Nicholas Nickleby (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

Nicholas Nickleby (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

by Charles Dickens, Jill Muller

NOOK Book(eBook)

$3.99 View All Available Formats & Editions

Available on Compatible NOOK Devices and the free NOOK Apps.
WANT A NOOK?  Explore Now
LEND ME® See Details


Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:
  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.


Left penniless by the death of his improvident father, young Nicholas Nickleby assumes responsibility for his mother and sister and seeks help from his Scrooge-like Uncle Ralph. Instantly disliking Nicholas, Ralph sends him to teach in a school run by the stupidly sadistic Wackford Squeers. Nicholas decides to escape, taking with him the orphan Smike, one of Squeers’s most abused young charges, and the two embark on a series of adventurous encounters with an array of humanity’s worst and best—greedy fools, corrupt lechers, cheery innocents, and selfless benefactors.

Though one of Dickens’s earliest works, Nicholas Nickleby features many of his familiar trademarks: a long, complex plot full of surprising twists, unexpected revelations, and jaw-dropping coincidences; a crowded cast of colorful (and memorably named) characters, among them Vincent Crummles, Newman Noggs, and Sir Mulberry Hawk; and an emotionally potent mix of wildly exuberant comedy, deeply moving melodrama, and passionate social criticism fueled by Dickens’s own childhood experiences of poverty and injustice.

Jill Muller was born in England and educated at Mercy College and Columbia University. She currently teaches at Mercy College and Columbia University and is working on a book about the Victorian poet, Gerard Manley Hopkins, to be published by Routledge.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781411432772
Publisher: Barnes & Noble
Publication date: 06/01/2009
Series: Barnes & Noble Classics Series
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 848
Sales rank: 350,542
File size: 13 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.
Age Range: 3 Months to 18 Years

About the Author

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is probably the greatest novelist England has ever produced, the author of such well-known classics as A Christmas Carol, Great Expectations, David Copperfield and Oliver Twist. His innate comic genius and shrewd depictions of Victorian life — along with his indelible characters — have made his books beloved by readers the world over.

Date of Birth:

February 7, 1812

Date of Death:

June 18, 1870

Place of Birth:

Portsmouth, England

Place of Death:

Gad's Hill, Kent, England


Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington

Read an Excerpt

From Jill Muller’s Introduction to Nicholas Nickleby

Appropriately dedicated to actor-manager William Macready, Nicholas Nickleby is the most theatrical of Dickens’s novels. The members of the Crummles troupe of provincial players are only the most honest actors in a huge cast of performers: comedians, tragedians, villains and heroes of melodrama, monologists and mimes. Yet the show business exuberance of the novel is shadowed by a constant awareness of the injustice and cruelty of the world offstage. Dickens knew very well that the clown’s tomfoolery is sometimes a brittle defense against despair. Indeed while working on the early episodes of Nicholas Nickleby, he was also engaged in editing the memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi, the most celebrated clown in early Victorian England. Dickens and Grimaldi had much in common: Both men were driven and insecure, obsessively punctual and neat, and haunted by childhood misery. In Nicholas Nickleby, the writer’s two sides, comedian and social reformer, coexist in an exhilarating but sometimes uneasy partnership. Scenes of shocking abuse slide into slapstick and farce. Acts of violence and exploitation are performed by hilarious grotesques. Victims and villains are dogged by their comic doubles.

Dickens derives the central plot of Nicholas Nickleby from his own primal scene of childhood abandonment. As in Oliver Twist, the victim-hero is less interesting than many of the characters he encounters, and the sum of incidents and episodes far more entertaining and memorable than the underlying plot. However, the author has plainly learned from the main fault of Oliver Twist, the passivity and colorlessness of the hero, because this time he divides his experience of childhood suffering between two characters, Nicholas and Smike. Oliver’s passivity is bestowed upon Smike, freeing Dickens to place the more dynamic figure of Nicholas at the center of his narrative. Smike, the pitiful, mentally retarded son of Nicholas Nickleby’s chief villain, Ralph Nickleby, is abandoned in infancy to the tender mercies of the Squeers family at their Yorkshire boarding school, Dotheboys Hall. Although eventually rescued by Nicholas, he is too damaged to survive. He dies of a combination of tuberculosis and unrequited love. The novel’s closing scenes of marriages and pastoral contentment yield to a final contemplation of Smike’s grave. The dead boy represents the child victim that Dickens always carried within him, and to whom he would return with still more self-indulgent pathos in the figure of Little Nell in his next novel, The Old Curiosity Shop. Smike’s fate is the fate Dickens believed could have been his if he had lacked the energy and talent that propelled him out of poverty to early fame.

