However, as Louis James argues: Dickens is at once central and untypical in the ‘social novel’.
A novelist universally associated with social issues, he was attacked for allowing his imagination to come between his writing and his subject, and his underlying attitudes can be evasive.
He was by no means completely under the influence of Carlyle, but he followed his teaching when he exposed the ills of Victorian society.
Although his fiction was not politically subversive, he called to remedy acute social abuses.
Its range of characters, its combination of the comic and the serious, its central love story and its potential for a striking visual presentation have made it very attractive with adapters for both feature films and television programmes.
The obvious question to ask about any adaptation is: Although it is interesting and sometimes amusing to identify what is omitted or changed, there are other, more challenging, questions to be asked.
Dickens believed in the ethical and political potential of literature, and the novel in particular, and he treated his fiction as a springboard for debates about moral and social reform.
In his novels of social analysis Dickens became an outspoken critic of unjust economic and social conditions.
The Collected Critical Heritage set will be available as a set of 68 volumes and the series will also be available in mini sets selected by period (in slipcase boxes) and as individual volumes.