This volume presents 1,251 letters, 447 previously unpublished, for the years 1853 to 1855; it also includes, as a substantial Appendix of Addenda, over 280 letters of the years 1831 to 1852 which came to light too late for earlier volumes. The period is one of activity remarkable even forDickens. Besides the continuous editing of Household Words (where his Hard Times appears as a weekly serial), he is still at work on Bleak House until August 1853 and in 1855 is writing the early numbers of Little Dorrit. He manages and acts in children's plays in his little Tavistock Housetheatre on Twelfth Night, and later takes the leading part in Wilkie Collins's drama The Lighthouse with great effect. Work with Miss Coutts and the troublesome inmates of her `Home' increases, and readings for charity have begun. The Crimean war and the government's mismanagement receive muchcomment in letters and satirical articles, and lead to one exceptional venture into political life with a speech for the Administrative Reform Association. But his long and happy periods of residence in France with his family encourage a more detached view, and he also revisits Switzerland andItaly on a two-month tour with Collins and the painter Augustus Egg. Friends and family still dominate his personal life, but for a few weeks long-past emotions are revived when he hears from his old love Maria Beadnell, now a middle-aged Mrs Winter.