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Volume Seven The Companion to Great Expectations by David Paroissien
978-1-873403-57-0, Helm, Aug 2000, 528pp, £50.00 [Purchase Online]

Dickens's thirteenth novel has remained pre-eminent among readers for good reasons. Great Expectations (published originally as a weekly serial in All the Year Round from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861) has an attractive yet flawed first-person narrator. The plot moves forward with compelling momentum, fuelled by mystery, romance and reversals and graced with an artistry many consider Dickens's most nearly perfect literary achievement.
   This new study sets out to recover and illuminate the Victorian culture and allusive verbal worlds that inform the novel. How distinctive are the story's temporal and topographical settings? How carefully has Dickens integrated Pip's life’s story with the embedded histories of a mad, jilted spinster, a beautiful orphan girl, an unscrupulous con man, a fierce yet tender convict and a brilliant criminal lawyer?

Great Expectations

What relevance does the then of Pip's childhood and the now when he relates the story of his evolution into a gentleman have to the controversial ending Dickens adopted on the advice of a fellow novelist?
   David Paroissien draws on a range of nineteenth-century sources to illuminate the novel's late Georgian and mid-Victorian contexts: the brutal punishments that characterized Hanoverian England's legal system; the transportation of felons and their rough lives in Australia's first penal colony; the social mobility a public school education conferred on a swindler and forger, the struggle to gain the desired status of ‘gentleman’ among brewers, bakers and a raw young blacksmith from the country ignorant of the ways of society and its social graces; the genteel city of Rochester whose quiet nooks and stately historic houses exercised a powerful hold over Dickens’s imagination, the nearby Hoo peninsula, with its lonely marsh villages and picturesque churchyards; and the changing face of early nineteenth-century London, with its Inns of Chancery and Inns of Court, the vibrant life on the Thames, where watermen struggle against steamers as technological changes brought the old and the new face to face; and the river's lower, deserted reaches by mists, marshes and tidal flats, which serve as background for the novel's brilliantly menacing opening.

About Volume 7: The Companion to ‘Great Expectations’, by David Paroissien The main aim of the ‘Companions’ series to Dickens novels (formerly published by Unwin Hyman) is to provide much more detailed factual and discursive annotations to the texts of Dickens’s fifteen novels than traditional editions usually provide, and Paroissien’s knowledgeable commentary (over 400 pages of it) achieves this admirably. The annotations are clearly keyed to the Norton text of Great Expectations, edited by Edgar Rosenberg (q. v.), but will function with any modern edition. There is a generous accompaniment of illustrations and maps to support the annotations and three geographical appendices, which, as Paroissien explains in a helpful introduction (1-14), are important because Dickens’s ‘compelling topographical verisimilitude’ in the novel arises from his having based the novel on worlds he had known from childhood: ‘the Hoo peninsula of north-east Kent, the city of Rochester ...and the various London locales that appear’ (7). Two other appendices offer information about the complex chronology of the action (‘The Sequence of Events in Pip’s Narrative’) and dates and statistics cocerning the ‘Serial Instalments in ‘All The Year Round’, the weekly magazine in which the novel was originally published. The book will be particularly useful to those who teach ‘Great Expectations’ as a set text, and who need to field all manner of questions relating to the Victorian way of life and Dickens’s use of slang, topical references, literary allusion, and so forth. It is a mine of interesting information in its own right, scrupulously sourced, and read in conjunction with the novel, will prove a valuable corrective to the tendency to over-theorise readings of the text, at the expense of understanding its socio-historical context.  (jodrew) John Drew, ABES