In Nicholas, Smike’s cousin and doppelganger, Dickens presents a more robust victim-hero who succeeds, like his creator, in triumphing over humiliation and misfortune. The eponymous protagonist of Nicholas Nickleby is a genteel Victorian version of Tom Jones or Roderick Random, the picaresque heroes of Fielding and Smollett, whose stories were Dickens’s favorite childhood reading. Young, handsome, and brave, forced by his parents’ financial mismanagement to fend for himself in a hostile world, he is also a rather flattering portrait of the artist as a young man. Like Dickens himself, and unlike Smike, Nicholas plays an active role in improving his fortunes; he is clever, resourceful, and quick to defend himself and those he loves from insult or injury. Yet, for all his intelligence and vigor, Nicholas is unable to win back his lost birthright, his identity as a gentleman, without the help of an unconvincing pair of fairy godfathers, the merchant-philanthropists Ned and Charles Cheeryble.

Although Dickens himself knew all too well that worldly success is seldom achieved without the exercise of aggressive and competitive instincts, he was at first reluctant to bestow any but noble and generous impulses on his protagonists. Hence his early heroes are no match for the relentless and gleeful malevolence of his villains. For one thing, they are inevitably associated with the values of a romanticized pre-industrial society. In the pre-history of Nicholas Nickleby, the hero’s grandfather, Godfrey Nickleby, marries imprudently for love and is saved from poverty only by a well-timed legacy. His fiscally naive younger son, Nicholas Senior, who chooses to “shun the great world and attach himself to the quiet routine of a country life,” loses his inheritance through risky speculation undertaken on the advice of his wife. The family estate is sold to strangers, Nickleby dies of grief, and his wife and children are left to struggle for subsistence in early Victorian London. When this man’s son, our Nicholas Nickleby, finally becomes “a rich and prosperous merchant,” he turns his back on the thriving city in which his fortune was made in order to “buy his father’s old house” in which “nothing with which there was any association of bygone days was ever removed or changed.” His deepest longings are melancholy and nostalgic; his future is an idealized past. In contrast, Nicholas’s wicked uncle, Ralph Nickleby, throws himself wholeheartedly into capitalism from an early age, progressing from making small-scale loans to his schoolfellows to becoming a director of the blatantly crooked United Metropolitan Improved Hot Muffin and Crumpet Baking and Punctual Delivery Company, and a usurer with half of fashionable London in his debt. It is Ralph Nickleby, and not his nephew Nicholas, who embodies the raw, driven energy of the Victorian age, an energy that found voice and expression in Dickens himself. Nicholas Nickleby may represent Dickens’s ideals, but the restless and unscrupulous Ralph, who attributes his avarice to the early shock of his parents’ financial imprudence, also contains more than a trace of his creator.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Nicholas Nickleby (Everyman's Library Series) 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being written early in his career and started before "Oliver Twist" was completed, "Nicholas Nickleby" contains all of the classic Dickens qualities of richly detailed characters and numerous intertwing subplots, yet it seems somewhat rushed in conclusion. Dickens fans will surely recall "Nickleby" with fondness, but it is certainly not the first full length Dickens novel one should read. "David Copperfield" or "Bleak House" are better representations of Dickens at his best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Some critics complain that Nicholas Nickleby is unsophisticated and melodramatic compared to Dickens' later works. In my opinion they are missing the point - it is melodramatic to be sure, but that is all part of the tounge-in-cheek tone of the work. This is an extremely entertaining novel. Highly recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. It was the second book by Dickens that I read, and I thought that it was even better than Oliver Twist. I loved the characters, the plot, and even the ending. However, Nicholas is certainly a flawed hero, but that just makes the story more intriguing. It has a perfect amount of political satire, humor, and tragedy. Wonderful book!!
NellyDT More than 1 year ago
can interest people who don't like to read  
LibraryLadyMB More than 1 year ago
I've noticed in most e-books that there are a lot of typos. I am assuming that the books are scanned and not re-typed, so the scanners must be fallible. The story of Nicholas Nickleby is wonderful, and I am reading it again in order to encounter the man in smalls once more.
NPhillygirlPA More than 1 year ago
I've read it before but I can't seem to get my NOOK to cooperate and let me read it again. :-(
