Dickens, Charles (John Huffam)

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DICKENS, Charles (John Huffam)

Nationality: English. Born: Portsmouth, Hampshire, 7 February 1812; lived with his family in London, 1814-16, Chatham, Kent, 1817-21, and London, 1822. Education: Attended school in Chatham; attended Wellington House Academy, London, 1824-27, and Mr. Dawson's school, Brunswick Square, London, 1827. Family: Married Catherine Hogarth in 1836 (separated 1858), seven sons and three daughters; possibly had a son by Ellen Ternan. Career: Worked in a blacking factory, Hungerford Market, London, while his family was in Marshalsea debtor's prison, 1824; clerk in a law office, London, 1827-28; shorthand reporter, Doctors' Commons, 1828-30 and in Parliament; reporter, True Son, 1830-32; reporter, Mirror of Parliament, 1832-34; reporter, Morning Chronicle, 1834-36; contributor, Monthly Magazine, 1833-34 (as Boz, 1834) and Evening Chronicle, 1835-36; editor, Bentley's Miscellany, 1837-39. Visited the U.S., 1842 and lived in Italy, 1844-45. Appeared in amateur theatricals from 1845 and managed an amateur theatrical tour of England, 1847; editor, London Daily News, 1846. Lived in Switzerland and Paris, 1846. Founding editor, Household Words, London, 1850-59 and its successor, All the Year Round, 1859-70; gave reading tours of Britain, 1858-59, 1861-63, 1866-67, and 1868-70; gave reading tours in the United States, 1867-68. Lived in Gad's Hill Place, near Rochester, Kent, from 1860. Died: 9 June 1870.



Nonesuch Dickens, edited by Arthur Waugh and others. 23 vols., 1937-38.

The Short Stories, edited by Walter Allen. 1971.

Selected Short Fiction, edited by Deborah A. Thomas. 1976.

The Supernatural Short Stories, edited by Michael Hayes. 1978.

The Portable Dickens, edited by Angus Wilson. 1983.

Short Stories

Sketches by Boz Illustrative of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People. 1836; second series, 1836.

A Christmas Carol, in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. 1843.

The Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of Home. 1845.

Christmas Stories from Household Words and All the Year Round, in Works (Charles Dickens Edition). 1874.

The Christmas Books, edited by Ruth Glancy. 1971.


The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club. 1837; The Pickwick Papers, edited by James Kinsley, 1986.

Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy's Progress. 1838; edited by Kathleen Tillotson, 1966.

The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. 1839; edited by Paul Schlicke, 1990.

Master Humphrey's Clock: The Old Curiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge. 3 vols., 1840-41; The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge each published separately, 1841; Barnaby Rudge edited by Gordon W. Spence, 1973.

The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. 1844; edited by Margaret Cardwell, 1982.

The Chimes: A Goblin Story. 1844.

The Battle of Life: A Love Story. 1846.

The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain: A Fancy for Christmas Time. 1848.

Dealings with the Firm of Dombey and Son, Wholesale, Retail, and for Exportation. 1848; edited by Alan Horsman, 1974.

The Personal History of David Copperfield. 1850; edited by Nina Burgis, 1981, and by Jerome H. Buckley, 1990.

Bleak House. 1853; edited by George Ford and Sylvère Monod, 1977.

Hard Times, for These Times. 1854; edited by George Ford and Sylvère Monod, 1972.

Little Dorrit. 1857; edited by Harvey Peter Sucksmith, 1979.

A Tale of Two Cities. 1859; edited by Andrew Sanders, 1988.

Great Expectations. 1861; edited by Louise Stevens, 1966.

Our Mutual Friend. 1865; edited by Stephen Gill, 1971.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood. 1870; edited by Arthur J. Cox, 1974.

The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, No Thoroughfare, The Perils of Certain English Prisoners, with Wilkie Collins. 1890.


O'Thello (produced 1833). In Nonesuch Dickens, 1937-38.

The Village Coquettes, music by John Hullah (produced 1836). 1836.

The Strange Gentleman (produced 1836). 1837.

Is She His Wife? or, Something Singular (produced 1837). N.d.

Mr. Nightingale's Diary, with Mark Lemon (produced 1851). 1851.

The Lighthouse, with Wilkie Collins, from the story "Gabriel's Marriage" by Collins (produced 1855).

