Dickens and Wills co-owned All the Year Round, one 75%, the other 25%. Since Dickens was his own publisher, he did not require a contract for his own works. Although intended for weekly publication, Great Expectations was divided into nine monthly sections, with new pagination for each. Harper’s Weekly published the novel from 24 November 1860 to 5 August 1861 in the US and All the Year Round published it from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861 in the UK. Harper’s paid £1,000 for publication rights. Dickens welcomed a contract with Tauchnitz 4 January 1861 for publication in English for the European continent. Publications in Harper’s Weekly were accompanied by forty illustrations by John McLenan; however, this is the only Dickens work published in All the Year Round without illustrations.
Robert L Patten identifies four American editions in 1861 and sees the proliferation of publications in Europe and across the Atlantic as “extraordinary testimony” to Great Expectations’s popularity. Chapman and Hall published the first edition in three volumes in 1861, five subsequent reprints between 6 July and 30 October, and a one-volume edition in 1862. The “bargain” edition was published in 1862, the Library Edition in 1864, and the Charles Dickens edition in 1868. To this list, Paul Schlicke adds “two meticulous scholarly editions”, one Clarendon Press published in 1993 with an introduction by Margaret Cardwell and another with an introduction by Edgar Rosenberg, published by Norton in 1999. The novel was published with one ending, visible in the four on line editions listed in the External links at the end of this article. In some 20th century editions, the novel ends as originally published in 1867, and in an afterword, the ending Dickens did not publish, along with a brief story of how a friend persuaded him to a happier ending for Pip, is presented to the reader (for example, 1987 audio edition by Recorded Books).
In 1862, Marcus Stone, son of Dickens’s old friend, the painter Frank Stone, was invited to create eight woodcuts for the Library Edition. According to Paul Schlicke, these illustrations are mediocre yet were included in the Charles Dickens edition, and Stone created illustrations for Dickens’s subsequent novel, Our Mutual Friend. Later, Henry Mathew Brock also illustrated Great Expectations and a 1935 edition of A Christmas Carol, along with other artists, such as John McLenan, F. A. Fraser, and Harry Furniss.
First edition publication schedule
1, 8, 15, 22, 29 December 1860
5, 12, 19, 26 January 1861
2, 9, 23 February 1861
2, 9, 16, 23, 30 March 1861
6, 13, 20, 27 April 1861
4, 11, 18, 25 May 1861
1, 8 15, 22, 29 June 1861
6, 13, 20, 27 July 1861
3 August 1861
Robert L. Patten estimates that All the Year Round sold 100,000 copies of Great Expectations each week, and Mudie, the largest circulating library, which purchased about 1,400 copies, stated that at least 30 people read each copy. Aside from the dramatic plot, the Dickensian humour also appealed to readers. Dickens wrote to Forster in October 1860 that “You will not have to complain of the want of humour as in the Tale of Two Cities,” an opinion Forster supports, finding that “Dickens’s humour, not less than his creative power, was at its best in this book.” Moreover, according to Paul Schlicke, readers found the best of Dickens’s older and newer writing styles.
Overall, Great Expectations received near universal acclaim. Not all reviews were favourable, however; Margaret Oliphant’s review, published May 1862 in Blackwood’s Magazine, vilified the novel. Critics in the 19th and 20th centuries hailed it as one of Dickens’s greatest successes although often for conflicting reasons: GK Chesterton admired the novel’s optimism; Edmund Wilson its pessimism; Humphry House in 1941 emphasized its social context. In 1974, Jerome H. Buckley saw it as a bildungsroman, writing a chapter on Dickens and two of his major protagonists (David Copperfield and Pip) in his 1974 book on the Bildungsroman in Victorian writing. John Hillis Miller wrote in 1958 that Pip is the archetype of all Dickensian heroes. In 1970, QD Leavis suggests “How We Must Read Great Expectations.” In 1984, Peter Brooks, in the wake of Jacques Derrida, offered a deconstructionist reading. The most profound analyst, according to Paul Schlicke, is probably Julian Moynahan, who, in a 1964 essay surveying the hero’s guilt, made Orlick “Pip’s double, alter ego and dark mirror image.” Schlicke also names Anny Sadrin’s extensive 1988 study as the “most distinguished.”