Little Dorrit (1857) centres around the Dorrit family. William Dorrit is a long-term inmate of the Marshalsea prison for debtors (where Dickens's own father spent some time). He derives comfort from the presence of his daughter Amy, 'Little Dorrit', who was born in the prison. It is unexpectedly discovered that William is heir to a fortune, and, with the notable exception of Amy, the family becomes arrogant and purse-proud as a consequence. As paupers, Old Dorrit and Amy were befriended by Arthus Clenman; when Clenman in his turn is imprisoned for debt Amy looks after him. Yet wealth presents a consistent obstacle to their union. Clenman's family history is also the key to an elaborate mystery in which the Dorrits are involved.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. In 1824, his father was imprisoned for debt, so Charles was sent to work in a shoe-dye factory. He later became a clerk in a law firm, a shorthand reporter in the courts, and a parliamentary and newspaper reporter. In 1833, Dickens began to contribute short stories and essays to periodicals, heralding the start of a glittering and prolific literary career. He married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, with whom he had nine surviving children before they separated in 1858. Dickens died suddenly at home on June 9, 1870, leaving behind an internationally acclaimed canon of work, including Oliver Twist (1837), Nicholas Nickleby (1838), David Copperfield (1849-50), Bleak House (1852-53), Little Dorrit (1855-57), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-61) and Our Mutual Friend (1864-65). He was buried in Westminster Abbey. Michael Slater is Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck College in the University of London. He was editor of The Dickensian (1968-77) and President of the International Dickens Fellowship (1988-90). He has published many books and articles on Dickens.