In 1812, the year Charles Dickens was born, there were 66 novels published in Britain. People had been writing novels for a century—most experts date the first novel to Robinson Crusoe in 1719—
but nobody wanted to do it professionally. The steam-powered printing press was still in its early stages； the literacy（识字） rate in England was under 50%. Many works of fiction appeared without the names of the authors, often with something like “By a lady.”Novels, for the most part, were looked upon as silly, immoral, or just plain bad.
In 1870, when Dickens died, the world mourned him as its first professional writer and publisher, famous and beloved, who had led an explosion in both the publication of novels and their readership and whose characters — from Oliver Twist to Tiny Tim— were held up as moral touchstones. Today Dickens’ greatness is unchallenged. Removing him from the pantheon（名人堂） of English literature would make about as much sense as the Louvre selling off the Mona Lisa.