C.J.Moran on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Q: Why, more than 140 years+ after his death is Charles Dickens still regarded as the greatest novelist the English language has ever seen?A: Because that is what he is.Nicholas Nickleby is a good illustration. I set myself to finish this - 776 pages in this edition - in a month; in the event it took twelve days. On most days, I only put it down because my eyes were throbbing from the small print.Of course, 776 pages is a lot of book but there is a lot of story; a lot happens to a lot of people. The reader must be given a chance to get to know these people if he is to a give a damn what happens to them. Dickens gives us this time; it is part of his art. He takes time, too, to describe people and places; remember that he wrote in the days before television, or newsreels, or even cheap picture-books. If he wanted the reader to know what something looked like, he had to describe it.To many, in this world where one death is a tragedy but a million deaths is a sound-bite, such a deliberate approach to story-telling will prove too taxing. To those with a more traditional attention span, it must simply add to the experience.And experience it is. Nickleby loses nothing with the passing of years. Dickens dealt, as do all great writers, with human nature and the real world. At root, neither changes. We are still afflicted with businessmen who know no morality beyond the p&l account; educationalists who substitute cant for understanding and choose to forget the humanity of their charges; gold diggers, cheats and frauds; and parents who care nothing for their children.Nicholas Nickleby was a page-turner in 1838 and it is a page-turner today. It has, by turns, villainy and romance, comedy and tragedy, sudden death and new beginnings. Truly, all human life is here.
michaeldwebb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To be honest I found this a bit of a struggle, just because of the sheer length. Parts of the writing still felt exciting and relevant, but some of the side stories just felt like padding. I know, it's pretty pointless 'reviewing' Dickens, so I'll just leave it that I didn't enjoy this as much as Bleak House, the last Dickens I read.
samfsmith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A more appropriate title might be ¿The Nicklebys¿ or ¿The Nickleby Family¿. Mean, miserly Uncle Ralph is as much the center of the novel as Nicholas, and there¿s Kate Nickleby, and Nicholas¿s mother. It¿s a Victorian plot full of coincidences and family secrets ¿ a joy to read and discover.
mbmackay on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Dickens' third, and very wordy, work published in installments totaling 761 pages (in my Project Gutenberg download). Tells the story of Nicholas and family (mother and sister, Kate) from the time of their sudden plunge into poverty on the death of their father at the time of failed investments. The book is notionally a love story telling the romances of Nicholas and Kate, but the theme of the work is social standing and mobility - mostly abrupt falls such as faced by the Nickleby's, Newman Nogg and Madeline Bray, but also some attempts to establish a status, such as by the Kenwigses with their water rates collector uncle as their lynchpin. The writing has its soap opera-ish elements - such as when Uncle Ralph just happens to overhear Kate candidly venting her views behind a screen, and in the utterly black and white characters - pure evil such as Uncle Ralph and schoolmaster Squeers, or pure good, such as the brothers Cherryble. Dickens is also careful to avoid subtlety - where Jane Austen allows characters to define themselves by their speech and actions, Dickens sees the need to add asides to remove all doubt. Dickens has two, clearly personal, digs in the book - one against politicians when NN applies for a job with an MP, and a second when he gives a piece of his mind to a "literary gentleman" who dramatises novels for the stage. Among the darkness, there are slabs of comedy. The acting troop that NN joins, and especially the juvenile "Phenomenon" provides much humour, as does the bucolic John Browdie with his broad Yorkshire accent and simple manners. So, the book is not without flaws, but Dickens does manage to pull it off - I was in the grip of a page-turner for the last third of the book. Read December 2011.
eleanor_eader on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Deliciously satirical Dickens, the author hell-bent on seeing evildoers get their come-uppance, and the innocent prevail, while ridiculing, with varying degrees of fierceness, everything he points his nib at. I recently read, and loved Bleak House, and while Nicholas Nickleby wasn¿t quite that cohesive a story - the serial nature of its release slightly more obvious - I still enjoyed it enormously (perhaps even more than Bleak House on the basis of the quality of writing). I worried, through the first few pages, that the biting humour might distance me from enjoying the story for its own sake, but didn¿t allow for Dickens¿ incredible storytelling capacity and unrivalled talent for character. It¿s impossible not to be invested in the fate of the most idly-sketched person in any of his works.Nicholas, our hero, is a pleasant and agreeable young man in pursuit of means after the death of his father leaves his family practically destitute. Relying at first upon the kindness of his uncle, and then discovering the man has none, he is first employed as a teacher at a school for young boys under the management of the brutal Mr. Squeers, where he takes under his wing ¿ and takes off with - the loyal, if childlike, Smike. Nicholas sets about taking his fortunes into his own hands, and releasing his family, and especially his sister, Kate, from the clutches of the avaricious and vengeful Ralph Nickleby (characters whom I¿d like to slap, list, head of). Some of the most hilarious, satisfying scenes in literature fall