Dickens did it. So did Dr. Seuss. Oh, and don't forget about Tolstoy. Man, he was the worst offender of all.
These authors jammed their books so full of characters that after a while, you start forgetting who is who. It's not that I dislike these guys--I respect their work very much--but part of me has always liked books where you can keep everyone straight without resorting to a flowchart.
I'm looking at you, Tolkien.
And, as with most things I rail about, I'm guilty of it, too. In my current wip, I've gone overboard. I literally couldn't tell you how many characters I've introduced because I've lost count. I think I've done a good job of distinguishing them from each other, but still. I'll go back and read over sections of my first draft and realize I've totally forgotten about certain characters, allowing them to vanish altogether.
I'm of two minds about this. During the writing process, I've enjoyed conjuring up a myriad of characters because it keeps things lively. But I'm wondering if I've passed a tipping point, and if readers will be overwhelmed with the sheer number of people and creatures who inhabit my book.
Have you ever run into this issue? I'm nearly done with the first draft, and I realize I'll have to consolidate some characters and drop others, but how do you draw that line between who stays and who goes? I'd be interested to know.