The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, more commonly referred to as Nicholas Nickleby, is Charles Dickens‘ third novel, originally serialised between 1838 and 1839. The novel centres on the life and adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, a young man who must support his mother and sister after his father dies.

Charles Dickens by Daniel Maclise
Charles Dickens, painted in 1839, around the time he was writing Nicholas Nickleby.

Nicholas Nickleby

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Young Nicholas Nickleby and his family enjoy a comfortable life, until his father dies and the family are left penniless. Nicholas, his sister and mother venture to London to seek help from their Uncle Ralph, but Ralph’s only intentions are to separate the family and exploit them. Nicholas is sent to a school run by the cruel, abusive and horridly entertaining Wackford Squeers. Eventually, Nicholas runs away with schoolmate Smike, and the two set off to reunite the Nickleby family.


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Nicholas Nickleby was originally issued in 19 monthly numbers, costing one shilling, and published between March 1838 and September 1839. The last was a double-number and cost two shillings instead of one. Each number comprised 32 pages of text and two illustrations by Hablot Knight Browne (Phiz).

Nicholas Nickleby

Popular Culture.

There have been at least ten film or made-for-television serial adaptations of Nicholas Nickleby. This includes two early shorts dating as far back as 1903 and 1912. In 2003, a Golden Globe-nominated film starring Charlie Hunnam, Jamie Bell and Christopher Plummer was released to popular acclaim.

Film poster for the 2003 film of Nicholas Nickleby.