David Paroissien, éditeur du Dickens Quarterly et de la série "The Dickens Companions", nous offre, à la suite de son Companion to Oliver Twist, un travail remarquable sur Great Expectations. II aura sa place comme œuvre de référence indispensable à toute étude approfondie du roman, qu’elle soit linguistique, post-structuraliste ou histonque, dans les bibliographies dignes de ce nom. Dans ses 506 pages, rien n’est superflu. Se manifestent une érudition minutieuse ainsi qu’une large panoplie d’approches critiques victorianistes. Phrases, expressions et noms propres sont passés au crible de fines analyses, comme celle qui tente d’éclairer la célèbre (et très ambiguë) dernière phrase du roman : "I saw the shadow of no parting from her". Les variantes de cette phrase sont étudiées afin de peser la signification de chaque changement opéré par Dickens. Le travail d’un critique est cité pour expliquer l’élimination des mots "but one", originellement rajoutés en fin de phrase : "that last chord [was] a needlessly distracting obtrusion on an already long and moving sentence, which reaches its appropriate climax in the parting words to which the cadences lead up. Possibly, too, he objected to the mawkishness of the phrase or, more emphatically, refused to end the novel on a quasi-religious note" D. Paroissien fournit ensuite un extrait de la fin de Eugene Aram qui ressemble à celle que Dickens a finalement choisie sur les conseils de Bulwer Lytton. Cette volonté de s’ouvrir aux textes contemporains et anciens et d’établir des liens est typique de l’ouvrage. L’introduction fait preuve de cette même volonté. II convient, pour finir, de citer un exemple de l’onomastique qu’offre Paroissien dans cet ouvrage et qui constitue un outil précieux pour les chercheurs et les étudiants non-anglophones: "JAGGERS: ‘Jag,’ to pierce or stab, and ‘yaeger,’ an anglicized version of ‘jaeger,’ a German or Swiss hunter, have been proposed as possible etymologies for the lawyer’s name; ‘Jaggers’ also appears to combine a pun on the lawyer’s sharpness (like a dagger) and on his ability to ‘stagger’ others with questions and a ‘jagged’ style of dealing with people (Peacock 400). Compare also two slang terms: ‘Jock Gaggers,’ nineteenth-century ‘Flash’ for men who lived on wives or whores, and Hotten’s ‘JAGGER,a gentleman …’" Outre cette étymologie détaillée, que sauront apprécier même les anglophones, on peut évoquer les appendices, les index, les cartes, les illustrations et la bibliographie qui sont de toute première qualité et aident le lecteur à naviguer aisément à travers le livre. Sara Thornton (Université de Paris VII), Études anglaises, 53, 4, 2000.


Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, A Norton Critical Edition, Ed. Edgar Rosenberg, New York/ London, W.W. Norton & Co., 1999, pp. xxvi +750, $15.

David Paroissien, The Companion to "Great Expectations", Mountfield near Robertsbridge, Helm Information Ltd., 2000, pp. xvi + 506, £50.

As a natural next stage, that endeavour continues in Paroissien’s Companion, which is primarily a companion to the Norton edition of Great Expectations. It bases its commentary upon the Norton text and summarises and often expands upon the salient findings of Rosenberg. While the Norton edition devotes nearly equal attention to the reality contained within the novel (including the manuscripts) and the reality of the world outside, the balance shifts considerably in the Companion. Here almost the entire effort is to situate us in the world of the earliest readers of Great Expectations in order to "restore some sense of how it might have been read in Dickens’s time" (p. 10). Reading in this manner (although I have reservations about this) may best facilitate an apprehension of the truth of the story. To reconstruct that historical reality, Paroissien doubles or trebles, beyond Rosenberg’s practice, the number of items from the text to receive long annotating commentary. Often we may be surprised by the decision to annotate a passage that would not seem to require commentary at all. But then we find that Paroissien does possess valuable information that unexpectedly enriches our understanding of what we had thought was clear. The commentary sometimes dazzles us in that we come to wonder how Paroissien has managed to learn so much about so many out of the way aspects of the Victorian reality. Apparently his familiarity with that reality equals his familiarity with the reality of our own times. Generally he gives sources for his information, but sometimes the source of his knowledge remains intriguingly mysterious. (How does he know, for example, about the three kinds of "great floating buoys", "conical, spherical and cans" [p. 390]?)

