Our Mutual Friend

Dickens’ last complete novel was published serially 1864-5. It begins with an intriguing fortune offered to John Harmon by his late father, a rich dust contractor, in his will. To receive the money, John must marry a certain Bella Wilfer who he does not know from Eve. He is returning from the exile enforced by his father and confides in a ship’s mate who attempts to murder him. The mate gets killed instead, leaving one inconvenient corpse. Because John is considered dead (the body is found with his papers), the money passes to Mr Boffin, old Harmon’s foreman. Harmon adopts Bella and John comes into his employ disguised as John Rokesmith. Bella does not fall for John but through kindly Boffin’s contrivances learns to hate money and fall for her suitor under his false name. Eventually she learns of his true identity as the Boffins had previously, and the villainous one-legged Silas Wegg’s plot to blackmail Mr Boffin is brought to light. Therre is also a story running behind the main plot about a certain Eugene Wrayburn and his love for Lizzie Hexam, and his rival’s attempt to murder him. The two plots are only really connected through the waterside murders but it allows Dickens to indulge in an extremely socially diverse cast of characters. The symbolism of the River Thames and the dust-heaps from which old Harmon made his fortune as emblems of time and money were not wasted on contemporary critics who otherwise saw the book as relatively contrived and ‘forced’ - though it is one of Dickens’ many novels that underwent something of a critical reappraisal in the twentieth century.

Table of contents
On the Look Out
The Man from Somewhere
Another Man
The R. Wilfer Family
Boffin’s Bower
Cut Adrift
Mr Wegg Looks After Himself
Mr Boffin in Consultation
Mr and Mrs Boffin in Consultation
A Marriage Contract
The Sweat of an Honest Man’s Brow
Tracking the Bird of Prey
The Bird of Prey Brought Down
Two New Servants
Minders and Re-Minders
A Dismal Swamp
Of an Educational Character
Still Educational
A Piece of Work
Cupid Prompted
Mercury Prompting
A Riddle Without an Answer
In which a Friendly Move is Originated
In which an Innocent Elopement Occurs
In which the Orphan Makes his Will
A Successor
Some Affairs Of The Heart
More Birds of Prey
A Solo and a Duett
Strong of Purpose
The Whole Case So Far
An Anniversary Occasion
Lodgers in Queer Street
A Respected Friend in a New Aspect
The Same Respected Friend in More Aspects Than One
A Happy Return of the Day
The Golden Dustman falls into Bad Company
The Golden Dustman falls into Worse Company
The Friendly Move takes up a Strong Position
The End of a Long Journey
Somebody becomes the Subject of a Prediction
Scouts Out
In The Dark
Meaning Mischief
Give a Dog a Bad Name, and Hang Him
Mr Wegg Prepares a Grindstone for Mr Boffin’s Nose
The Golden Dustman at his Worst
The Feast of the Three Hobgoblins
A Social Chorus
Setting Traps
The Golden Dustman Rises a Little
The Golden Dustman Sinks Again
A Runaway Match
Concerning the Mendicant’s Bride
A Cry for Help
Better to be Abel than Cain
A Few Grains Of Pepper
Two Places Vacated
The Dolls’ Dressmaker Discovers A Word
Effect is Given to the Dolls’ Dressmaker’s Discovery
The Passing Shadow.
Showing how the Golden Dustman Helped to Scatter Dust
Checkmate to the Friendly Move
What was Caught in the Traps that were Set
Persons and Things in General
The Voice of Society
In Lieu of Preface

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