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'The Uncommercial Traveller' is a series of semi-autobiographical essays by Dickens in which he wanders the streets of London and reminisces about his childhood and past. These pieces are among the most admired and quoted of Dickens's journalistic essays, highlighting his unique skills as a social observer and commentator and 'sketcher' of contemporary life.

The series began in All the Year Round on 28 January 1860 with 16 articles appearing irregularly between January and October 1860. Dickens followed with another 12 articles between May and October 1863 and, five years later, 8 more pieces, 7 of which under the title 'New Uncommercial Samples'. 

The conception of the series seems to have been influenced by a number of different ideas. Only a month before he published his first Uncommercial paper, in a speech at the annual dinner of the Commercial Travellers' School Board, Dickens had wondered whether 'anything could be do done with the word Travellers; and [...] whether any fanciful analogy could be drawn between those travellers who diffuse the luxuries and necessities of existence' and other kinds of travellers, such as 'and those who carry into desert places the waters of life, such as Doctor Livingstone, or Captain McClintock'.

Shortly after this, on 20 January 1860 Britain signed the 'Commercial' Treaty with France. The treaty, essentially a trade agreement, was praised by its supporters as decreasing the likelihood of future war with France. For its detractors, this was the problem. They believed that decision to go or not to go to war should based upon moral principles rather than economics. The relationship between commerce and morality became the subject of an energetic public debate that dominated the newspapers while Dickens was hard at work trying to come up with 'an idea for my series of gossiping papers', as he wrote to Wilkie Collins.

Some scholars argue that Dickens was responding directly to the challenge of the Cornhill Magazine, a monthly magazine costing one shilling (three-pence more than the monthly issue of All the Year Round) and edited by his famous rival William Makepeace Thackeray, which began publication in January 1860. The Cornhill contained a section titled 'Roundabout Papers', penned by Thackeray, and it is arguable that 'The Uncommercial Traveller' series was a direct response to this feature in the Cornhill which gave its author-editor a direct mouthpiece.   

Intriguingly, at the time of his death in 1863, Thackeray had published 34 'Roundabout Papers' in the Cornhill, while Dickens had penned 28 'Uncommercial' pieces, thus suggesting an intense and closely-matched rivalry.

The original 28 'Uncommercial' pieces (1860 and 1863) were untitled, but they were given titles in subsequent collected editions of the series. These titles are listed below, although they do not appear on the pages of All the Year Round. The first number (28 January 1860) is often split into two parts in collected editions – titled 'His General Line of Business' and 'The Shipwreck' – which means the numbering in collected editions often doesn't quite match that of the original series. 


The Uncommercial Traveller No. 1 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 2 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 3 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 4 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 5 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 6

No. 1: His General   
Line of
Business and
The Shipwreck
(28 January 1860)

No. 2: Wapping
(18 February 1860)

No. 3: Two Views
of a Cheap
(25 February 1860)

No. 4: Poor
(10 March 1860)

No. 5: Refreshments
for Travellers
(24 March 1860)

No. 6: Travelling
(7 April 1860) 


The Uncommercial Traveller No. 7 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 8    The Uncommercial Traveller No. 9     The Uncommercial Traveller No. 11 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 11     The Uncommercial Traveller No. 6

No. 7: The Great
Tasmania's Cargo
(21 April 1860)

No. 8: City of London 
(5 May 1860)

No. 9: Shy
(26 May 1860)

No. 10: Tramps
(16 June 1860)

No. 11: Dullborough
(30 June 1860)

No. 12: Night
(21 July 1860)


The Uncommercial Traveller No. 13        The Uncommercial Traveller No. 14       The Uncommercial Traveller No. 15    The Uncommercial Traveller No. 16

No. 13: Chambers
(18 August

No. 14: Nurse's
(8 September

No. 15: Arcadian 
(29 September

No. 16: The 
Italian Prisoner
(13 October


The Uncommercial Traveller No. 17     The Uncommercial Traveller No. 18        The Uncommercial Traveller No. 19       The Uncommercial Traveller No. 20 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 21 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 22

No. 17: The Calais 
Night Mail 
(2 May 1863)

No. 18: Some 
Recollections of
(16 May 1863)

No. 19: Birthday 
(6 June 1863)

No. 20: The Short-
(20 June 1863)
No. 21: Bound for 
the Great Salt
(4 July 1863)
No. 22: City of 
the Absent  
(18 July 1863)


The Uncommercial Traveller No. 23      The Uncommercial Traveller No. 24     The Uncommercial Traveller No. 25    The Uncommercial Traveller No. 26 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 27 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 28

No. 23: An Old
Coaching House 
(1 August 1863)

No. 24: The Boiled 
Beef of New 
(15 August 1863)

No. 25: Chatham 
(29 August 1863)

No. 26: In the French-
Flemish Country
(12 September 1863)

No. 27: Medicine Men
of Civilisation  
(26 September

No. 28: Titbull's
(24 October

1868 ('New Uncommercial Samples') 

The Uncommercial Traveller No. 29 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 30 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 31 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 32 The Uncommercial Traveller No. 33    The Uncommercial Traveller No. 34

No. 29: The Ruffian 
(10 October

No. 30: Aboard 
(5 December 1868)

No. 31: A Small
Star in the
(19 December 1868)

No. 32: A Little Dinner 
in an Hour 
(2 January 1869)

No. 33: Mr. Barlow  
(16 January 1869)

No. 34: On an
Amateur Beat
(27 February


The Uncommercial Traveller No. 35     The Uncommercial Traveller No. 36

No. 35: A Fly-Leaf
in a Life 
(22 May 1869) 

No. 36: A Plea for 
Total Abstinence  
(5 June 1869)




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