Hard Times

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) published this ‘Condition of England’ novel in 1854. His setting was a mythical place called Coketown, partly inspired by a visit to the Northern industrial town of Preston where he had observed a strike. Dickens was motivated by social concerns: he feared that industrialisation and ‘progress’ threatened to stunt human sympathies, forcing people into mechanistic social roles. He conveys what life was like in factory towns by blending documentary realism with imaginative grotesques and vivid, melodramatic elements. Thomas Gradgrind, a staunch advocate of rules and principles, has raised his children in a cold, loveless atmosphere. His Utilitarian philosophy is based upon rational self-interest. The text draws a marked contrast between Fact and Fancy – for the residents of Coketown, delight is found only in the entertainments provided by Sleary's circus.

Hard Times page proofs with manuscript notes

Page containing the opening of Chapter 5, from the proofs for Hard Times with Dickens's handwritten notes

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Charles Dickens
Victorian literature
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