An important feature of the reality that he seeks to reconstruct is its topography. Contending that Great Expectations with its strong "sense of place" is Dickens’s nearest approach to the "regional novel" (pp. 7-8), he attempts to recover for us the historical actuality of the Dickensian settings. Rochester and the Hoo Peninsula, the London quarters of the Temple and Little Britain, the banks of the Thames also receive extensive attention in appendices. While Dickens accurately reports the characteristics of actual places, however, it proves interesting to notice too where he "necessarily depart[s] from reality". The result manifests a "compromise between the inventive requirements of the novelist and those of the journalist committed to reportage" (p. 437). The blending of "fiction and reality" occurs especially in the invention of "plausible but imaginary names beyond the reach of the most determined source hunter" (440).

Besides recovering the spatial features of Dickens’s world, Paroissien has worked valiantly to reconstruct the temporal dimension. The chronology of the story has often seemed problematically to involve inconsistencies and anachronisms. Rosenberg has noticed, for example, that at the real historical moment Pip, Herbert and Startop would have been arrested, tried and condemned to prison terms as "accessories after the fact" of Magwitch’s crime (p. 461). And in another discussion of the novel’s chronology, which gives credit to Rosenberg and others and is reprinted in the Norton edition, Anny Sadrin also finds some "inconsistency", though it is not very serious: "the time-frame […] is narrower than one would like it to be" (p. 543). Building on her evidence, Paroissien seems then to succeed more fully in the elaboration of a coherent time-frame. His "Hypothetical Chronology" occupies ten pages of an appendix and constitutes an absorbing historical narrative in itself of the datable events significant for the novel — from 1760 (Magwitch’s birth) to 1860-1 (Pip’s composition of his memoirs). What Paroissien narrates here corresponds to the raw materials of the fabula as opposed to the syuzhet (of the Russian formalists) — or to the histoire as opposed to the récit. Although this histoire seems plausible, however, as an antecedent "reality" upon which the novelist has drawn for his imaginative récit, it is itself only a virtual reality or a fiction. Since one doubts that Dickens himself had worked out the histoire to that extent, Paroissien’s construction of it, after the fact of the récit, makes it the effect and not the cause of the récit.

This observation is not of course intended as a criticism of Paroissien’s impressive achievement. He deserves praise for the imaginative gathering of so many facts into a coherent consistency. Indeed like the other works of the series, his Companion does not simply report miscellaneous facts but rather organises its material in perspectives that bring to life a whole world, parallel to the world within the novel. I would not recommend one to accompany a reading of Great Expectations with a simultaneous reading of the Companion, turning back and forth between the two. But readers already familiar with Great Expectations will find their experience immensely enriched by a subsequent reading, not just a consultation, of the Companion. Like all good historical texts, it is itself a sort of narrative that in seeking, impossibly, to reconstruct a world creates a new, partially fictitious one. Final points of strength are a bibliography and an index, each of about twenty-five pages, and the only regret is that the cost of the volume will not allow ordinary students of Dickens to purchase it. Allan C. Christensen, Rivista di Studi Vittoriani , 1, January 2001

The first notice we had that David Paroissien had written a Companion to Great Expectations appeared in the bibliographical notes of Edgar Rosenberg’s 1999 Norton Critical Edition of the novel. That Paroissien should be quoted on the back cover, along with several others, praising Rosenberg’s work was what one would expect. But the Paroissien book, though cited, had not yet been published.

Great Expectations does not permit its devotees to meet deadlines. Rosenberg’s edition, for example, had been announced as much as twenty years before it appeared. And Paroissien’s volume, now safely to hand and dated 2000, tells us that it was seven years in the making, the length of time Pip expected to be apprenticed to Joe. Time, to such scholars, is best occupied in service to the timeless.

