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Portrait taken in 1868 during Dickens's second visit to the US, by an American photographer called  Jeremiah Gurney (1812-86), who had a studio in Manhattan.

Charles Dickens

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Published : 423 Articles
Pen Names : None
Date of Birth : 7/2/1812
Death : 9/6/1870
Views : 15715

Dickens, Charles I Mr. C. D., C. D., Charles Dickens, C. Dickens l, 1812-1870, novelist. Received little schooling. Worked as office boy in attorneys' office; learned shorthand. Became Parliamentary and general reporter; on reporting staff of Mirror of Parliament, True Sun, Morning Chronicle. Contributed sketches to Monthly Magazine (first published sketch, 1833), Morning Chronicle, Evening Chronicle, Bell's Life in London; contributed occasionally to other periodicals. Edited Bentley's Misc., 1837–39. Established Daily News; edited the paper, Jan.–Feb. 1846. Established H.W.; edited H.W., 1850–59; and its successor, A.Y.R., 1859 to his death. Published Pickwick Papers, 1836–37; thirteen other novels and the incomplete Edwin Drood, also Christmas books, some volumes of sketches, two travel books, some dramatic pieces. Organized theatricals; gave readings based on his works.


In the partnership agreement under which H.W. was set up, Dickens was, with the publishers Bradbury & Evans, with Forster and with Wills, one of the joint proprietors; he held an interest of one-half share. On Forster's relinquishing his one-eighth share in 1856, Dickens divided that one-eighth between himself and Wills. Dickens's salary as editor was £500 a year; he was to receive payment also for what he wrote in the periodical (Lehmann, ed., Charles Dickens As Editor, pp. 19, 195-97). (In the Office Book, Wills did not record the payments made or credited to Dickens for his H.W. writings.)

Dickens set the editorial policy of H.W. and supervised its being carried out. He had, in Wills, a capable and efficient subeditor on whose judgment he came more and more to rely; yet, especially in the early years of H.W., he concerned himself with every detail of its production. Before the first number appeared, he wrote to friends and acquaintances asking them to become contributors. He read – especially during the early years of H.W. – hundreds of MSS, some submitted directly to him, others referred to him by Wills for final acceptance or rejection. When possible, he conferred weekly, sometimes more often, with Wills on editorial matters. When personal conference was not possible, he sent his instructions and suggestions by letter – instructions and suggestions ranging from matters of editorial policy to matters of typography and punctuation. He revised – sometimes almost entirely rewrote – contributed papers; he read proofs – sometimes revises of proofs that he had in the first place altered or emended. He suggested subjects for articles; he sent to the office materials to serve as the basis for articles. On occasion, he made excursions in company with a staff member to gather material for articles. He wrote much for the early volumes of H.W., comparatively little for the later volumes. Morley's writings in the periodical exceeded his by some 300 pages. Nevertheless, as he stated when he brought H.W. to a close ("A Last Household Word"), his name had been, "as his pen and himself" had been, "inseparable from the Publication" throughout its entire existence.

Most of Dickens's writings in H.W., like almost all contributions of other writers, appeared anonymously. Only Hard Times, the one of his novels that he serialized in the periodical, carried with the title of the work in each instalment the ascription "BY CHARLES DICKENS." Four weeks before the serialization of that book began, it was announced: "NEW TALE by Mr. CHARLES DICKENS"; thereafter, each week's H.W. number announced the portion of Hard Times by Charles Dickens that was to appear the following week; before the appearance of the final chapters, as also after the completion of the serialization, H.W. published advertisements for the novel in book form as a Bradbury & Evans publication. A Child's History of England, Dickens's only other extended work in H.W., appeared in the various instalments without Dickens's name after the title, but, during the serialization, advertisements in H.W. for the History in book form as a Bradbury & Evans publication stated Dickens's authorship.

Of various other of his H.W. writings Dickens also made his authorship known. "Personal," his statement concerning the "domestic trouble," bore his name as signature. "Curious Misprint in the Edinburgh Review," his reply to J. F. Stephen's article "The License of Modern Novelists," announced: "the hand of Mr. Dickens writes this paper." In "A Nightly Scene in London," it was "I, the Conductor of this journal," who told of coming upon the poor souls crouched before a Whitechapel workhouse. The footnote that Dickens added to "Three Graces of Christian Science" he signed "C.D." Writing in first or third person, Dickens also made clear that he was author of the introductory and closing comments in H.W. ("A Preliminary Word," "All the Year Round," "A Last Household Word"), as of "Pet Prisoners," the detective police articles, "The Guild of Literature and Art," "The Late Mr. Justice Talfourd," and "To Working Men."

