Charles Dickens publishes the first instalment of Great Expectations. The serialisation appears in the magazine All the Year Round.
Great Expectations is Dickens’ thirteenth novel. He publishes it in serialised form throughout 1860 and early 1861, before Chapman and Hall publishes the novel in three volumes in October 1861.
The novel is set in Kent and London in the 19th century and contains some of Dickens’ most memorable characters, including Phillip Pirrip (Pip), Abel Magwitch, Mr. Jaggers and Miss. Havisham, all of whom have subsequently been referenced in cultural works since the novel’s publication.
Orphan Pip is the novel’s protagonist. Upon meeting Estella, the eccentric Miss. Havisham’s daughter, Pip decides that he must become a gentleman. He receives anonymous patronage to aid him in this pursuit – he assumes from the wealthy spinster, Miss. Havisham. However, it is Magwitch, the convict who Pip fearfully assists in the book’s opening scene, who is the orphan’s real benefactor. Previously unknown links between the novel’s characters become clear as the plot progresses.
The plot is largely held together by the somewhat omniscient Mr. Jaggers – the prominent London lawyer who reportedly leaves his front door unlocked, for no man would ever dare to steal from such an intimidating and fearsome lawyer – who represents both Magwitch (as Pip’s benefactor) and Miss. Havisham, thereby serving as a key linking point for the rest of the main characters.