Paroissien chooses as his text Rosenberg’s, and having it handy makes it easy to find the passages being referred to. For a reviewer, too, Rosenberg’s richly annotated work serves as an excellent source against which to check and compare Paroissien’s notations (An appendix to this review will deal with a few interesting differences.)

David Paroissien is known to many of us as the editor of Dickens Quarterly and, among several other accomplishments, as the author of a well praised earlier volume in the Dickens Companion series, that for Oliver Twist. The series has reaffirmed once more both how little our generation knows about early-and-mid-Victorian life and how deeply and specifically the works of Dickens are embedded in those times. As we do with Shakespeare, we can read Dickens’s works without annotations, but we require scholarly assistance to experience the texts in their fullness.

Paroissien proves himself once more an able and learned cicerone. To begin with, his Companion to ‘Great Expectations’ is a well produced and printed book of some five hundred pages, four hundred of which are given to notes on the novel. The rest includes five appendices (of which more later) and twenty-eight illustrations, the whole introduced by a succinct, well written, and fresh introduction.

We always want to know how a Dickens novel came to be written, and Great Expectations is a special case. Because of its unexpected and rapid appearance, Paroissien wittily refers to it as "the novel from nowhere." In the summer of 1860 there were hints that Dickens was working on a "new book", but what book on what subject is somewhat uncertain. He was evidently planning another twenty-number novel. All that year he had been writing essays under the general title of The Uncommercial Traveller for publication in his weekly journal All the Year Round, and by the first week of October sixteen segments had appeared. At some point in the writing of these essays—Forster (9,2) is not specific as to date—Dickens wrote a "little piece" which he promised to send to his friend, but he was already canceling it in his mind, "such a very fine, new, and grotesque idea" it had "opened upon" him. He would "reserve the notion for a new book." And "this," says Forster, was "the germ of Pip and Magwitch."

From the journal’s beginning Dickens had promised readers that its first pages would always be devoted to "a continuous original work of fiction," but it became clear that the current novel by Charles Lever was meeting with flagging interest. Dickens then decided to "strike in" with a new novel for the journal. Once he set to it, he wrote so quickly that he finished five weekly segments of Great Expectations by the end of October, began publishing that December, and still found time in November to write his annual Christmas number. On June 11, he reported to a friend that he had completed the novel. Though still busy with other things, he had taken just eight months to create "perhaps [his] most nearly perfect artistic achievement" (P,2).

Paroissien scans all records we have of CD’s thoughts on the novel before and during composition, and an untypically spare record it is for the later Dickens. Whence then the rapidity of composition and the apparent ease with which Dickens found subject, title, mood, and plot? Paroissien points most interestingly to directions that also help justify his own extensive factual annotating, particularly those of "travel, topography, and time." Briefly, Great Expectations emerged from Dickens’s own worlds, those of Kent and London, and the voice with which he has Pip speak has overtones of the voice Dickens had been developing during the writing of The Uncommercial Traveller essays.

As for time, Paroissien looks more deeply than anyone else I know into the dual chronology of the novel, the period of its action, from roughly 1803 to 1832, and the time when Pip is writing his memoirs, 1860-1. Its "telling time" has previously remained vague, but Paroissien has spied out multiple references in the novel to occurrences of the 1860s congruent with Pip’s adult, speaking self. Pip, Paroissien avers, speaks to us at just about the time Dickens writes for us. For Victorian readers who would know such references the time problem did not exist. Before he completed the novel Dickens’s own calculations checked for consistency his dates and the ages of his principals. Using these materials and splicing in all he can gleam from the novel and its backgrounds, Paroissien sets out in Appendix One a hypothetical chronology for the events of the novel beginning with the birth of Magwitch (1760) and ending with the arrival of the last convict ship in Western Australia, seven years after Pip finishes his memoirs.

