A Tale of Two Cities was first published in serial form on this date ( April 30th ) in 1859. It appeared in the first issue of a new weekly journal, All the Year Round, which Dickens founded himself.
A Tale of Two Cities was on the front page of the first issue, and thanks to Dickens’ popularity, it sold 125,000 copies. Dickens was so encouraged by its success that he also serialized Great Expectations in the journal, beginning in December of 1860.
Dickens published All the Year Round until his death in 1870. After that time, his son, Charles Dickens Jr., took up the reins, editing the journal until 1895. During its 36-year run, it featured the work of Anthony Trollope, Wilkie Collins, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, and several others.
A Tale of Two Cities begins in the most intriguing fashion:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way …”