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Household Words

Adorned with a combative motto from Shakespeare’s Henry V (‘Familiar in their Mouths as HOUSEHOLD WORDS’), Charles Dickens’s two-penny weekly magazine of original short fiction and crusading social journalism was launched to widespread publicity on 30 March 1850. Its sub-editor was W. H Wills, a former assistant editor of Chambers’s Journal, to which the new publication was typographically similar: two columns of small type on relatively thin, acidic paper (quad crown 12mo), no advertisements or illustrations, and the legend ‘Conducted by ¦ Charles Dickens’ as a running header on every spread of its 24 pages. Household Words was nevertheless something of a hybrid, available in 9d. monthly numbers with wrappers and handsome bi-annual volumes, aimed at affluent middle-class families and people of influence, no less than at working-class readers interested in ‘trading up.’

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