"In 1847, an English cleaning woman was extremely excited to learn that the boy lodging in her employer’s house was 'the son of the man that put together Dombey' — that is, the son of Charles Dickens. The woman could neither read nor write, but she lived above a snuff shop where, on the first Monday of every month, a community of friends would gather to read aloud the latest installment of 'Dombey and Son,' which had begun serialization on Oct. 1, 1846. By that time, the monthly installments of Dickens’s novels — which started with 'The Pickwick Papers' in 1836 — were such a staple of British culture that an illiterate woman with no access to the actual book knew the author’s work intimately."
Hillary Kelly, The Washington Post
Read the rest of Kelly's article -- which focuses on the technique and the possible future of serialization -- here. And here's a discussion question: If illiterate cleaning ladies were huge fans of Dickens back when he was writing, why is it that literate and educated high schoolers have such trouble understanding him today? Is it just that the uneducated people of his own time understood the cultural references better? Or is there more to it? (The common phenomenon of high schoolers hating Dickens at first sight came up again in conversation recently, which is why it's on my mind.)