- Publisher: Bantam USA
- Format: Paperback | 280 pages
- Dimensions: 107mm x 175mm x 20mm | 91g
- Publication date: 1 January 1991
- Publication City/Country: New York
- ISBN 10: 0553210165
- ISBN 13: 9780553210163
- Edition statement: Reissue
- Sales rank: 105,214
The 'terrible mistake' was the contemporary utilitarian philosophy, expounded in Hard Times (1854) as the Philosophy of Fact by the hard-headed disciplinarian Thomas Gradgrind. But the novel, Dickens's shortest, is more than a polemical tract for the times; the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father is one of Dickens's triumphs. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage, falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to reconsider his cherished system. Yet even as the development of the story reflects Dickens's growing pessimism about human nature and society, Hard Times marks his return to the theme which had made his early works so popular: the amusements of the people. Sleary's circus represents Dickens's most considered defence of the necessity of entertainment, and infuses the novel with the good humour which has ensured its appeal to generations of readers.
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Charles Dickens was born in a little house in Landport, Portsea, England, on February 7th, 1812. At the age of eleven, Dickens was taken out of school and sent to work in a London blacking warehouse, where his job was to paste labels on bottles for six shillings a week. When the family fortunes improved, Charles went back to school, after which he became an office boy, a freelance reporter, and finally an author. With" Pickwick Papers" (1836-7) he achieved immediate fame; in a few years he was easily the most popular and respected writer of his time. It has been estimated that one out of every ten persons in Victorian England was a Dickens reader. "Oliver Twist" (1837), "Nicholas Nickelby" (1838-9), and "The Old Curiosity Shop" (1840-41) were huge successes. "Martin Chuzzlewit" (1843-4) was less so, but Dickens followed it with his unforgettable "A Christmas Carol" (1843). "Bleak House" (1852-3), "Hard Times" (1854), and "Little Dorrit" (1855-7) reveal his deepening concern for the injustices of British society. "A Tale of Two Cities "(1859), "Great Expectations "(1860-61) and "Our Mutual Friend" (1864-5) complete his major works.
Back cover copy
Hard Times appeared in weekly parts in Household Words in 1854, printed on the pages usually occupied by leading articles on the major social issues of the day. In the overlapping worlds of Gradgrind's schoolroom, Bounderby the humbug industrialist and Sissy Jupe of Sleary's Circus, Dickens joyfully satirizes Utilitarianism, the self-help doctrines of Samuel Smiles and the mechanization of the mid-Victorian soul. Although it is often called Dickens's 'industrial novel', as Kate Flint argues in her new Introduction Hard Times defies easy categorization. It is a novel deeply preoccupied with childhood and family life, bursting with unresolvable tensions and contradictions and wonderfully entertaining in its metaphorical wit and invention.
Written deliberately to increase the circulation of Dickens's weekly magazine, "Household Words, Hard Times was a huge and instantaneous success upon publication in 1854. Yet this novel is not the cheerful celebration of Victorian life one might have expected from the beloved author of "The Pickwick Papers and "The Old Curiosity Shop. Compressed, stark, allegorical, it is a bitter expose of capitalist exploitation during the industrial revolution-and a fierce denunciation of the philosophy of materialism, which threatens the human imagination in all times and places. With a typically unforgettable cast of characters-including the heartless fact-worshipper Mr. Gradgrind, the warmly endearing Sissy Jupe, and the eternally noble Stephen Blackpool-"Hard Times carries a uniquely powerful message and remains one of the most widely read of Dickens's major novels.