Place is similarly interesting. Paroissien finds that too literal an identification of an actual place with the scene Dickens actually evokes may lead to error. For one may seek for correspondences where none exists. In those cases, Dickens would have created composite places and "compromise[d] the inventive requirements of the novelist and those of the journalist committed to reportage." Thus in Appendix Two, on "The Hoo Peninsula and Rochester" Paroissien resists a simple identification of specific place with a scene of action, particularly when dealing with Pip on the "meshes." In London, Paroissien finds Dickens locales more readily identified, and the third appendix illuminates the choices and the uses thereof that Dickens makes. Eleven pages of maps based on mid-nineteenth-century drawings flesh out this section of the book still further.

The question of the endings of the novel comes in for brief examination as well. Basing his argument on the chronology and "the ensuing and unbroken elegiac voice," and three literary antecedents he cites, Paroissien stands for the superiority of the original ending. The argument will never be quite settled, but I entirely agree with Paroissien that tonal and thematic consistency should determine which ending we prefer.

The bulk of The Companion to ‘Great Expectations’ is given over to annotations of several hundred textual words and phrases, both to explain their meanings and, where appropriate, to put them in full context. Here, if ever, Paroissien’s passion for finding the illuminating detail and for getting the detail right is evident. What to include and what exclude in such compendia are always barbed questions. We tend to think that what we already know need not appear, forgetting that others may not be similarly apprised. For Paroissien, getting the genuine feel of Victorian life as it emerged from quotidian, concrete circumstances, current events, domestic manners is what he aims at. He does not blink at telling us too much, when his interests, and surely some of his readers, demand full disclosure.

The abandoned brewery at Miss Havisham’s sets him off on what such buildings were like, what casks and utensils were used, and how beer and ale were brewed. Joe’s account of how his drunken father used to beat his mother occasions an account of wife-beating among the working classes and further citations of wife-beatings in Dickens and other Victorian writers. The bedstead in the soldiers’ hut in Chapter Five brings us the information that soldiers in barracks generally slept four together in cribs and that the mangle, to which Dickens compares their bed, was a clothes-pressing instrument over six feet long and three feet wide. The entry for the first mention of Miss Havisham occupies full four pages on "a range of actual and fictional prototypes." Each has such a core of possibility that one becomes disposed to believe that Dickens drew from all the suggested sources! And I did not know—did you?—that shrouds "used for the rich were often fine fabrics painted or soaked with wax or some other adhesive substance." I shiver at the thought that Miss Havisham’s veil reminded Pip of a such a garment .

Some more? We recall the four mourning rings worn by Mr. Wemmick as he shows Pip to his new quarters; Paroissien tells us what they were like and what varieties there were. The old Covent Garden, although it is visible in some Hitchcock movies, is now no more, and so it gets twenty-two lines here. We might know the meaning of "whitlow," but we did not know that Victorian medical practitioners identified three kinds of the infection. (Did the Victorians have dirtier hands and feet than we do?) Such references as the one to "the sight of people passing beyond the bars of the court-yard gate" at Satis House do not escape Paroissien’s notice. "Passers-by in Crow Lane," he says, "are easily visible from the courtyard as one looks towards the street." (104) Clearly, Paroissien has visited Restoration House, the original of Satis House, just off Rochester High Street and checked on this detail (as Dickens had?).

Even with all this before us—since reviewers are expected to find matters to complain of—we ask whether we need be told that candles were an important source of artificial light in households for much of the nineteenth century (47), or what a pantry is, or read a citation from one of Mrs. Ellis’s conduct books to certify that Mrs. Pocket is not bringing up her children properly? It is clear, too, that Professor Paroissien does not suffer from gout or otherwise he would not speak of it in the past tense, and he would know that the diet prescribed by Victorian doctors, though overly restrictive, is on the right track. I confess that I read with interest Paroissien’s entry on "Beggar my neighbour" (Estella beggars Pip, you recall), and even though I have no neighbor to ruin, was disappointed not to be given the rules.

