Dickens 2022 Project

“WHEN [Dickens] found a thing in Europe which he did not understand, such as the Roman Catholic Church, he simply called it an old-world superstition, and sat looking at it like a moonlit ruin.” —G.K. Chesterton

Friends, I’m excited to invite you to continue our annual tradition, begun with Shakespeare 2020 and Tolkien 2021, of devoting one calendar year to the works of a classic author! This year, our subject is the great Charles Dickens. Although his body of work (coupled with my academic work-load!) is too vast to traverse in a single year, we will read his most famous novels, as well as his letters and a selection of other works which, although less known in our day, were among the most renowned in his.

Books You’ll Need (and their abbreviations):

We will begin the year with a biography of Dickens by G.K. Chesterton, called by T.S. Eliot the “best on that author that has ever been written.” Fortunately for us, all his novels and letters for the remainder of the year are available in a single Kindle edition! The only other book you will need is an edition of the Lord of the Rings for Lent and Easter, if you choose to join in the annual excursus into Middle-Earth.

Preliminary Notes

Pacing. This year’s schedule is designed with the intention to “go deep, not thin”—that is, to take our time reading a handful of significant works, rather than rapidly reading through a broader selection. It is not intended to be arduous. A chapter a day will get you through almost all of the novels in the allotted time, except for The Pickwick Papers, which demands two chapters a day (they’re short). If you fall behind, there is a break of 4-8 days built in to the schedule between each novel which will allow you to catch up.

The Letters. Dickens’ letters in the Complete Works are not numbered, but rather broken up into sections by year. We will read them continuously throughout 2022 in chronological order. If you read one letter a day in addition to one chapter from the novel, you will stay on track. At the beginning of each month in this schedule, you will find the corresponding year(s) in Dickens’ life from which we will be reading letters that month, as “milestones” to make sure you are keeping up.

Lent. With continuing gratitude to Michael G. Fischer, creator of the Lenten Lord of the Rings reading plan, we will once again be reading the Lord of the Rings cycle in its entirety this Lent and Easter. The schedule is set up such that we will depart with the Fellowship from Rivendell on Ash Wednesday and arrive with them at Mount Doom on Good Friday. To make the timing work, you will see that we begin with The Fellowship of the Ring about two weeks before Lent begins and continue with The Return of the King into the first week of Easter. The Dickens readings will pause during these weeks. (Note: the readings for the first week of Fellowship call for two chapters a day. After that, we fall back to our normal walking pace of one chapter per day.)

Complete Works? Ha! We’re hardly scratching the surface! Of Dickens’ fifteen published novels, we are reading five (plus A Christmas Carol). However, as Chesterton argues, “Dickens’s work is not to be reckoned in novels at all … The units of Dickens, the primary elements, are not the stories, but the characters who affect the stories–or, more often still, the characters who do not.”

January 2022: Chesterton; Pickwick Papers

Letters: 1833-40 [LT-I, 1-5]

Jan 3-14: Charles Dickens: A Critical Study [CH 1-12]
Jan 16-31: Pickwick Papers [PP 1-32]

February 2021: Pickwick; Lenten Lord of the Rings

Letters: 1841-42 [LT-I, 6-7]

Feb 1-13: Pickwick Papers [PP 33-57]
Feb 21: Begin Lord of the Rings

Mon Feb 21 LOTR, PrologueConcerning Hobbits, and other matters
Tue Feb 22FR I-1 & I-2A Long-expected Party & The Shadow of the Past
Wed Feb 23FR I-3 & I-4Three is Company & A Short Cut to Mushrooms
Thu Feb 24FR I-5 & I-6A Conspiracy Unmasked & The Old Forest
Fri Feb 25FR I-7 & I-8The House of Tom Bombadil & Fog on the Barrow-Downs
Sat Feb 26FR I-9 & I-10At the Sign of The Prancing Pony & Strider
Sun Feb 27FR I-11 & I-12A Knife in the Dark & Flight to the Ford
Mon Feb 28FR II-1Many Meetings

March 2021: Lenten Lord of the Rings cont.