between the covers of Nicholas Nickleby, those wherein Nicholas makes delightful use of his fists (always where others commit outrages on those under his charge) being particularly enjoyable; the fantastic Newman Noggs finally getting to tell off his employer, and the remarkable prison break of the re-captured Smike, masterminded by the Yorkshireman, John Browdie, whose stifling of his own hilarity caused me to half-choke on mine.Better yet, barely a scene passes that isn¿t pasted up and down with Dickens¿ satirical social commentary, the perfect tone for this story which deals with the inconsistencies and injustices of a rampantly money-conscious society.Any work can be described as flawed if examined closely enough; caught up in the story, I didn¿t care to poke too critically at anything, and the negatives I can summon are very slight¿ there are several examples of Dickens¿ more sentimentally `perfect¿ characters ¿ the brothers, Ned and Charles (enjoyable), come to mind, as does Kate Nickleby (bland), although for once it¿s hard to knock the stereotypical `perfection¿ of one woman in a novel, when the entire cast consists of people drawn at the extremes of nature ¿ and, being a tale with a happy ending for most of those that deserve it, the single undeserved tragedy feels rather more unfair to its victim than normal. Far more poignant and clever is the end of the antagonist, towards whom the reader had developed a sort of complicated pity (which in no way precluded the urge to slap him). There exists, perhaps, a weakness in the very last tying up of the plot in that the final machinations of Ralph Nickleby seem to have, in the end, been undone largely by the virtuous following the villainous around for a bit until things reveal themselves.It took me a fortnight to read Nicholas Nickleby and, despite the pressing urge to read other books on my pile, and the unpleasantly small text in my copy, I consider it time well spent, an auspicious beginning to the year¿s reading, and a new favourite.
Fluffyblue on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nicholas Nickleby wasn't, for me, the best Dickens I've read so far (and I've still got a lot to go...!). At times it felt a little aimless, but as usual, the characters and the descriptions are just brilliant. You know it's going to end well, but how it gets there is often a bit of a roundabout journey. My favourite characters were Mr Squeers (love that name!), Miss La Creevey, and Mrs Nickleby. They were hilarious.
mattviews on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is a significant Dickens in the uncannily absorbing way the narrative diversifies to various literary discourses. The protagonist's experiences and encounters in adverse milieu through life not only embody melodrama, comic relief, political satire, class comedy, social criticism, and domestic farce, they allow Dickens the opportunity to portray, to the minutest nuance, an extraordinary cast of rogues and eccentrics. The main frame of NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is a quintessential Dickens: a generic, virtuous man who concerns with the affair of establishing his identity as a gentleman and the pruning of whom entwines him in a checkered fate. Nicholas Nickleby has committed no fault and offenses, and yet he is to be entirely alone in the world, to be separated from the people he loves, and to be proscribed like a criminal. The more unbearable the ordeals and the more injudicious the deal of the hand from life, the more profusely the novel accentuates Dickens' outrage at the cruelty and social injustice. When Nicholas Nickleby is left exiguous after his father's death, he turns to his hard-hearted uncle to solicit succor. But Ralph Nickleby, a most unscrupulous and avarious man he is, demonstrates that he is proof against all appeals of blood and kindred, and is steeled against every tale of distress and sorrows. The man will never fail to exert any resolution or cunning that will promise increase of money for there is scarcely anything he will not have hazarded to gratify his greed. It's not that he is unconscious of the baseness of the means with which he acquires his gains. He cares only for gratification of his passions of avarice and hatred. He might have from the beginning conceived dislike to his nephew whom he brazenly places in Squeers' Dotheboys Hall, a school for unwanted boys, as an assistant master. The cruelty of Squeers, who's coarse and ruffian behavior even at his best temper, Nicholas has been an unwilling witness. The filthy condition of the school and the bodily distortion of the boys impart in him a dismal feeling. The thought of being a helper and abettor of such squalid practice fills his with honest disgust and indignation. The cruelties descend upon helpless infancy fuel this rightful indignation in Nicholas, who interferes with the schoolmaster's flogging a boy named Smike and astonishes everyone in school. Not only does Ralph persuade Nicholas' family to renounce him for the atrocities to Squeers of which he is guilty, he also betrays his niece Kate into the company of some libertine men who are clients of his and who speak of her in a most casual, lecherous, ribald and vulgar terms. She is roused beyond all endurance by a profusion of compliments of which coarseness becomes humor and of which vulgarity softens down to the most charming eccentricity. The mutual hatred between uncle and nephew aggravates as Nicholas overhears conversations about his