Our Mutual Friend: The Advertisements

Jon Michael Varese



Detail of advertisement for Keating's Insect Powder

The official advertising sections for Our Mutual Friend contained a greater volume of material than any other previous work by Dickens in original parts—no less than 320 pages. In the first issue alone (May 1864), the 32-page insert contained 5 clothing ads, 3 ads for foodstuffs, 3 for inks and polish, 3 for telescopic field glasses, 7 for furniture and household goods, and one each for jewelry, embroidery, monograms, umbrellas and croquet sets. Additionally, the first issue advertised commemorative souvenir medals and portraits of Shakespeare and the Princess of Wales respectively, as well as a startling number of cosmetics and medicines (16 beauty aids and 9 cure-alls). Scholars often look to the Boffin/Wegg plot in Our Mutual Friend to measure the growing consumerism that characterized Victorian London; but surely there is no better gauge for the consumptive forces of Dickens's society than the ad campaigns that preceded his last completed serialization.

Below is a representative sampling of the advertisements that appeared in the original serial parts between May 1864 and November 1865. Some ads (like Harvey and Son's "New Silks" from the inside cover of Issue No. 2) appeared in nearly every issue while others (like "The People's Pickwick" from Issue No. 12) appeared only once. This "virtual issue" takes frequency of appearance into account, and includes those ads that ran most often over the course of the serial publication. The collection also includes special or unusual ads that illustrate the eccentricities of 19th-century publishing.

Each issue of Our Mutual Friend included (in this order) an advertizing section, two plates by Marcus Stone, 32 pages of letterpress (the story), and an additional advertising section. This collection represents the "bread" that sandwiched the meat of Dickens's novel. The first four rows of samples are taken from ads that appeared before the novel (that is, in the advertising section that preceded the text of the novel). The last three rows of samples are taken from the backs of the issues, after the conclusion of Dickens's text.

The following selections were photographed from a complete edition of the original parts, housed in the Ada B. Nisbet archive at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

PHOTO CREDITS: Don Harris and Victor Schiffrin. University of California, Santa Cruz.

  • Cover, Issue No. 10
  • Inside cover and facing first page, Issue No. 2
  • Christmas insert advertising December issue of "London Society", Issue No. 8
  • Reverse of Christmas insert, Issue No. 8
  • Insert for the new Publication "Scenes In Court", Issue No. 9
  • Typical two-page publisher's spread advertising Carlyle and Cassell, Issue No. 1
  • Typical two-page spread advertising cosmetics and cure-alls, Issue No. 2
  • Various holdings of Mudie's Select Library, Issue No. 1
  • Sewing machines and croquet games, Issue No. 1
  • Slack's electro-plate/Cash's cambric frilling, Issue No. 1
  • Benham and Son's iron-mongery/Turner engravings, Issue No. 1
  • Rowland's Kalydor/Thurston and Co. Biliards, Issue No. 4
  • Sangster's Parasols/Warner and Sons' Aquaject, Issue No. 15
  • Insert regarding the title of the novel, Issue No.1
  • All the Year Round insert for "Never Forgotten", Issue No. 5
  • Advertisement for The People's Pickwick, Issue No. 12
  • Fry's Trinidad Rock Cocoa, Issue No.2
  • Cornhill Magazine's insert for a new novel by Wilkie Collins, Issue No. 3
  • Dr. De Jongh's Cod Liver Oil, Issue No. 3
  • Keating's Insect Powder, Issue No. 15
  • Anthelmintic Bon Bons, Issue No. 19/20
  • Circulating Musical Library/Albery Insurance Co., Issue No. 9
  • Insert advertising foreign bank notes, Issue No. 19/20
  • Boosey and Co. Pianofortes, Issue No. 19/20
  • Insert for Vegetable Restorative Pills, Issue No.7
  • Cassell's Illustrated Gulliver's Travels and History of England, Issue No.7
  • Inside and back cover and facing ad for Glenfield Starch, Issue No. 4
  • Back cover, "The Furnishing of Bedrooms", Issue No. 3