The Frozen Deep, with Wilkie Collins (produced 1857). 1866; in Under the Management of Mr. Dickens: His Production of the Frozen Deep, edited by R.L. Brannan, 1966.

No Thoroughfare, with Wilkie Collins and Charles Fechter, from the story by Dickens and Collins (produced 1867). 1867.

The Lamplighter. 1879.


American Notes for General Circulation. 2 vols., 1842; edited by John S. Whitely and Arnold Goldman, 1972.

Pictures from Italy. 1846.

Works (cheap edition). 17 vols., 1847-67.

A Child's History of England. 3 vols., 1852-54.

The Uncommercial Traveller. 1861.

Speeches Literary and Social, edited by R.H. Shepherd. 1870; revised edition, as The Speeches 1841-1870, 1884.

Speeches, Letters, and Sayings. 1870.

The Mudfog Papers. 1880.

Letters, edited by Georgina Hogarth and Mamie Dickens. 3 vols., 1880-82; revised edition (Pilgrim Edition), edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey, and Kathleen Tillotson, 1965—.

Plays and Poems, edited by R.H. Shepherd. 2 vols., 1885.

To Be Read at Dusk and Other Stories, Sketches, and Essays, edited by F. G. Kitton. 1898.

Miscellaneous Papers, edited by B.W. Matz. 2 vols., 1908.

The Life of Our Lord (for children). 1934.

Speeches, edited by K.J. Fielding. 1960.

Uncollected Writings from Household Words 1850-1859, edited by Harry Stone. 2 vols., 1968.

Household Words: A Weekly Journal 1850-1859, edited by Anne Lohrli. 1974.

The Public Readings, edited by Philip Collins. 1975.

Dickens on America and the Americans, edited by Michael Slater. 1979.

Dickens on England and the English, edited by Malcolm Andrews. 1979.

Book of Memoranda, edited by Fred Kaplan. 1981.

Selected Letters, edited by David Paroissien. 1985.

A December Vision: Social Journalism, edited by Neil Philip and Victor Neuburg. 1986.

Dickens' Working Notes for His Novels, edited by Harry Stone. 1987.

Editor, The Pic Nic Papers. 3 vols., 1841.



The First Editions of the Writings of Dickens by John C. Eckel, 1913, revised edition, 1932; A Bibliography of the Periodical Works of Dickens by Thomas Hatton and Arthur H. Cleaver, 1933; A Dickens Bibliography by Phillip Collins, 1970; A Bibliography of Dickensian Criticism 1836-1975 by R. C. Churchill, 1975; The Cumulated Dickens Checklist 1970-1979 by Alan M. Cohn and K. K. Collins, 1982; The Critical Reception of Dickens 1833-1841 by Kathryn Chittick, 1989; Charles Dicken's The Mystery of Edwin Drood: An Annotated Bibliography by Don Richard Cox, 1997; Charles Dickens A-Z: The Essential Reference to the Life and Work by Paul B. Davis, 1998.

Critical Studies:

The Life of Dickens by John Forster, 3 vols., 1872-74, edited by A. J. Hoppé, 2 vols., 1966; Dickens by G. K. Chesterton, 1906; The Dickens World by Humphry House, 1941; Dickens: His Character, Comedy, and Career by Hesketh Pearson, 1949; Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph by Edgar Johnson, 2 vols., 1952, revised and abridged edition, 1 vol., 1977; Dickens, 1953, revised 1963, and Dickens: A Critical Introduction, 1958, revised 1965, both by K. J. Fielding; Dickens and His Readers by George H. Ford, 1955; Dickens at Work by Kathleen Tillotson and John Butt, 1957; Dickens: The World of His Novels by J. Hillis Miller, 1958; The Imagination of Dickens by A. O. J. Cockshut, 1961; The Dickens Critics edited by George H. Ford and Lauriat Lane, Jr., 1961; Dickens and the Twentieth Century edited by John Gross and Gabriel Pearson, 1962; Dickens and Crime, 1962, revised 1963, and Dickens and Education, 1963, revised 1964, both by Philip Collins, and Dickens: The Critical Heritage, 1971, and Dickens: Interviews and Recollections, 2 vols., 1981, both edited by Collins; The Flint and the Flame: The Artistry of Dickens by Earle R. Davis, 1963; Dickens from Pickwick to Dombey by Steven Marcus, 1964; Dickens: The Dreamer's Stance by Taylor Stoehr, 1965; The Dickens Theatre: A Reassessment of the Novels by Robert Garis, 1965; The Making of Dickens by Christopher Hibbert, 1967; Dickens the Novelist, 1968, and Martin Chuzzlewit, 1985, both by Sylvère Monod; Dickens the Novelist by F. R. Leavis and Q.D. Leavis, 1970; The Moral Art of Dickens by Barbara Hardy, 1970; The World of Dickens by Angus Wilson, 1970; Dickens the Craftsman edited by Robert Parlow, 1970; The Melancholy Man: A Study of Dickens's Novels by John Lucas, 1970, revised edition, 1980; Dickens and the Art of Analogy by H. M. Daleski, 1971; The City of Dickens, 1971, and From Copyright to Copperfield: The Identity of Dickens, 1987, both by Alexander Welsh; Dickens Centennial Essays edited by Ada Nisbet and Blake Nevius, 1971; Dickens and the Rhetoric of Laughter by James R. Kincaid, 1972; A Reader's Guide to Dickens by Philip Hobsbaum, 1973; The Violent Effigy: A Study of Dickens's Imagination by John Carey, 1973; Dickens' Sketches by Boz: End in the Beginning by Virgil Grillo, 1974; Dickens at Doughty Street by John Greaves, 1975; Dickens's Apprentice Years: The Making of a Novelist by Duane De Vries, 1976; The Dickens Myth: Its Genesis and Structure by Geoffrey Thurley, 1976; Allegory in Dickens by Jane Vogel, 1977; The Confessional Fictions of Dickens by Barry Westburg, 1977; Dickens as a Familiar Essayist by Gordon Spence, 1977; Dickens and His Publishers by Robert Patten, 1978; Dickensian Melodrama: A Reading of the Novels by George J. Worth, 1978; Dickens and Reality by John Romano, 1979; Dickens on the City by F. S. Schwarzbach, 1979; Dickens: A Life by Norman Mackenzie and Jeanne Mackenzie, 1979; Reality and Comic Confidence in Dickens by P. J. M. Scott, 1979; Interpreting, Interpreting: Interpreting Dickens's Dombey by Susan R. Horton, 1979; Dickens and the Invisible World: Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Novel-Making by Harry Stone, 1979; The Decoding of Edwin Drood by Charles Forsyte, 1980; Dickens and the Suspended Quotation by Mark Lambert, 1981; Dickens by Harland S. Nelson, 1981; Dickens at Play by S.J. Newman, 1981; A Reformer's Art: Dickens' Picturesque and Grotesque Imagery by Nancy K. Hill, 1981; The Reader in the Dickens World: Style and Response by Susan R. Horton, 1981; Excess and Restraint in the Novels of Dickens by John Kucich, 1981; Dickens and Religion by Dennis Walder, 1981; Dickens and the Short Story by Deborah A. Thomas, 1982; Dickens: New Perspectives edited by Wendell Stacy Johnson, 1982; Dickens: Novelist in the Market-Place by James M. Brown, 1982; Dickens and Women by Michael Slater, 1983; The Changing World of Dickens by Robert Giddings, 1983; Dickens and Phiz by Michael Steig, 1983; A Dickens Companion, 1984, A Dickens Chronology, 1988, and Bleak House: A Novel of Connections, 1990, all by Norman Page; Dickens and the Romantic Self by Lawrence Frank, 1984; A Preface to Dickens by Allan Grant, 1984; Dickens and the Broken Scripture by Janet L. Larson, 1985; Dickens by Steven Connor, 1985; Dickens and the Form of the Novel by Graham Daldry, 1986; Dickens by Kate Flint, 1986; A Companion to The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Wendy S. Jacobson, 1986; The Companion to Our Mutual Friend by Michael Cotsell, 1986, and Critical Essays on Great Expectations edited by Cotsell, 1990; Dickens the Designer by Juliet McMaster, 1987; Dickens in Search of Himself: Recurrent Themes and Characters in the Work of Dickens by Gwen Watkins, 1987; Bleak House by Graham Storey, 1987; Great Expectations: A Novel of Friendship by Bert G. Hornback, 1987; The Companion to A Tale of Two Cities by Andrew Sanders, 1988; Dickens and Popular Entertainment by Paul Schlicke, 1988; Circulation: Defoe, Dickens, and the Economies of the Novel by David Trotter, 1988; Dickens' Childhood by Michael Allen, 1988; The Dickens Index edited by Nicolas Bentley, Michael Slater, and Nina Burgis, 1988; The Companion to Bleak House by Susan Shatto, 1988; Dickens: A Biography by Fred Kaplan, 1988; Dramatic Dickens edited by Carol Hanbery MacKay, 1989; The Dickens Pantomime by Edwin M. Eigner, 1989; The Textual Life of Dickens's Characters by James A. Davies, 1990; A Dickens Glossary by Fred Levit, 1990; Dickens by Peter Ackroyd, 1990; Edwin Drood: Antichrist in the Cathedral by John Thacker, 1990; Dickens and the 1830's by Kathryn Chittick, 1990; Dickens's Class Consciousness: A Marginal View by Pam Morris, 1990; The Dickens Hero: Selfhood and Alienation in the Dickens World by Beth F. Herst, 1990; The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Dickens by Claire Tomalin, 1990; Dickens the Novelist by F. R. Leavis, 1994; Dickens and Crime by Philip Arthur William, 1994; Dickens and the Grown-up Child by Malcolm Andrews, 1994; Dickens, Violence, and the Modern State: Dreams of the Scaffold by Jeremy Tambling, 1995; The Role of Women in the Novels of Charles Dickens by Matthew J. McGuire, 1995; Charles Dickens: A Literary Life by Grahame Smith, 1996; Marital Power in Dickens' Fiction by Rita Lubitz, 1996; Little Dorrit's Shadows: Character and Contradiction in Dickens by Brian Rosenberg, 1996; Telling Complexions: The Nineteenth-Century English Novel and the Blush by Mary Ann O'Farrell, 1997; Dickens and New Historicism by William J. Palmer, 1997; Hard Times: A Fable of Fragmentation and Wholeness by Deborah A. Thomas, 1997; Dickens and the Politics of the Family by Catherine Waters, 1997; Dissenting Women in Dickens' Novels: The Subversion of Domestic Ideology by Brenda Ayres, 1998; Who's Who in Dickens by Donald Hawes, 1998.