Letters: 1843-44 [LT-II, 1-2]

Tue Mar 1 FR II-2The Council of Elrond
Wed Mar 2
Ash Wednesday
FR II-3The Ring Goes South
Thu Mar 3FR II-4A Journey in the Dark
Fri Mar 4FR II-5The Bridge of Khazad-dum
Sat Mar 5FR II-6Lothlórien
Sun Mar 6FR II-7The Mirror of Galadriel
Mon Mar 7FR II-8Farewell to Lórien
Tue Mar 8FR II-9The Great River
Wed Mar 9FR II-10The Breaking of the Fellowship
Thu Mar 10TT III-1The Departure of Boromir
Fri Mar 11TT III-2The Riders of Rohan
Sat Mar 12TT III-3The Uruk-hai
Sun Mar 13PDF“On Fairy-stories”
Mon Mar 14TT III-4Treebeard
Tue Mar 15TT III-5The Whire Rider
Wed Mar 16TT III-6The King of the Golden Hall
Thu Mar 17TT III-7Helm’s Deep
Fri Mar 18TT III-8The Road to Isengard
Sat Mar 19TT III-9Flotsam and Jetsam
Sun Mar 20PDF“The Book of Jonah”
Mon Mar 21TT III-10The Voice of Saruman
Tue Mar 22TT III-11The Palantír
Wed Mar 23TT IV-1The Taming of Sméagol
Thu Mar 24TT IV-2The Passage of the Marches
Fri Mar 25TT IV-3The Black Gate is Closed
Sat Mar 26TT IV-4Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit
Sun Mar 27TT IV-5The Window on the Wes
Mon Mar 28TT IV-6The Forbidden Pool
Tue Mar 29TT IV-7The Journey to the Crossroad
Wed Mar 30TT IV-8The Stairs of Cirith Ungol
Thu Mar 31TT IV-9Shelob’s Lair

April 2021: Concluding Lord of the Rings & Beginning Oliver Twist

Letters: 1845-47 [LT-II, 3-5]

Fri Apr 1 TT IV-10The Choices of Master Samwise
Sat Apr 2RK V-1Minas Tirith
Sun Apr 3PDF“Ainulindalë”
Mon Apr 4RK V-2The Passing of the Grey Company
Tue Apr 5RK V-3The Muster of Rohan
Wed Apr 6RK V-4The Siege of Gondor
Thu Apr 7RK V-5The Ride of the Rohirrim
Fri Apr 8RK V-6The Battle of the Pelennor Fields
Sat Apr 9RK V-7The Pyre of Denethor
Sun Apr 10
Palm Sunday
RK V-8The Houses of Healing
Mon Apr 11RK V-9The Last Debate
Tue Apr 12RK V-10The Black Gate Opens
Wed Apr 13RK VI-1The Tower of Cirith Ungol
Thu Apr 14
Holy Thursday
RK VI-2The Land of Shadow
Fri Apr 15
Good Friday
RK VI-3Mount Doom
Sat Apr 16
Holy Saturday
No Reading – Reflection
Sun Apr 17
Easter Sunday
RK VI-4The Field of Cormallen
Mon Apr 18RK VI-5The Steward and the King
Tue Apr 19RK VI-6Many Partings
Wed Apr 20RK VI-7Homeward Bound
Thu Apr 21RK VI-8The Scouring of the Shire
Fri Apr 22RK VI-9The Grey Havens

Apr 24-30: Oliver Twist [OT 1-7]

May 2022: Oliver Twist

Letters: 1848-50 [LT-II, 6-8]

May 1-31: Oliver Twist [OT 8-38]

June 2022: Oliver Twist; David Copperfield

Letters: 1851 [LT-II, 9]

June 1-15: Oliver Twist [OT 39-53]
June 19-30: David Copperfield [DC 1-12]

July 2022: David Copperfield

Letters: 1852 [LT-II, 10]

July 1-31: David Copperfield [DC 13-43]

August 2021: Finishing Copperfield; A Tale of Two Cities

Letters: 1853 [LT-II, 11]

August 1-21: David Copperfield [DC 44-64]
August 28-31: A Tale of Two Cities [TC 1-4]

September 2022: A Tale of Two Cities

Letters: 1854 [LT-II, 12]

September 1-30: A Tale of Two Cities [TC 5-34]

October 2022: A Tale of Two Cities; Great Expectations

Letters: 1855 [LT-II, 13]

October 1-11: A Tale of Two Cities [TC 35-45]
October 16-31: Great Expectations [GE 1-16]

November 2022: Great Expectations

Letters: 1856 [LT-II, 14]

November 1-30: Great Expectations [GE 17-46]

December 2022: Great Expectations; A Christmas Carol

December 1-13: Great Expectations [GE 47-59]
December 18-22: A Christmas Carol [CC 1-5]