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Introduction: The early introduction of Charles Dickens in China

Lin Shu’s (1852-1924) preface to his translation of Oliver Twist (1838), which was published under the name of Zei Shi (literally ‘a thief’s history’) in 1908, portrayed Charles Dickens (1812-1870) as a social reformer whose novels alerted the Victorian government to various problems in society.1 Such a portrayal of Dickens would likely have won the endorsement of the Victorian author himself, a man who is widely seen as amongst the first literary celebrities who succeeded in constructing his own public image as a leading writer and social commentator of his day. Since the first Chinese translations of Dickens’s novels appeared in 1907, Dickens’s works, except during the years of the Cultural Revolution, have constantly been translated and adapted in China (Tong).2 As recently as 2012, Zhejiang Gongshang University Press published what they described as ‘the first complete works of Charles Dickens in Chinese’ to mark the bicentenary of the author’s birth (Wang, Yang).