This paper examines how Dickens in The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) envisions a position for the writer and the reader that accommodates two seemingly conflicting demands on the novel in the early Victorian period: a commodity that nurtures anti-market moral sentiments. The novel functioned as a Victorian pastime amusement that was sold in the marketplace. At the same time, during the nineteenth century, it was a common belief that the novel could counter the depraved values of the marketplace by its ability to teach sympathy, a moral capacity to overcome self-interest and sympathize with others’ pain and suffering. Reading The Old Curiosity Shop, this paper focuses on the way Dickens embodies and responds to the intrinsic tensions of the commercial novel as a commodity in the market, which tries to teach unselfishness through a form of self-interest: pleasure. More specifically, this essay focuses on the initial narrator, Master Humphrey, and his double stance toward the young heroine, Nell, both as a philanthropist and a voyeur. While critics underline Master Humphrey’s voyeuristic male gaze at Nell and regard his philanthropic side as a mask, this essay argues that the inseparable enmeshment of pleasure and sympathy, curiosity and altruism is what characterizes the peculiar position of Master Humphrey. As a commercial novelist, Dickens understood pleasure more as a condition of possibility for novelistic sympathy in the marketplace than a limit per se.