In bold type, the words "CONDUCTED BY CHARLES DICKENS" appeared on the H.W. masthead; in small type they spanned the verso and recto of facing pages. In the first five years of H.W.'s publication, Dickens's name appeared in more than seventy-five H.W. advertisements and announcements in connection with the periodical and one of its supplementary publications, and in connection with A Child's History and Hard Times (in some advertisements and announcements his name appeared as many as three times). In the last year of H.W.'s publication, readings by Mr. Charles Dickens were announced in forty-one H.W. numbers. Dickens was omnipresent in his periodical.

In view of this fact, as also for other obvious considerations, Dickens naturally wanted in H.W. stories and articles no laudatory references to himself – or references that might be so construed. Thus, in "Our Society at Cranford," he substituted mentions of Hood and Hood's writings for Mrs. Gaskell's mentions of Boz and Boz's Pickwick and Christmas Carol: " ... with my name on every page of Household Words," he wrote to Mrs. Gaskell (Dec. 5 [4], 1851.), "there would be – or at least I should feel – an impropriety in so mentioning myself." In a letter to Cunningham, June 24, 1853, he referred to his "usual precaution" in deleting from articles references that "unmistakably" applied to himself. An exception to this policy was the publication in H.W. of a personal letter from John Pascoe Fawkner, in which Fawkner stated that Dickens's writings had "beguiled many an hour of my life," and wished Dickens "many years of healthful employment in the highly useful manner" in which he had been so long engaged ("A Colonial Patriot").

But the observation of a reader (a reader of "a quick wit and a happy comprehension," as Dickens characterized him) that Dickens's writings had the tendency "to hold up to derision those of the higher classes" also found a place in H.W. pages ("Ready Wit"). 

Impersonal references to himself and to his books Dickens had no objection to. Mention of "Mr. Dickens" appeared of necessity in Morley's "Our Wicked Mis-statements"; in occasional articles by non-staff writers mention of Dickens was appropriate and unobtrusive. References to his novels – Pickwick, Oliver Twist, Nickleby, Chuzzlewit, Dombey, Copperfield, Bleak House, Hard Times, Little Dorrit – their characters, place-names, distinctive phraseology – appeared in one or more items by Stone, Dodd, Capper, Oxenford, Miss Lawrance, Payn, Morley, Costello, the Rev. James White, Samuel Sidney, Kent, Percy Fitzgerald, Wilkie CoIlins, Mrs. Linton, and Thornbury. (The reference to Mrs. Gamp in "Railway Waifs and Strays" could be by either of the joint authors – Wills or Hill.) Of these references, the most extended was Fitzgerald's recital, in "My Long Lost CheeyId!", of the plot of a melodrama based on Dombey; the most amusing was White's depiction, in "Fiction Crushing," of a Dora-like wife who comes to despise her Copperfield prototype. In at least seven of his own articles, and in one by him and Wills, Dickens referred to characters in his novels. In a footnote to "Pet Prisoners" he mentioned American Notes, and in "That Other Public" he quoted from the book. 

Various of Dickens's H.W. writings elicited praise from contemporaries. Among his articles in the early volumes, for example, " A Child's Dream of a Star" seemed to Percy Fitzgerald written with Dickens's "most delicate touch"; and nothing, thought Fitzgerald, could be "more witty or sarcastic" than "Red Tape" (Memories of Charles Dickens, pp. 137, 155"). Crabb Robinson found one of the "Raven" articles "a witty paper," "a capital satire" (On Books and Their Writers, II, 704). The Quart. Rev. (June 1856) mentioned Dickens's "excellent papers" on the London detective police. Mrs. Cowden Clarke wrote to a friend: "The 'Christmas Tree' paper is charming, is it not?" (Letters to an Enthusiast, p. 32). Among Dickens's articles that antagonized certain readers were "Frauds on the Fairies," "Pet Prisoners," and "Whole Hogs." Dickens's remonstrance, in "Frauds on the Fairies," against George Cruikshank's rewriting "Hop-o'-My-Thumb" to serve propaganda purposes provoked a reply from Cruikshank, in which he justified his treatment of fairy tales and set Dickens right "upon one or two points" (George Cruikshank's Magazine, Feb. 1854). Dickens's comments on prison chaplains, in "Pet Prisoners," resulted in his being "severely mauled at the hands of certain Reverend Ordinaries" ("Small-Beer Chronicles," A.Y.R., Dec. 6, 1862). "Whole Hogs" aroused the indignation of temperance advocates (Kitton, "Introduction" to Old Lamps for New Ones and Other Sketches and Essays, by Dickens; also, Dickens's H.W. article "Sucking Pigs"). Dickens's statement, in H.W., concerning his domestic affairs was generally condemned as in poor taste. 

