Wisbech & Fenland Museum

Originally Dickens conceived a different and bleaker ending for Great Expectations. His first ending had Pip and Estella meet briefly in London four years after Pip’s return from abroad and separating.

'With Estella after all'. Illustration by Marcus Stone.

He was deterred from this ending after showing the proofs of the concluding chapter to his friend the novelist Sir Edward
Bulwer Lytton. Lytton thought that the ending was too disappointing to the reader and suggested a happier ending with Pip and Estella remaining together. Following this advice Dickens put to one side his original ending and wrote the ending which now appears in every standard edition of
Great Expectations.

Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873).
Oil painting by Henry William Pickersgill.


Traces of the beginning of the original ending can be seen in the manuscript boxed and crossed through. Intriguingly, the very last line of the revised ending in the manuscript actually reads “I saw the shadow of no parting from her but one” the sinister “but one” now being dropped in the standard text of the novel.