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The Thousand and One Humbugs [i]

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Author Charles Dickens
Genres Cross-genre i
Prose: Essay i
Prose: Leading Article i
Prose: Short Fiction i
Subjects Crimean War, 1853-1856
Great Britain—Politics and Government
Literature; Writing; Authorship; Reading; Books; Poetry; Storytelling; Letter Writing
Middle East—Description and Travel
Myth; Legends; Epic Literature; Fables; Allegory; Folklore
Race; Racism; Ethnicity; Anthropology; Ethnography
Other Details
Printed : 21/4/1855
Journal : Household Words
Volume : Volume XI
Magazine : No. 265
Office Book Notes
Views : 3580

Dickens's lifelong passion for The Arabian Nights, expressed most notably in his essay 'A Christmas Tree' (first published in HW, 2 December 1850, subsequently included in Reprinted Pieces; now usually collected with Christmas Stories), enables him to write with consummate ease the following 'fine little bit of satire', as he calls it in a letter to Forster (Pilgrim, Vol. VII, p. 581).

The disastrous mismanagement of the Crimean War had given a new edge to his long-standing contempt for Parliament (which he had lately characterised in Hard Times as 'the national cinder-heap' where the members, 'the national dustmen', get up 'a great many noisy little fights among themselves'). The replacement on 13 February of the Prime Minister, Lord Aberdeen, already savaged by Dickens in 'A Haunted House' and here mocked as 'the Addled', by the septuagenarian Lord Palmerston, a supremely adroit political survivor, did nothing to raise Parliament in Dickens's esteem. In this piece his parody of the Arabian Nights tale of 'The Merchant and the Genie' is the vehicle for an effective expression of one of his most fundamental and frequent criticisms of contemporary social conditions, the link between ignorance and crime (see article 23 in Vol 2. of the Dent edition of Dickens's Journalism, pp. 91-95).

Author: Michael Slater; © J. M. Dent/Orion Publishing Group, Dickens' Journalism Volume III: 'Gone Astray' and Other Papers from Household Words, 1851-1859, 1998.

DJO gratefully acknowledges permission to reproduce this material.

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