* * *

Charles Dickens's first fictional work was "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" (Monthly Magazine, December 1833, later retitled "Mr. Minns and His Cousin"). Further stories soon appeared in sundry journals, and were collected, sometimes in revised form, together with descriptive essays, in Dichens' Sketches by Boz: End in the Beginning (two series, February and December 1836). The attention they caught led to his being invited to write The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (serialized 1836-37), which—following the precedent of eighteenth-century novels—included nine interpolated tales; controversy continues whether these were space-fillers pulled out of his drawer, or whether their themes relate contrapuntally or otherwise to the main narrative. An early instalment of The Life of Nicholas Nickleby (1838-39) contains two tales, and Master Humphrey's Clock: The Old Couiosity Shop, Barnaby Rudge (1840-41) has three, before full-length novels took over to satisfy reader demand. Similarly, when editing Bent-ley's Miscellany (1837-39), Dickens wrote a few short tales before concentrating on Oliver Twist. In 1843 Dickens accidentally invented the Christmas Book genre with A Christmas Carol, in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, followed by four others of similar format and length (about 40, 000 words), later collected as Christmas Books. From 1850, when he established a weekly magazine, his Christmas endeavors went into their Special Christmas Numbers. Here he usually created a framework like that of The Canterbury Tales or The Decameron: a number of people are assembled—round the family hearth, or marooned in a snowed-up inn, or wherever—and they all tell tales (Dickens engaged collaborators to write most of these). This series, which included variants on this pattern, continued until 1867, when Dickens decided that the idea was exhausted. His contributions were collected as Christmas Stories.

A few other short narratives appeared in collections—"The Lamplighter," adapted from an unacted farce (in Pic Nic Papers, 1841), "To Be Read at Dusk," two supernatural tales (in The Keepsake, 1852)—or were written for the lucrative American magazine market, though published simultaneously in his own weekly: "Hunted Down," about the exposure of a "gentleman"-murderer (New York Ledger, August-September 1859), "A Holiday Romance," four tales "told" by children, embodying such childish fantasies as a reversal of roles between adults and children, and including a charming fairy story about a magic fish bone (Our Young Folks, January-May 1868), and George Silverman's Explanation (Atlantic Monthly, January-March 1868), an impressive story about psychological oppression. There are about 80 stories in all, and extended anecdotes occur in many essays and in character sketches (e.g., in the anonymous Sketches of Young Gentlemen, 1838).

