Our Mutual Friend
In his 1940 article "Dickens: Two Scrooges", Edmund Wilson states, "Our Mutual Friend, like all these later books of Dickens, is more interesting to us today than it was to Dickens's public. Certainly the subtleties and profundities that are now discovered in it were not noticed by the reviewers." As a whole, modern critics of Our Mutual Friend, particularly those of the last half century, have been more appreciative of Dickens's last completed work than his contemporary reviewers. Although some modern critics find Dickens's characterisation in Our Mutual Friend problematic, most tend to positively acknowledge the novel's complexity and appreciate its multiple plot lines.
Our Mutual Friend (written in the years 1864–65) is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is one of his most sophisticated works, combining psychological insight with social analysis. It centres on, in the words of critic J. Hillis Miller, "money, money, money, and what money can make of life", but is also about human values. In the opening chapters a body is found in the Thames and identified as that of John Harmon, a young man recently returned to London to receive his inheritance. Were he alive, his father's will would require him to marry Bella Wilfer, a beautiful, mercenary girl whom he had never met. Instead, the money passes to the working-class Boffins, and the effects spread into various corners of London society.
In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance, with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an autumn evening was closing in.
BOOK THE FIRST THE CUP AND THE LIP
BOOK THE SECOND—BIRDS OF A FEATHER
BOOK THE THIRD A LONG LANE
BOOK THE FOURTH A TURNING
POSTSCRIPT IN LIEU OF PREFACE