Dickens's England was a time of unprecedented energy and change which laid the foundations of our own modern society. There was a new world coming into being: new towns, new machines, new and revolutionary ideas, new songs and dances, music-halls and popular novels, as well as new wealth for the smug middle classes. For others, however, there was poverty, struggle and hard labour. Dickens's characters with whom we are so familiar -- orphan Oliver and cunning Fagin, snobbish Pip, spendthrift Mr Micawber, pompous Podsnap and humourless Gradgrind -- grow out of his own observation. Here, Dickens and his great contemporaries -- John Ruskin, Henry Mayhew, Charles Darwin, Thomas Hardy -- take us into the heart of what Elizabeth Barrett Browning called 'this live, throbbing age, that brawls, cheats, maddens, calculates, aspires'. This is the perfect book for anyone wanting to understand more about the world of our great novelist Charles Dickens.