A Christmas Carol is a mythological masterpiece, worthy to stand alongside Dickens's novels. This cannot be said of his other short pieces, which at best engage his talents rather than his genius. Many are humdrum: some are weak apprentice efforts, some are rather tedious hackwork pieces, overreliant on facile comic situations and phraseology or on conventional horrifics. Dickens needed the elbow room of novel length for his genius to flourish, involving a large cast in a multiplicity of plots and settings. Almost all the shorter fictions, however, are manifestly Dickensian—though few would now be read were Dickens's name not attached to them. Sketches by Boz, his first book, displays many lifelong stances and preoccupations, and its subtitle, Illustrative of Every-Day Life and Every-Day People, announces a favorite milieu, while the metropolitan setting of almost all its items recurs in the novels, where London is the predominant location. Most of the tales are comic, involving such predictable subjects as henpecked husbands, family tiffs, legacy hunting, class pretensions, inappropriate courtships, military impostors, a duel between cowards, the mistakes of a night, and the absurdities of amateur theatricals. There are two exceptions, "The Black Veil" (a mother goes mad when a physician fails to resuscitate her hanged son) and "The Drunkard's Death" (the title character perishes in a watery grave, after a life ruinous to himself and his family). Sensation and violence are prominent in the Pickwick interpolated tales, emotionally at odds with the novel's high comic spirit: two more tales about drunkard's destructive lives and terrible deaths, others about a madman's murderous plans and a prisoner's implacable revenge for his and his family's sufferings. These tales release the darker propensities of Dickens's imagination: mental disturbance, crime, violence, and prisons are important in later novels.

According to Harry Stone, in Dickens and the Invisible World, the Christmas Books center on "a protagonist who is mistaken or displays false values is forced, through a series of extraordinary events, to see his errors." Supernatural means are used in all except The Battle of Life: fairy story and nursery tale influences are evident (and, as Dickens said, seasonally appropriate). After the Carol and The Chimes, however, the seasonal reference recedes, though there remains a stress on hearth and home and family affection, often temporarily rejected or disturbed. The domestic theme of The Cricket on the Hearth particularly appealed to its original readers. The Chimes has more of the topical social and political satire and protest familiar in the novels, though also in Tilly Slowboy, the dense but devoted maid-of-all-work, it has one of the broadly comic characters that was a popular ingredient in these books. Problems of personality and memory that were engaging Dickens in the late 1840s are explored in The Haunted Man, and in the story's terrible waif—"A baby savage, a young monster, a child who had never been a child"—Dickens, as in other books, pays seasonal attention to childhood and repeats his social message.

Most of the Christmas Stories (1852-67) are first-person narrative, often told by a highly flavored character. Several entered Dickens's public readings repertoire (1858-70) as successful character monologues, some being evidently written with a view to this purpose. The stories of the garrulous boarding housekeeper Mrs. Lirriper (1863, revived 1864) and the market cheapjack Doctor Marigold (1865) are good instances: brilliantly conceived voices, but with disappointingly inconsequential or mawkish tales to tell. "Tales" better describes these short fictions than "short stories"; Dickens was unaffected by the short story art then being created by Poe and others. These stories have scant reference to Christmas, though Dickens liked to "strike the chord of the season." Social and political references are only incidental now; but the Indian Mutiny inspired The Perils of Certain English Prisoners. "The Signalman" is one of Dickens's best supernatural stories. Other characteristic interests appear in "Boots at the Holly-Tree Inn" (child-centered sentiment blended with humor) and No Thoroughfare (in collaboration with Wilkie Collins: crime, detection, melodrama). There are many incidental felicities; Dickens always becomes animated, for instance, over railways (Mugby Junction, and elsewhere) and over showbiz (Mr. Chops the Dwarf, in Going into Society; Pickleson the fairground giant, in Doctor Marigold). But these stories are obviously minor works, in a double sense, if read alongside the novels written at the same phase of Dickens's maturity.

—Philip Collins

See the essays on A Christmas Carol and "The Signalman."

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