Hard Times, Charles Dickens' shortest novel, was written and published in 1854. Despite the sensational success of its two immediate predecessors, David Copperfield and Bleak House, and its immediate successors, Little Dorritt and A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times seems to have been Dickens' least popular novel during his own lifetime and subsequently. One critic speculated that editorial cuts imposed on the novel for serialization were responsible. However, as Jane Jacobs points out, Hard Times was serialized in Household Words, a periodical that Dickens not only founded but edited. Part of the reason for the book's relative unpopularity may have been its despairing message, its depiction of pervasive emptiness in almost everything life has to offer, from marriage and family to success and community. Jacobs also suggests that the book's structure may have played a role: action is slow and scant throughout, and descriptions and conversations during the first two thirds of the book are repetitious. While the book's tone changes abruptly in the last section, when Dickens, the master storyteller, jogs his characters into life by enmeshing them in convoluted coils of plot, the reader must first endure the tedious way in which Dickens establishes the novel's settings and characters.