Cover of Book 'Our Mutual Friend'
0 People favorited it

Our Mutual Friend

By: Charles Dickens

Our Mutual Friend, written in 1864–1865, is the last novel completed by Charles Dickens and is one of his most sophisticated works, combining savage satire with social analysis. It centres on, in the words of critic J. Hillis Miller, quoting from the character Bella Wilfer in the book, "money, money, money, and what money can make of life". Most reviewers in the 1860s continued o praise Dickens' skill as a writer in general, but did not review this novel in detail. Some found the plot both too complex and not well laid out. The Times of London found the first few chapters did not draw the reader into the characters. In the 20th century, however, reviewers began to find much to approve in the later novels of Dickens, including Our Mutual Friend. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, some reviewers suggested that Dickens was, in fact, experimenting with structure, and that the characters considered somewhat flat and not recognized by the contemporary reviewers were meant rather to be true representations of the Victorian working class and the key to understanding the structure of the society depicted by Dickens in the novel.

Having made his fortune from London's rubbish, a rich misanthropic miser dies, estranged from all except his faithful employees Mr and Mrs Boffin. By his will, his fortune goes to his estranged son John Harmon, who is to return from where he has settled abroad (possibly in South Africa) to claim it, on condition that he marries a woman he has never met, Miss Bella Wilfer. The implementation of the will is in the charge of the solicitor, Mortimer Lightwood, who has no other practice.


The son and heir does not appear, though some knew him aboard the ship to London. A body is found in the Thames by Gaffer Hexam, rowed by his daughter Lizzie. He is a waterman who makes his living by retrieving corpses and taking the cash in their pockets, before handing them over to the authorities. Papers in the pockets of the drowned man identify him as Harmon. Present at the identification of the water-soaked corpse is a mysterious young man, who gives his name as Julius Handford and then disappears.


The whole estate then devolves upon Mr and Mrs Boffin, naïve and good-hearted people who wish to enjoy it for themselves and to share it with others. The childless couple take Miss Wilfer into their household, and treat her as their pampered child and heiress. They also accept an offer from Julius Handford, now going under the name of John Rokesmith, to serve as their confidential secretary and man of business, at no salary for a trial period of two years. Rokesmith uses this position to watch and learn everything about the Boffins, Miss Wilfer, and the aftershock of the drowning of Harmon. Mr Boffin engages a one-legged ballad-seller, Silas Wegg, to read aloud to him in the evenings, and Wegg tries to take advantage of his position and of Mr Boffin's good heart to obtain other advantages from the wealthy dustman. When the Boffins purchase a large home, Wegg is invited to live in the old Harmon home. Wegg hopes to find hidden treasure in the house or in the mounds of trash on the property.


Gaffer Hexam, who found the body, is accused of murdering Harmon by a fellow waterman, Roger "Rogue" Riderhood, who is bitter at having been cast off as Hexam's partner, and who covets the large reward offered in relation to the murder. As a result of the accusation, Hexam is shunned by his fellows on the river, and excluded from The Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters, the public house they frequent. Hexam's young son, the clever but priggish Charley Hexam, leaves his father's house to better himself at school, and to train to be a schoolmaster, encouraged by his sister, the beautiful Lizzie Hexam. Lizzie stays with her father, to whom she is devoted.


Before Riderhood can claim the reward for his false allegation, Hexam is found drowned himself. Lizzie Hexam becomes the lodger of a doll's dressmaker, a disabled teenager nicknamed "Jenny Wren". Jenny's alcoholic father lives with them, and is treated by Jenny as a child. The work-shy barrister Eugene Wrayburn notices Lizzie when accompanying his friend Lightwood to Gaffer Hexam's home and falls in love with her. However, he soon gains a violent rival in Bradley Headstone, Charley Hexam's schoolmaster. Charley wants his sister to be under obligation to no one but him, and tries to arrange lessons for her with Headstone, only to find that Wrayburn has already engaged a teacher for both Lizzie and Jenny. Headstone quickly develops an unreasonable passion for Lizzie, and makes an unsuccessful proposal. Angered by being refused and by Wrayburn's dismissive attitude towards him, Headstone comes to see him as the source of all his misfortunes and takes to following him around the streets of London at night. Lizzie fears Headstone's threats to Wrayburn and is unsure of Wrayburn's intentions toward her. (Wrayburn admits to Lightwood that he does not know his own intentions yet, either.) She flees both men, getting work up-river from London.


Mr and Mrs Boffin attempt to adopt a young orphan, in the care of his great-grandmother, Betty Higden, but the boy dies. Mrs Higden minds children for a living, assisted by a foundling known as Sloppy. She has a terror of the workhouse. When Lizzie Hexam finds Mrs Higden dying, she meets the Boffins and Bella Wilfer. In the meantime, Wrayburn has obtained information about Lizzie's whereabouts from Jenny's father and finds the object of his affections. Headstone engages with Riderhood, now working as a lock-keeper, as Headstone is consumed with making good his threats about Wrayburn. After following Wrayburn up river and seeing him with Lizzie, Headstone attacks Wrayburn and leaves him for dead. Lizzie finds him in the river and rescues him. Wrayburn, thinking he will die anyway, marries Lizzie, and suppresses any hint that Headstone was his attacker to save her reputation. When he survives, he is glad that this has brought him into a loving marriage, albeit with a social inferior. He had not cared about the social gulf between them but Lizzie had and would not otherwise have married him.


Rokesmith is in love with Bella Wilfer, but she cannot bear to accept him, having insisted that she will marry only for money. Mr Boffin appears to be corrupted by his wealth and becomes a miser. He also begins to treat his secretary Rokesmith with contempt and cruelty. This arouses Bella Wilfer's sympathy, and she stands up for Rokesmith when Mr Boffin dismisses him for aspiring to marry her. They marry and live happily, though in relatively poor circumstances. Bella soon conceives.

Book Details



Original Language


Published In



Charles Dickens created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. Charles John Huffam Dickens was born on 7 February 18...

More about Charles Dickens

Listen/Download Audiobook

This book have Only 1 audiobook version

Read by:
Playback Speed 1.0
  • Select Speed

Showing 1 to 10 of 28 results

Community Reviews for Our Mutual Friend

No reviews posted or approved, yet...