DICKENS, Charles. Master Humphrey's Clock. By "Boz." London: Chapman and Hall, 11 April 1840 - 27 November 1841.
88 weekly parts, 8o (270 x 180 mm). Three frontispieces, and numerous wood-engravings in the text by George Cattermole and Hablot K. Browne ["Phiz"]. (Lightly browned, some stains particularly to the gutters and lower edges numbers 47 to 78, some small marginal tears and p. 123 of number 11, and p. 77 of number 33 torn across the text.) Original pictorial printed self-wrappers, uncut (numbers 47-78 browned and stained with some loss along the backstrips and lower edges, front cover of No., 58 torn with loss and No. 61 with a small hole, some covers detached and some others nearly so); blue cloth slipcase. Provenance: M. Cartwright (contemporary signature No., 30); James Kingsford (contemporary signature Nos., 32 and 62); J.B. Wright (contemporary signature No. 36); Kenyon Starling (bookplate).
"FOR TO COMMUNE WITH YOU, IN ANY FORM, IS TO ME A LABOUR OF LOVE" (Dickens)
FIRST EDITION IN THE ORIGINAL WEEKLY PARTS. With preliminaries (frontispiece, title-page and Preface) for the three volume edition present in numbers 26, 52, and 88; frontispiece and Preface only in part 87. Issued as a single folded sheet consisting of 16 pages, of which twelve were numbered pages of letterpress and the others forming the outer wrapper. Every four or five weeks the leaves of text were gathered and made up into a single part, each bound in familiar green wrappers, so creating the monthly issue. When both these periodical issues were complete the whole was bound in three volumes in purple-brown cloth.
Master Humphrey's Clock was planned to be a collection of stories and sketches told by Master Humphrey and his circle of friends, as Dickens outlined in his Preface: "When the author commenced this Work, he proposed to himself three objects. First. To establish a periodical, which should enable him to present, under one general head, and not as separate and distinct publications, certain fictions which he had it in contemplation to write. Secondly. To produce these Tales in weekly numbers; hoping that to shorten the intervals of communication between himself and his readers, would be to knit more closely the present relations they had held, for Forty Months. Thirdly. In the execution of this weekly task, to have as much regard as its exigencies would permit, to each story as a whole, and to the possibility of its publication at some distant day, apart from the machinery in which it had its origin. The characters of Master Humphrey and his three friends, and the little fancy of the clock, were the result of these considerations. When he sought to interest his readers in those who talked, and read, and listened, he revived Mr. Pickwick and his humble friends; not with any intention of reopening an exhausted and abandoned mine, but to connect them in the thoughts of those favourites they had been, with the tranquil enjoyments of master Humphrey."
The original scheme was not successful, and Dickens altered the format to make Master Humphrey's material a framework for his novels, The Old Curiosity Shop (numbers 6 - 45) and Barnaby Rudge (numbers 46 - 88), both published separately in 1841. The remaining Master Humphrey material was first collected for the Charles Dickens Edition of his collected works, published by Chapman and Hall, 1868-1871.
In the end however Dickens found the weekly format irksome. In number 83, September of 1841, he announced to the "Readers of Master Humphrey's Clock": "I should not regard the anxiety, the close confinement, or the constant attention, inseparable from the weekly form of publication (for to commune with you, in any form, is to me a labour of love), if I had found it advantageous to the conduct of my stories, the elucidation of my meaning, or the gradual development of my characters. But I have not done. I have often felt cramped and confined to move... In a word, I have found this form of publication most anxious, perplexing, and difficult. I cannot bear these jerking confidences which are no sooner begun than ended, and no sooner ended than begun again." Dickens further announced his intention to travel to America in January of 1842: "The pleasure I anticipate from this realization of a wish I have long entertained, and long hoped to gratify, is subdued by the reflection that it must separate us for a longer time than other circumstances would have rendered necessary." Eckel, pp. 67 - 68; Hatton & Cleaver, p. 163.