at the shop, and whom she is teaching to write. Unbeknownst to Nell, her grandfather is obsessed with their precarious financial position and is attempting to make Nell a good inheritance by winning at cards. He keeps these nocturnal activities a secret, but borrows heavily from the evil Quilp, a dwarf, in order to raise new capital. In the end, he gambles away what little money they own, and Quilp seizes the opportunity to take possession of the shop and make Nell’s and her grandfather’s lives a misery. Indeed, her grandfather suffers a breakdown, which leaves him bereft of his wits. Courageously, Nell decides to escape Quilp, and she and her grandfather run away to the country to live as beggars, traveling into the Midlands of England.

There, then, follow the multifarious adventures of Nell and her grandfather, Quilp and his sly minions and accomplices, who would be Nell’s vehement pursuers throughout the entire story, the noble schoolmaster, and many, many other personages as bright and memorable as Dickens’ heroes always are. But… let us hear the story itself, shan’t we?

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Mr Witherden, the notary. 'I have had many a gentleman articled to me, ma'am, many a one. Some of them are now rolling in riches, unmindful of their old companion and friend, ma'am, others are in the habit of calling upon me to this day and saying, "Mr Witherden, some of the pleasantest hours I ever spent in my life were spent in this office—were spent, Sir, upon this very stool"; but there was never one among the number, ma'am, attached as I have been to many of them, of whom I augured such bright things as I do of your only son.'

'Oh dear!' said the old lady. 'How happy you do make us when you tell us that, to be sure!'

'I tell you, ma'am,' said Mr Witherden, 'what I think as an honest man, which, as the poet observes, is the noblest work of God. I agree with the poet in every particular, ma'am. The mountainous Alps on the one hand, or a humming-bird on the other, is nothing, in point of workmanship, to an honest man—or woman&. . . Read More

Community Reviews

“Such is the difference between yesterday and today. We are all going to the play, or coming home from it.”
Charles Dickens ~~ The Old Curiosity Shop

I have a strange history with The Old Curiosity Shop. I bought it in 2009. Started reading it in 2012. Lost it in a move. Found it in 2014. Misplaced...more

The Old Curiosity Shop was the most popular of Dickens's novels during his lifetime. Yet now there is perhaps no other novel by him which splits opinion so much. How can that be?

The simple answer is that tastes change. Just as with modern-day fantasy stories the reader has to suspend their disbel...more

The Old Curiosity Shop, Charles Dickens
The Old Curiosity Shop was printed in book form in 1841. The plot follows the life of Nell Trent and her grandfather, both residents of The Old Curiosity Shop in London.
The old curiosity shop, Charles Dickens, London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd; New York: E....more

In the slums of London in the mid 1800's, on a dirty, lonely and obscure street, a crumbling house still stands, The Old Curiosity Shop. Inside lives an old man (never named), and his pretty, young granddaughter, Nell Trent in the back of the building. An older, lazy brother of Nell's, Frederick...more

A Treacly Treat

Written between the spring of 1840 and the late autumn of 1841 for the weekly serial “Master Humphrey’s Clock”, Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop is utterly blemished by the constraints on a writer’s imagination such a serial publication demands, for the novel is extremely ill-compo...more

Charles Dickens likes to beat the shit out of his main characters. It's like a form of domestic abuse!

Has he beaten the crap out of another character more than poor little Nell from The Old Curiosity Shop? Certainly Pip and Oliver get theirs. But at least with them there's some sort of happy endi...more

Not too sentimental. Oscar Wilde was clearly in a bad mood. Boasts the evillest dwarf outside German folklore, the irrepressible Qulip. Cute kid (view spoiler)[who dies (hide spoiler)] and her put-upon granddaddy (view spoiler)[who dies (hide spoiler)] in King Lear and Cordelia metaphor. A crackerbox of eccentrics: the morally unsure Dick Swiveller, the rut...more

Another masterful confection of pathos and comic genius, this time featuring such characters as the slacker Dick Swiveler and the cruel Daniel Quilp.

My generic comment about Charles Dickens:
First of all, although I am a partisan of Dickens' writing and have read and relished most his works, I con...more

"One must have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without laughing."
Oscar Wilde

In this, the third Dickens novel (1841), one can see Dickens stropping his sharp sabre of social satire with the tale of "little" Nell Trent (almost 14) and her emotionally unstable grandfather going on...more

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