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Dombey and Son

Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son, No. V

Serialized cover of Dombey and Son, No. V, the volume in which the young, sickly Paul Dombey finally passes.

Charles Dickens was a master storyteller. Many of his novels were published in serialized parts in the periodical press, often with dramatic endings to each part, leaving readers on the edge of their seats until the next installment. Dickens began writing Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son: Wholesale, Retail and for Exportation, in 1846 and produced 19 monthly installments until April 1848. The novel touches upon many issues in British society, including England's relationship with the East India Company, the inner workings of a family torn apart by death and, of course, the railroad.

Shortly after young Paul's death, Mr. Dombey travels on the railroad to Leamington for a trip with his friend, Major Bagstock. Mr. Dombey's own anxiety is reflected in Dickens' description of the fast-moving train:

"Away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, from the town, burrowing among the dwellings of men and making the streets hum, flashing out into the meadows for a moment, mining in through the damp earth, booming on in darkness and heavy air, bursting out again into the sunny day so bright and wide; away, with a shriek, and a roar, and a rattle, through the fields, through the woods, through the corn, through the hay, through the chalk, through the mould, through the clay, through the rock, among objects close at hand and almost in the grasp, ever flying from the traveller, and a deceitful distance ever moving slowly within him: like as in the track of the remorseless monster, Death!" (Chapter 20).

Dombey and Son, The Literary Examiner

Review of Dombey and Son by John Forster (Literary Examiner, October 28, 1848).

As authors released novels' monthly parts in the press, newspapers provided summaries, reviews, and reactions to installments thus far. Dickens' novels were often a popular topic in the Literary Examiner, part of the Examiner, a weekly paper with regular contributions from Dickens himself, William Makepeace Thackeray, and Dickens' long-time friend and biographer, John Forster. Forster was one of the first people to whom Dickens revealed his childhood "blacking-warehouse" experience, which Forster later published in his Life of Dickens (1892).

As the literary critic and editor of the Examiner, Forster's review of Dombey and Son, especially of Paul Dombey's death in No. 5, has become very well known. Forster captures the sensational hold that Dickens had over London and the hearts of families with similar experiences. Forster writes: "There was probably not a family in this country where fictitious literature is read, that did not feel the death of Paul Dombey as something little short of a family sorrow."