But petty complaints aside, readers will find Paroissien’s companionship rich in research of breadth-taking fullness. It is a grand effort at "pulling together materials about each point in question." He began his work by asking himself a series of questions: "Do the novel’s various contexts shed light on its composition and on Dickens’s working methods? By paying attention to details of travel, topography and time, can we further our understanding of the voice of the narrator, of the distinctiveness of his retrospective stance as he surveys his past and talks about the great love of his life? By assembling information [on a wide range of subjects] can we gain insight into the continuing debate about the two endings? To put the question bluntly in the manner of Mr. Jaggers: what can the annotator usefully contribute to any novel as secure in its status as Great Expectations? (6,7)

It is clear that this scholarly and relentless researcher has found the answers to his questions to be a decided, "Yes!" to the first and "A great deal!" to the last. Patrick McCarthy, DICKNS-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU

Restoration House in Rochester, Kent, in which Dickens situated the eternally unhappy Miss Havisham, is open to the public for the first time. Dickens called it "Satis House". As Estella tells Pip, "Satis; which is Greek, or Latin, or Hebrew, or all three . . . for enough." Although there was an actual place called Satis House in Rochester, it is thought that Restoration House was in Dickens’s mind when he first led Pip to ring the bell of the building, "which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it".

If in any doubt, consult The Companion to Great Expectations by David Paroissien, an extraordinary behind-the-scenes tour of Dickens’s novel. Describing the less than gracious welcome extended to Pip, Dickens writes that "the window was shut again, and a young lady came across the court-yard". Mr Paroissien is not content to let it go at that: "Several windows in front of Restoration House afford a view of the courtyard and would allow one to observe visitors. Estella appears to approach from an entrance in the south wing." And have you ever wondered about Joe’s dog? In Chapter 8, Mr Jaggers asks, "Do you keep a dog?" Joe answers "Yes". But where is the critter? Paroissien reveals that "the dog referred to never makes an appearance in the novel".

The Companion also includes an appendix on the troublesome issue of chronology. Dickens conceded little more than that "Pip was about 7 at the opening of the story", but the ingenious Paroissien knows more than that. He has deduced that Pip was born in November 1797, the same year as Mr Herbert Pocket (born in March). The first visit to Satis House takes place in December 1804, by which time Miss Havisham has been in situ for twelve years. When Pip and Magwitch attempt their escape down the Thames, it is 1821; Pip will not get round to writing his memoirs for another forty years. In the meantime (winter, 1832), he has returned to Satis, but found "no house now, no brewery, no building whatever left". The current owner, Richard Tucker, would be surprised to hear it. He has overseen a restoration of Restoration House, which is open on Thursdays and Fridays, until September 29. The Companion to Great Expectations is published by Helm Information of Mountfield, East Sussex TN32 5JY, at £50. The Times Literary Supplement, 25 August 2000.

The Companion to Great Expectations is the seventh of the series, and it is proportionately much bigger than its predecessors. The Companion to Bleak House, for example, devoted 340 pages to a novel that in my antique Penguin edition occupied some 900 pages. By contrast, Great Expectations, 500 pages in Penguin, gets 500 pages of companionship. Is the text of Great Expectations three times as rich in allusion as Bleak House? Is it more firmly locked into its historical background and therefore more in need of a strong key to release it? Or has David Paroissien done what Dr Blimber did to Mr Toots and simply crammed too much in?

Well, not the latter, I think. If we take the commentary on the novel’s first two paragraphs as a sample, we get a fair idea of Paroissien’s sensitivity to Dickens’s textual richness. So, on the hero’s name, we are given a useful link with Sidney’s Astrophel and Stella, succinct notes on the resonances of ‘Pip’, its appearances elsewhere in Dickens, and a possible connection with ‘Pippo’ in H. J. Byron’s play, The Maid and the Magpie. There follow notes on the status of the nineteenth-century blacksmith, ‘the days of photographs’, and the headstones and their accompanying ‘lozenges’. These last are especially helpful.