Dickens's relationship with most of his contributors was amicable. To some who were newcomers in the field of writing he at times wrote detailed criticisms of their submitted MSS, with words of advice and encouragement. Among H.W. writers who, at one time or another, showed their regard for him by dedicating to him a book were Marston, the Rev. James White, Wickenden, Forster, Prince, Landor, Charles Knight, Samuel Sidney, Wilkie Collins, Marguerite Power, Duthie, Spicer, Wills, Yates, Lever, Kent, Percy Fitzgerald, Payn, and Thombury. Hans Christian Andersen, who was technically not a contributor, but one of whose stories appeared in H.W., dedicated three books to Dickens. 

Of the items included by Dickens in Reprinted Pieces, "A Plated Article," recorded in the Office Book as by Dickens and Wills, was reprinted by Wills in his Old Leaves: Gathered from Household Words, 1860, there indicated as written in part by Dickens. Wills's Office Book ascription of the item to Dickens and to himself is more authoritative as to its authorship than is Dickens's reprinting. 

As Dickens's letters and as occasional comments by contributors indicate, Dickens made changes – deletions, additions, emendations – in more items than those for which the initials "C.D." appear in the Office Book jointly with the name of a contributor. Thus, it is not inconceivable that he might have written the hymn, sometimes attributed to him, that concludes "Poor Dick's Story" in the 1856 Christmas number (see identification note on Harriet Parr). The attribution, however, seems to be in error. 

Harper's reprinted, in whole or part, seventeen of Dickens's H.W. articles and stories (including "A Plated Article," claimed by both Dickens and Wills), three acknowledged to H.W., nine to Dickens personally, and five unacknowledged to any source. Harper's reprinted as by Dickens eight items not by him (see Elizabeth Gaskell, Home, Sala, Morley, the Rev. James White, Harriet Martineau, Wilkie Collins, Eliza Lynn Linton). Two of Dickens's items were included in the Putnam volumes of selections from H.W.: Home and Social Philosophy, 1st and 2nd ser. The collection of Dickens's H.W. items published in 1859 by the Philadelphia publishing firm T. B. Peterson, Dickens' Short Stories. Containing Thirty-one Stories Never Before Published in This Country, contained no items that Dickens had not included in Reprinted Pieces
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   D.N.B.

Author: Anne Lohrli; © University of Toronto Press, 1971.

Dickens served a full newspaper apprenticeship, beginning as a teenage penny-a-liner for The British Press (1826). Having taught himself shorthand in the late 1820s, Dickens practised the craft in the antiquated courts of Doctors' Commons before moving up to join the select band of parliamentary reporters, working first for his uncle's voluminous Mirror of Parliament, then for the radical True Sun during the stormy passage of the Reform Bill through parliament (1832), and finally securing a coveted reporter's job on the newly-reorganised Morning Chronicle, under veteran Benthamite editor John Black (1783–1855). There he undertook varied work – theatre reviewing, election reporting, express reporting of extra-mural political events, as well as enduring the daily grind of parliamentary debates. Given the fluctuating demands for space which the latter placed on a 7-column broadsheet like the Chronicle, room was soon found for Dickens's witty sketches employing, amongst a wardrobe of other styles, the rhetoric of political journalism to narrate the world of everyday Londoners. These came to be signed 'Boz', and between 1836 and 1839, together with tales from the Monthly Magazine and Bell's Life in London they were republished to extensive acclaim, overlapping with the monthly release of 'Boz's next great success, The Pickwick Papers (1836–37). 

Thereafter, Dickens's writing ventures all self-consciously straddled the permeable frontier between journalism and popular literature. He left the daily press for the more genteel world of monthly magazines, with the editorship of Bentley's Miscellany (1837-39), but sought to reconnect with satirical weekly journalism through editing Master Humphrey's Clock for Chapman & Hall (1840–41). This was something of a misfire, in journalistic terms, though it bequeathed Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge to literature. So too was Dickens's involvement with the Daily News (1845–46); critics point to the fact only 17 issues of the new Liberal broadsheet were published under his watch. Yet Dickens's effectiveness, as celebrity launch editor, should not be underestimated; his newsgathering and recruiting arrangements stood the test of time, and he led from the front with a series of inventive contributions on social and cultural issues. 

Even while seeking to reposition himself as a serious novelist with Dombey and Son (1846–48), Dickens returned to newsprint, with around 30 anonymous reviews and irony-laden leaders for the Examiner under John Forster (1848–49). These were a prelude to his return to full-time editing and leader-writing, with Household Words and All the Year Round – hugely successful enterprises in weekly magazine journalism which, however, did not prevent Dickens from writing a further eight serial novels and undertaking punishing tours as a public reader in Britain, France, and America. Dickens is now widely recognised – and was during his lifetime – as a crucial contributor both to the popular appeal and the respectability of the mass-market newspaper and periodical press.

John Drew © Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor, eds. DNCJ: Dictionary of Nineteenth-Century Journalism in Great Britain and Ireland (Gent and London: Academia Press and the British Library, 2009).

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 

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