Charles Dickens's Our Mutual Friend

Clarendon Edition





Our Mutual Friend. Harper's New Monthly Magazine, June 1864-December 1865

Harper's New Monthly Magazine was published in New York, and featured serialisations of novels by Dickens, Thackeray, Bulwer, Wilkie Collins (whose Armadale was serialised alongside Our Mutual Friend), Charles Lever, Charles Reade, Dinah Mulock, as well as essays, tales, and poems by prominent British and American authors. It also featured a miscellany of articles on American subjects, such as California winemaking, coal mining, prison life, thieves' jargon, railroads, and bonnet making, pieces on the American Civil War (in which the magazine supported the Union), together with illustrations for fashions of the season, and a monthly record of current events. There was also, interestingly, an illustrated article on 'Treatment of the Apparently Drowned' in August 1864 (pp. 377-9), immediately preceding the third monthly part of Our Mutual Friend.

Harper and Brothers purchased advance proofs of the text directly from Dickens for £1000, thus facilitating publication of the monthly parts in Harper's New Monthly Magazine only a month after the British counterparts. The advance nature of the publication might be indicated by the delays in producing some of the illustrations; this postponement was acknowledged on the back cover of the issue for June 1864, and was accompanied by a promise that in future the illustrations would appear in their proper place. Such a delay did not, for example, affect the publication of Wilkie Collins's Armadale.

The text is presented in double columns. The first instalment was prefaced by a half-length portrait of a rather younger Dickens, after J.E. Mayall's daguerreotype of 1855. There are thirty-six (of the forty) plates included, reproduced from the original illustrations by Marcus Stone. Illustrations began to be issued with the second number (in July 1864), and initially related to the number published the previous month; hence the text of the second part (published in July 1864) included 'The Bird of Prey' (referring to chapter 1), and 'Witnessing the Agreement' (referring to chapter 4). This pattern continued until the third monthly number, in which four plates appeared. See below for complete details of the parts and accompanying illustrations.

In the issue of the magazine in which the serial began, the editor, Alfred Hudson Guernsey, published an enticement to readers in his monthly column, 'Editor's Easy Chair'. He writes:

It is no more necessary to invite our friends to read Dickens's new story than to exhort them to eat the fresh strawberries. They will be very sure to do both; and in both cases they will find the old flavor unimpaired. Dickens begins "Our Mutual Friend" with a buoyancy which shows all the vitality and opulence of his genius - just as Thackeray's "Denis Duval" reveals the unshaen and riper power of Thackeray. Had the latter only lived, we should have renewed the old delightful days of Pendennis and Bleak House, when the two great athletes contended, and every generaous reader wished each combatant to win. Only one remains, but the other still speaks to us. In the pages of our next number will be found both Thackeray's "Denis Duval" [which began publication in July 1864] and Dickens's "Our Mutual Friend;" and rich as all other magazines may be, we are modestly content with our own. (Harper's New Monthly Magazine 29 [June 1864], p. 135).

The complete volume was issued bound in cloth in 1865, together with all the illustrations - including those originally excluded from the serial publication.

Digitised images of the complete Harper's Monthly Magazine Edition

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3

Book 4


Listing of Contents for the serial run

Vol. 29 (1864)

Part 1 (June): Pages 66-84 - includes only frontispiece

Part 2 (July): Pages 241-259 - includes 'The Bird of Prey', and 'Witnessing the Agreement' (both relating to the previous number, published in June)

Part 3 (August): Pages 380-399 - includes 'At the Bar', and 'Mr Venus Surrounded by the Trophies of his Art' (both relating to the previous number, published in July)

Part 4 (September): Pages 516-536 - includes 'The Boffin Progress' and 'The Happy Pair' (both relating to the previous number, published in  August), as well as 'Podsnappery', and 'Waiting for father'

Part 5 (October): Pages 646-663 - no illustrations

Part 6 (November): Pages 784-804 - includes 'Mrs Boffin Discovers and Orphan' , 'The Bird of Prey Brought Down' (both relating to the previous number, published in October), as well as 'The Person of the House and the Bad Child', and 'The Dinner at Veneering's

Vol. 30 (1864-5)

Part 7 (December): Pages 102-119 - no illustrations

Part 8 (January): Pages 236-254 - includes 'Riah's Guests', 'Forming the Domestic Virtues' (both relating to the previous number, published in December). No illustrations for January number.

Part 9 (February): Pages 367-385 - includes 'Pa's Lodger, and Pa's Daughter' and 'Our Johnny' (both relating to the previous number, published in January)

Part 10 (March): Pages 506-525 - includes 'Miss Riderhood at Home' and 'More Dead than Alive' (both relating to the previous number, published in February), as well as 'The Boofer Lady' and 'A Friend in Need'

Part 11 (April): Pages 647-663 - no illustrations

Part 12 (May): Pages 781-799 - includes 'Trying-on for the Doll's Dressmaker' and 'Rogue Riderhood Himself Again' (both relating to the previous number, published in April).

Vol. 31 (1865)

Part 13 (June): Pages 101-121 - includes 'Bibliomania of the Golden Dustman' and 'The Evil Genius of the House of Boffin' (both relating to the previous number, published in May), as well as 'The Flight' and 'Threepenn'orth Rum'

Part 14 (July): Pages 236-254 - includes 'Mr Fledgeby Departs on his Errand of Mercy' and 'Mr Wegg Prepares a Grindstone for Mr Boffin's Nose'

Part 15 (August): Pages 372-390 - includes 'Bella "Righted" by the Golden Dustman' and 'The Lovely Woman has her Fortune Told'

Part 16 (September): Pages 507-526 - (beginning of book 4) includes 'In the Lock-Keeper's House' and 'The Wedding Dinner at Greenwich'

Part 17 (October): Pages 645-663 - includes 'The Parting by the River' and 'Better to be Abel than Cain'

Part 18 (November): Pages 784-802 - includes 'Miss Wren Fixes Her Idea' and 'Eugene's Bedside'

Vol. 32 (1865-6)

Parts 19 & 20 (December): Pages 86-113 - no illustrations. The Postscript in lieu of Preface was included; but the illustrations never appeared - even in subsequent months.




This project gratefully acknowledges the support of the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the British Academy.