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Master Humphrey's Clock
by Charles Dickens
Unit Studies & Comprehension
The following unit studies have been compiled into eBook form from well-known children's stories
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Master Humphrey's Clock by Charles Dickens  A
Master Humphrey's Clock was a weekly periodical edited and written entirely by Charles Dickens
and published from April 4, 1840—December 4, 1841. It began with a frame story in which Master
Humphrey tells about himself and his small circle of friends (which includes none other than Mr.
Pickwick himself), and their penchant for telling stories. Several short stories were included,
followed by the novels The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge.

It is generally thought that Dickens originally intended The Old Curiosity Shop as a short story like
the others that had appeared in Master Humphrey's Clock, but after a few chapters decided to
extend it into a novel. Master Humphrey appears as the first-person narrator in the first three
chapters of The Old Curiosity Shop but then disappears, stating, "And now that I have carried this
history so far in my own character and introduced these personages to the reader, I shall for the
convenience of the narrative detach myself from its further course, and leave those who have
prominent and necessary parts in it to speak and act for themselves."

Master Humphrey is a lonely man who lives in London. He keeps old manuscripts in an antique
longcase clock by the chimney-corner. One day, he decides that he would start a little club, called
Master Humphrey's Clock, where the members would read out their manuscripts to the others. The
members include Master Humphrey; a deaf gentleman, Jack Redburn; retired merchant Owen
Miles; and Mr. Pickwick from The Pickwick Papers. A mirror club in the kitchen, Mr. Weller's Watch,
run by Mr. Weller, has members including Humphrey's maid, the barber and Sam Weller.

Master Humphrey's Clock appeared after The Old Curiosity Shop, to introduce Barnaby Rudge. After
Barnaby Rudge, Master Humphrey is left by himself by the chimney corner in a train of thoughts.
Here, the deaf gentleman continues the narration. Later, the deaf gentleman and his friends return
to Humphrey's house to find him dead. Humphrey has left money for the barber and the maid (no
doubt by traces of love that they would be married). Redburn and the deaf gentleman look after the
house and the club closes for good.

In the portion of Master Humphrey's Clock which succeeds The Old Curiosity Shop, Master
Humphrey reveals to his friends that he is in fact the character referred to as the 'single gentleman'
in that story.

Master Humphrey's Clock was a weekly serial that contained both short stories and two novels (The
Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge). Some of the short stories act as frame stories to the
novels so the ordering of publication is important.

Although Dickens' original artistic intent was to keep the short stories and the novels together, he
himself cancelled Master Humphrey's Clock before 1848, and described in a preface to The Old
Curiosity Shop that he wished the story to not be tied down to the miscellany it began within. Most
later anthologies published the short stories and the novels separately.

However, the short stories and the novels were published in 1840 in three bound volumes under
the title Master Humphrey's Clock, which retains the full and correct ordering of texts as they
originally appeared. The illustrations in these volumes were by George Cattermole and Hablot
Browne, better known as "Phiz".

Download the eBook & Comprehension Literature Study
Download the Executive Summary
For more on Charles Dickens' Life  & Works please visit The Victorian Web
This full length synopsis may be downloaded as a PDF document
The Works of Dickens

David Copperfield
Master Humphrey's Clock
Oliver Twist
The Battle of Life
The Holly Tree
The Cricket On The Hearth
The Chimes
A Child's History of England
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