There is no other work on the market which adopts the thematic approach of Austen, Dickens, and Co. and much of the material is ground-breaking or pursues issues which have been under-explored. The role of hidden supporters (see Chapter 5) has not been formally expressed, except for some individuals in some literary biographies. There is some unformulated academic interest in the concept of emulation (see Chapter 2) in English literature, but it is embryonic. The issues of money (Chapter 3) and patronage (Chapter 4) are taboo subjects: people with an interest in an author and his/her works are reluctant to accept that earning an income was a fundamental motivation, and similarly they, and many of the authors, have been reluctant to acknowledge the role of patrons. Finally the role of nineteenth-century fiction in society today has yet to be discussed in detail.
There could be no better time to publish a work such as Austen, Dickens, and Co. than the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century. The second decade of the nineteenth was a miraculous one: in it were born Charlotte and Emily Brontë (with Anne in 1820), Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Charles Kingsley, Charles Reade, William Makepeace Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, and Ellen Wood, and in it were published two seminal works in the novel form - Waverley and Frankenstein - and all six of Jane Austen’s full-length works. Bicentennial celebrations have boosted interest in Dickens, Trollope, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, Charles Kingsley, and in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.