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Hard Times was published in weekly instalments in Household Words from 1 April to 12 August 1854. Dickens's tenth novel, it was also his shortest, written in haste to boost the sales of Household Words, which had been dipping. Leaner and more focused than most of Dickens's novels, Hard Times has divided critics from the outset. For some, it lacks all the qualities that makes Dickens great—the humour, the characterization, the breadth of detail that makes his novels so rich. For others, such as F. R. Leavis, Hard Times is Dickens's 'masterpiece', his only novel where his 'distinctive creative genius is controlled throughout to a unifying and organizing significance' (The Great Tradition, p. 19).

Dedicated to Thomas Carlyle, Hard Times for These Times (to give the novel its full title) is as often read for direct social commentary as it is read as a story. Through the lives of characters such as Thomas Gradgrind, Sissy Jupe, Stephen Blackpool and Josiah Bounderby, and the fictional setting of Coketown, Dickens presents what Leavis terms 'a moral fable' on the industrial revolution, class violence, contemporary trends in education and Utilitarianism (The Great Tradition, p. 226). Although, as Hilary Schor notes, 'the novel is in fact far less topical in its references than Bleak House' (The Cambridge Companion to Charles Dickens, p. 68).


Hard Times 1     Hard Times No. 2     Hard Times No. 3     Hard Times No. 4     Hard Times No. 5     Hard Times No. 6
Week 1
(1 April 1854)
Week 2
(8 April 1854)
Week 3
(15 April 1854)
Week 4
(22 April 1854)
Week 5
(29 April 1854)
Week 6
(6 May 1854)
Hard Times No. 7     Hard Times No. 8     Hard Times No. 9     Hard Times No. 11     Hard Times No. 11     Hard Times No. 6
Week 7
(13 May 1854)
Week 8
(20 May 1854)
Week 9
(27 May 1854)
Week 10
(3 June 1854)
Week 11
(10 June 1854)
Week 12
(17 June 1854)
Hard Times No. 13     Hard Times No. 14     Hard Times No. 15       Hard Times No. 16    Hard Times No. 17     Hard Times No. 18
Week 13
(24 June 1854)
Week 14
(1 July 1854)
Week 15
(8 July 1854)
Week 16
(15 July 1854)
Week 17
(22 July 1854)
Week 18
(29 July 1854)


Hard Times No. 19      Hard Times No. 20
Week 19
(5 August 1854)
Week 20
(12 August 1854)



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