But do we need Companions? Don’t all decent editions of the novels supply us with adequate notes? It is worth comparing Paroissien’ s offerings on the lozenges with what we get elsewhere. Most editions mention Cooling churchyard, Penguin saying that the lozenges were for ‘twelve small brothers and sisters of the same family’, which Dickens ‘reduced to five’. The Guiliano-Collins edition says as much, and names the Comport family. The Norton Critical Edition footnote merely tells us that the French meaning of ‘lozenge’ is ‘rhomboid’, but Norton carries as an appendix James T. Fields’s account of his visit with Dickens to Cooling. The current Worlds Classics edition has a terse entry on lozenges, and a general one on the marsh country.

Paroissien gives us much better information for assessing how Dickens used source material. There are thirteen small graves, not twelve, and they come in two sets, one set of three belonging to the Baker family, the other set of ten to the Comports, with the burials dating from 1767 to 1854. The deaths therefore took place over three generations, and to give Pip five dead brothers is consistent with historical Comport fact. Paroissien also includes a good photograph of the Comport graves.

Paroissien seems to have a comprehensive knowledge of Dickens at his fingertips. In commenting on the two opening paragraphs he cites parallels from the Book of Memoranda, Martin Chuzzlewit, Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, the Letters, and articles in Household Words and All the Year Round. His alertness in this regard never flags throughout the volume, and in addition he draws on a vast range of appropriate background works, to tell us about all sorts of relevant things – buildings and streets in London, transportation, Victorian mealtimes, cottage economy, popular entertainment, funeral customs, and the healing properties of watercress.

The volume has other good things too. There are excellent maps of Rochester and the marsh country; of the Thames (very useful for chapter fifty-four, when Magwitch is rowed down river); and of Little Britain. There is a Plan of the Temple, which shows us just how many gates Wemmick had to visit with his ‘Don’t Go Home’ message for Pip.

Most interesting of all is the 10-page Appendix entitled ‘The Sequence of Events in Pip’s Narrative’. This consists largely of a hypothetical chronology that takes us into the much-debated question of exactly when the novel is set. Some critics have claimed that Great Expectations is inconsistent in time setting and has several anachronisms, but Paroissien shows that Dickens had a firm notion of when everything in the novel happened. If we start from the assumption ‘that Magwitch returns to England in November 1820, shortly after Pip’s 23rd birthday’, and make use of our knowledge of when one-pound notes were legal tender, everything else falls into place. We are able for example to work out birth dates for all the main characters, and at the climax of the action we can follow Pip on a day-to-day, if not an hourly, basis.

The copious detail of the Companion, then, is illuminating, and eminently justified. On the other hand, has anything been overlooked in this very lengthy work? Perhaps one thing: an appendix could have been devoted to the ways in which the novel has been illustrated, and to film versions. And possibly a further detail might have been added on the Comport graves. In the essay ‘City of London Churches’, the Uncommercial Traveller finds the name Jane Comport in an old prayer book in a dusty church, and weaves a sad romantic tale around it. The essay was published in All the Year Round on 5 May 1860 and is a sign that Comports (and therefore Cooling) had already worked their way into Dickens’s imagination. It also lends some support to Paroissien’s claim that the essays in The Uncommercial Traveller ‘constitute a kind of pre-writing’ which anticipates ‘the distinctive narrative voice Dickens develops for Pip’.

The General Editors to the series hoped at the outset that these volumes would ‘be read with a pleasure akin to that with which Dickens’s own writings are read’. In this instance it can confidently be predicted that readers will get that kind of pleasure, a pleasure that is considerably enhanced by following the editor’s advice to use the Companion in conjunction with the superb Norton Critical Edition. Since Norton & Norton are unlikely to put out editions of every Dickens novel, lovers of Great Expectations should consider themselves supremely blest to have two such works of scholarship available to them. Alan Dilnot, Monash University, The Dickensian, 98 (Spring 2002), 54–6.

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