sister. The hidden feud further percolates to the surface and leads to a pitch to its malignity as he tries to rescue a girl from a marriage to which she has been impelled. As the uncle insidiously hatches a scheme to retaliate against his nephew who has in every step of the way interceded and thwarted his plans for mercenary gains, Nicholas entwines with a cast of characters who are humorous, memorable, and true to life. Peripheral to his molding to become a gentleman are episodes of political satire, theatrical success, courtship, family farce, and chicanery. The most significant character is no doubt Smike, whom Nicholas saves from the hellish grip of the schoolmaster and has become his best friend. Nicholas' unfailing love and protectiveness toward the boy accentuates his being the novel's hero, whose domestic virtues, affections, compassion, and delicacy of feelings qualifies him to his later fortune and does him justice. NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is a flamboyantly exuberant work in which Dickens wreaks the tension of his social satire to a pitch. Detai
souloftherose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was Dickens' third novel which he started writing in 1838, while he was finishing Oliver Twist, and finished writing in 1839, while he was starting The Old Curiosity Shop. Like most of his novels, it was originally published in monthly instalments before being published in a single volume.Initially I found Nicholas Nickleby a strange mixture of styles; Dickens' contract with his publishers was to write something 'of a similar character and of the same extent and contents in point of quantity' to The Pickwick Papers, Dickens' first novel, which was a lighter, more episodic work than Oliver Twist. However, Dickens' had been doing some investigative work in respect of the infamous 'Yorkshire schools' of the period and wanted to include some criticism of these schools in Nicholas Nickleby in the same way that he criticised the Poor Laws in Oliver Twist so it has some darker sections unlike The Pickwick Papers.Nicholas Nickleby follows the adventures of our eponymous hero, Nicholas Nickleby, his mother and his sister Kate after the death of their father. The family begin the story in a very bad way as Nicholas' father was in debt when he died. They are forced on the mercy of their uncle, the dastardly Ralph Nickleby who obtains a position for Nicholas as a teacher at a Yorkshire boarding school. The first quarter of the book shows us the appalling realities of life in a boys' boarding school in Yorkshire through the eyes of Nicholas. The villains who run the school are appropriately grotesque and their pupils appropriately pathetic so it would be easy for the reader to assume that Dickens' descriptions of these schools was an exaggeration. However, from the information in the introduction to my edition (the Penguin Classics edition) it seems that Dickens' description of these schools was all too accurate. Thankfully, the popularity of Nicholas Nickleby meant that most of these schools were forced to close down over the next ten years.As with all of Dickens' stories, the family who are obviously good and begin the book in poverty don't end the book that way, although there are many twists and turns before all the characters get what they deserve. I initially found the story somewhat rambling in nature and it felt like a lot of the incidents described, although amusing, didn't really have a bearing on the main plot. It helped me to think of these asides as being similar to The Pickwick Papers which is less plot driven and apparently this style of writing is similar to the picaresque style used by Henry Fielding in Tom Jones and Tobias Smollett's Humphrey Clinker.In terms of characters there were some wonderful villains such as Wackford Squeers, the owner of the Yorkshire school, and Ralph Nickleby, Nicholas' uncle who takes an immediate dislike to his nephew. Both were so deliciously villainous that I felt myself wanting to boo or hiss at them in pantomime style every time they entered the story. There are also many ridiculous characters to laugh at such as Nicholas' mother who never fails to wander from the point in the most amusing fashion and the deceitful yet entertainingly flattering Mr Mantalini. To me Nicholas Nickleby seems to lie somewhere in between Dickens' first two novels in terms of style, or rather, it seems to be combine aspects of both and so overall, I didn't think it worked quite as well as either. However, I still enjoyed it a lot, especially once I was past the slower first quarter of the book.
jphilbrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My fourth Dickens read, and maybe my second favorite, right behind David Copperfield. It's the same sort of traveling feast of characters as that and the Pickwick Papers, and the usual good vs. evil storyline. The secondary characters in this one are so good, though, that it makes up for some of the more formulaic aspects: La Creevy, John Browdie, Newman Noggs, and the deliciously good villains: "schoolmeasther" Squeers, Ralph Nickleby, and Arthur Gride. I don't remember if most Dickens books have such a great plot twist at the end as this one, but it was a good one!This might be the fastest I've ever read a Dickens novel: 15 days!
wordygirl39 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My favorite Dickens book so far. I'll read this one again someday.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago