© 2017 by Weiner Nusim Foundation.

The Critical Writings of Charles Dickens:
A resource for scholars and Dickens lovers

General Criticism of Writing

At various points in his voluminous correspondence, especially with John Forster and Wilkie Collins, Dickens made revealing comments about certain novels of the day and literature in general. Through these comments his criteria for successful literature come to light.

 

On January 1, 1844, Dickens wrote a letter to C.C. Felton (1807-1862), a professor of Greek at Harvard whom Dickens met in America in 1842. In the letter he mentions William Hickling Prescott (1796-1859), a historian and author of A History of the Conquest of Mexico, 1843, to which Dickens referred.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume I
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Dickens corresponded with Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857), a playwright, novelist, periodical editor, and close friend. On October 24, 1846, Dickens wrote to Jerrold referencing Thackeray's The Snobs of England By One of Themselves, which appeared in Punch, 1846-1847. Read Letter

 

On September 5, 1847, Dickens wrote to Forster about Forster's biography, The Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith, which was nearing completion.

 

On April 22, 1848, Dickens wrote to Forster about The Life and Times of Oliver Goldsmith, providing praise and criticism. Forster later dedicated the book to Dickens.

 

George Henry Lewes (1817-1878) was a critic, novelist, and philosopher, and the companion of George Eliot. Dickens is commenting on Lewes' book, Rose, Blanche, and Violet in a letter to Lewes dated May 20, 1848. The rehearsals are for Every Man in his Humor, and The Merry Wives of Windsor. Flexible was a character played by Dickens in the farce Love, Law, and Physic, which often accompanied either of the plays.

 

Dickens was a contemporary of Nathaniel Hawthorne's, and read the Scarlet Letter with a critical eye. He wrote to Forster in July 1850 about what he considered the novel's flaws.

 

Dickens wrote to the Honorable Mrs. Richard Watson on November 22, 1852, discussing Uncle Tom's Cabin in his letter.

 

Bryan Waller Procter (1787-1874) was a writer under the pseudonym Barry Cornwall, and a lawyer. His daughter, Adelaide Procter, was a poet, and her collected poems Legends and Lyrics include a written introduction by Dickens. Dickens wrote B.W. Procter a letteron April 15, 1854 criticizing a book called The Fatal Revenge by Robert Maturin. Mentioned in the letter is Thomas Noon Talfourd (1795-1854), a member of Parliament, sergeant-at-law, dramatist, and author of a biography of Charles Lamb.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

In a letter to Frank Storm, Dickens discusses the works of Tobias Smollett, the 18th century Scottish novelist. Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote to Georgina Hogarth (1827-1917), hia sister-in-law and a member of his household from the age of 15. In the letter he mentions Collins's book, Hide and Seekfrom 1854.

 

On April 14, 1855, Dickens wrote to Forster, praising the latest edition of a book by Richard Steele (1672-1729) who co-founded The Spectator along with Joseph Addison.

 

Dickens did not think highly of Robinson Crusoe, and wrote to Forster describing it as "the only instance of a popular book that could make no one laugh and could make no one cry."

 

Henry Fothergill Chorley (1808-1872) was a journalist, music critic, and contributor to HWand AYR. Dickens wrote him a letter on February 3, 1860, providing feedback on a new novel called Roccabella.

 

On May 2, 1860, Dickens wrote to Forster full of encouragement for a book Forster had recently published, titled The Arrest of the Five Members.

 

Dickens thought highly of Forster's Sir John Eliot: A Biography, and on March 26, 1864 wrote him a letter praising its construction.

 

On January 10, 1866, Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton enthusiastically praising his book The Lost Tales of Miletus.

 

The Puritanism of English Readers: Letters

Although Dickens was not as virulent as Thackeray in criticizing English readers for the puritanical attitudes which limited him as a writer, Dickens did have ambivalent feelings about his readers in this respect. The two letters that follow illustrate this ambivalence. In the first, to Forster, Dickens hints that readers would not stand for a realistic portrayal of a male character. In the other, to Collins, Dickens praises a novel by Charles Reade but questions the presence in the novel of "situations extremely coarse and disagreeable."

Dickens agreed that English protagonists in books were "too good-not natural" in a letter to Forster dated August 15, 1856.

 

On February 20, 1867, Dickens wrote to Wilkie Collins about Griffith Gaunt, a book by Charles Reade.

 

Wilkie Collins was involved in the writing of both "A Petition to the Novel-Writers" and "Doctor Dulcamara, M.P." Although Dickens is recognized as a co-author only in the latter, there is every reason to assume that the opinions in both articles are his own. Both articles defend the high position of the novel in literature and attack authors who do not take the novel seriously.

 

Johnson, Edgar. The Heart of Charles Dickens. New York: Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 
1952.

Edition found online.

Dickens wrote to Angela Burdett Coutts about Wilkie Collins, encouraging her to read his petition. Read Letter

 

On October 22, 1851, Dickens sent Mr. Eeles a list of imitation book-backs. Dickens' contempt for stereotypes in all forms of literature is evident in this list of titles for a set of dummy books which he ordered for his library.

 

On December 6, 1856, Dickens published "A Petition to the Novel Writers" in Household Words, where he states that authors should have license to push the traditional novel structure towards "a little variety for the future."

 

On December 18, 1858, Dickens published "Dr. Dulcamara, M.P." in Household Words, where he writes about the blight of the "domestic novel." In the article he mentions The Heir of Redclyffe, 1853, by Charlotte Mary Yonge (1823-1901). It was a very popular and uplifting novel, one of the effects of the Oxford movement.

 

Advice to Wilkie Collins: Letters

Dickens was Wilkie Collins' literary mentor in the years when Dickens edited Household Words and Collins was a staff writer. Their correspondence testifies to the close nature of this relationship. Dickens' comments serve as a primer of his critical principles.

 

On December 20, 1852, Dickens wrote to Collins, effectively thanking Collins for having written Basil, which he published earlier that year.

 

On March 19, 1855, Dickens wrote to Collins about Sister Rose, a novel in four parts that was published in Household Words.

 

On July 13, 1856, Dickens wrote to Wilkie Collins about his short story Anne Rodway, first published in Household Words in 1856.

 

Dickens gave Wilkie Collins encouragement and criticism for The Woman in White in a letter dated January 7, 1860.

 

On January 24, 1862, Dickens wrote a letter to Collins full of title suggestions for an as yet-unnamed novel. Collins used none of them.

 

On September 20, 1862, Dickens wrote to Collins about the second volume of the unnamed novel, expressing his pleasure and pride in the writing.

 

On October 14, 1862, Dickens wrote a letter giving Collins very specific plot-driven advice on his unnamed novel.

 

Collaboration with Collins: Letters

The only person with whom Dickens collaborated many times in fiction writing was Wilkie Collins. They worked together successfully because, while Dickens was dominant in their literary relationship, he respected Collins' ability and judgment. They were involved in several joint projects, among them the Christmas tales. Dickens supplied the general concept or the frame, briefly outlining the stories. Collins wrote the stories Dickens had suggested, which Dickens then revised. At the same time, Collins went over Dickens' own stories and made suggestions.

 

In this letter from October 14, 1855, Dickens wrote to Collins about one of their collaborated stories. In the Christmas number of HW, 1855, Dickens and Collins jointly wrote the stories making up The Holly Tree. The following letter also refers to this project.

 

On December 12, 1855, Dickens responded to Collins' revisions of "The Ostler" and sounded his frustration with the Christmas edition of the periodical.

 

Dickens provided Collins with ideas, and his hint in a letter from September 6, 1858 produced A House to Let, the Christmas story of 1858, also referred to in the next letter.

 

Dickens wrote to W. H. Wills on October 2, 1858 to correct certain deviations Collins had made in the Christmas story A House to Let.

 

Dickens was staying at Ipswich on October 31, 1861, when he wrote a letter to Collins about their collaboration on what would become their 1861 Christmas story, Tom Tiddler's Ground. When Dickens mentions "this kind of life" in his letter, he is referring to the series of public readings he was giving in Ipswich.

 

On September 20, 1862, Dickens wrote asking Collins if he could not finish up the "Xmas No.," which Dickens ultimately named Somebody's Luggage.

 

Dickens as Literary Advisor

Writers known and unknown often asked Dickens for his opinion of their work. He took these requests seriously, and tried not to give false encouragement, believing that not everyone could be a writer.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

John Overs (1808-1844) was a carpenter who also wrote stories and poems. Dickens gave him much advice, corrected his works, and wrote the Preface to Overs' Evenings of a Working Man, 1844. In the letter below, Dickens speaks of "Mr. Ainsworth's note," in which Williams Ainsworth had suggested to Overs in a letter on February 4, 1840, that he should confine himself to subjects with which he was familiar. Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969
Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

In this letter to Overs, Dickens discusses a paper that is unidentified. Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

The paper "Norris and Anne Boleyn" was not printed in Blackwood's but can be found in Overs' Evenings of a Working ManRead Letter

 

Basil Hall (1788-1844) was a naval captain with whom Dickens corresponded. This letter, dated from March 16, 1841, was written after Dickens had read The Battle of Waterloo, a narrative by Lady DeLancey of her wartime experiences when she nursed her husband, Colonel Sir William Howe, wounded at Waterloo.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

In this letter to Horne, Dickens provides feedback on his story "The Poor Artist." Read Letter

 

Dickens wrote a letter on January 1, 1851 to a Miss Fanny Lomax, thanking her for the story but advising her "not to dream of venturing…on the great sea of literature." There are no records of any works by a Fanny Lomax, unless The Wizard and the Lizard and other Fairy Tales by Fanny Conway Lomax, 1895, is hers.

 

As Dickens' sub-editor, W. H. Wills worked very closely with him. Because of Wills' relying absolutely on Dickens' editorial judgment, he sent Dickens his own manuscripts for comment and revision as well as those of contributors. On April 13, 1855, Dickens wrote a letter to Wills including feedback on contributors as well as Wills' own manuscript.

 

On June 1, 1857, Dickens wrote a letter to Frank Stone telling him that the Notes he had sent "are destroyed by too much smartness."

 

On June 4, 1857, Dickens wrote a very affectionate letter to an anonymous recipient whose prose Dickens found charming. The writer is probably the author of the Notes that Dickens had evaluated in his previous letter to Stone.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Dickens wrote to William J. Clement (unidentified) about a manuscript Clement had submitted by an also unidentified young man. The letter shows how carefully Dickens explained his decision to reject the manuscript. Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Richard Nelson Lee (1806-1872) was an actor who had written an autobiography and sent it to Dickens for a response. Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Dickens' letter in response to Nelson Lee's autobiography is discussed in the previous letter. Read Letter

 

Edmund Yates (1831-1894) was a journalist, novelist, and contributor to HW and AYR. Dickens responded to an unidentified story of his in a letter from September 30, 1865, writing that one of Yates' characters comes too close to Collins' Woman in White from 1860.

 

On February 5, 1867, Dickens wrote a rather blunt letter to an unknown correspondent whose manuscript Dickens did not find promising.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens:  The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Mrs. Frances Elliot, the wife of Reverend Gilbert Elliot, Dean of Bristol, had acted with Dickens in The Frozen Deep in 1857. She wrote a series of ghost stories that, according to Dickens' letter, frustrated him a great deal. Read Letter

 

On May 4, 1870, Dickens wrote a letter to Miss Constance Cross, strongly discouraging her to from a writing career. Cross had published a novel, No Guiding Star in 1868.

 

Dickens as Literary Advisor: II

Though Dickens was more than willing to read stories and novels by new writers, he did not believe in recommending them, regardless of their merits, to his publishers. His reasons for this are outlined in the following letters.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

John Major (1782-1849) was a bookseller and publisher whose work Dickens declined to recommend to his publishers. Read Letter

 

Addition to Dexter's Nonesuch Letters
Huntington Library Quarterly , Vol 5, No. 1, Oct., 1941 
Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Francis Sylvester Mahony (1804-1866) was a humorist and contributor to Bentley's Miscellany under the pseudonym Father Prout while Dickens was editor. In the letter Dickens mentions "poor Hood," (1799-1845), who was a humorist, poet, and editor of the New Monthly Magazine. Read Letter

 

James McCarroll (1814-1892) was an Irish journalist, poet, and dramatist who sent his work to Dickens in hopes of getting it published. Dickens responded on February 28, 1862 with his customary tactful refusal.

 

This review of the Life of Balzac by Edmond Werdet, his publisher, in the June 18, 1859 issue of AYR, reflects Dickens' interest in French literature which intensified in the 1850s when he and Collins, the author of the review, made numerous trips to Paris where they met the leading writers and painters.

 

Collins continued his review in AYR in "The Second Sitting" on June 28, 1859.

 

After reading the first two stories in Scenes of Clerical Life by the then-unknown George Eliot, Dickens wrote to the author, praising the book, and shrewdly guessed that a woman had written it. Mary Ann Evans (1819-1880) wrote novels as George Eliot, including MiddlemarchThe Mill on the Floss, and Daniel Deronda. After George Eliot answered this letter, Dickens wrote back, complimenting her on the success of her second book, Adam Bede. He also invited her to write a serial novel for All the Year Round.

 

In a letter to Eliot dated January 17, 1858, Dickens praised Scenes of a Clerical Life.

 

In a second letter to George Eliot from July 10, 1859, Dickens expressed relief in guessing correctly that Eliot was female, and complimented her on Adam Bede.

 

Washington Irving

Dickens first communicated with Washington Irving after Irving wrote a letter praising The Old Curiosity Shop. However, Dickens had known Irving's works long before that. In its title, its portraits of humorous characters, and its whimsical observations of life, Dickens' Sketches by Boz resembles Irving's Sketch-Book. The two men met when Dickens made his first tour of the United States in 1842. The quality of their relationship, one of mutual admiration, personal and professional, is seen in Dickens' speech in New York on February 18, 1842.

 

Washington Irving (1783-1859) was a writer of imaginative histories and tales based on history. He was attached to the U.S. Embassy in Madrid from 1826 and minister to Madrid from 1842-1846. On April 21, 1841, Dickens sent Irving a warm letter asking him to visit England. All the characters and places Dickens mentioned are in Irving's The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, 1820. Alonzo De Ojeda was an explorer in Voyages and Discoveries of the Companions of Columbus, 1831. Boabdil was a Moorish King of Grenada in A Chronicle of the Conquest of Grenada, 1829. Diedrich Knickerbocker was a fictitious narrator of A History of New York, 1809.

 

Dickens gave a speech in New York on February 18, 1842, praising Washington Irving. In it he frequently references titles of Irving's work: a "Boar's Head in Eastcheap," the title of a paper in Sketch Book, Mr. Tibbets the elder from "Ready-Money Jack," and the Italian Post-House from Tales of a Traveler. He also mentions William Cullent Bryant (1794-1878), an American poet, and Fitzgreene Halleck (1790-1867), a poet and clerk to John Jacob Astor

 

Wilkie Collins' article "Douglas Jerrold" is a memorial tribute to Dickens' friend, the novelist, playwright, and editor of Jerrold's Shilling Magazine.

 

Sir Walter Scott: "Scott and His Publishers"

Dickens admired the works of the novelist, Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832). He also was for Dickens the symbol of the wronged author who slaved away at his novels year after year in order to repay debts resulting from his publisher's carelessness. In the following three articles which appeared in The Examiner, Dickens defends Scott against the accusations made in the pamphlet Refutation of the Misstatements and Calumnies Contained in Mr. Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Respecting the Messrs. Ballantyne. The pamphlet was written by the son of James Ballantyne, the printer whose financial difficulties embroiled Scott for life.

 

Refutation of the Misstatements and Calumnies Contained in Mr. Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, Bart., Respecting the Messrs. Ballantyne was published on September 2, 1838. John Gibson Lockhart (1791-1854) was son and biographer of Scott, and editor of the Quarterly Review.

 

"Scott and His Publishers" was published in the Examiner on March 31, 1839. The article was written as a reply to a pamphlet titled The Ballantyne Humbug Handbook; in a letter to Sir Adam Fergusson, by the author of Memoirs of the Life of Sir Walter Scott.

 

The second part of "Scott and His Publishers" was a critique of the pamphlet Reply to Mr. Lockhart's Pamphlet entitled "The Ballantyne Humbug Handled." It was written by the authors of a "Refutation of Misstatements and Calumnies contained in Mr. Lockhart's Life of Sir Walter Scott, respecting the Messrs. Ballantyne."

 

W.M. Thackeray "In Memoriam: W.M. Thackeray"

Dickens' relationship with W.M. Thackeray was not always a warm one, although the two men admired each other. Much of the time Thackeray resented Dickens' success. The two men also quarrelled over Thackeray's alleged insult to a mutual friend, Edmund Yates. After not speaking for several years Dickens and Thackeray met at a dinner in early December, 1863, and were reconciled. That was the last time Dickens saw Thackeray alive. On Thackeray's death, on December 24, 1863, Dickens wrote a sincere tribute in The Cornhill Magazine, which Thackeray had edited.

 

William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863) was a journalist and novelist, author of The History of Henry Esmond. Esq., Vanity Fair, and The History of Pendennis. On March 23, 1855, Dickens wrote to Thackeray thanking him for the generous reference Thackeray made to Dickens in a lecture.

 

In his March 29, 1858 speech at the Royal General Theatrical Fund in London, Dickens gave a toast to Thackeray.

 

Dickens wrote a tribute to W. M. Thackeray in The Cornhill Magazine in February of 1864.

 

John Wilson

In the following excerpt from the speech delivered at Edinburgh on June 25, 1841, Dickens pays tribute to John Wilson (1785-1854), a professor of philosophy at Edinburgh University and author and contributor to Blackwood's. References are to his character, Christopher North, Wilson's alter ego in the Noctes Ambrosianae series, written mainly by Wilson and published in Blackwood's from 1822 on.

 

Dickens gave a speech at Edinburgh on June 25, 1841 giving tribute to John Wilson. The "Mighty Genius" is, of course, Scott, whose biography John Gibson Lockhart (1794-1856) had written. David Macbeth Moir (1758-1881) was a physician and author.

Prose

Drama

Reactions to Stage Productions: letters and articles

Dickens' involvement in the theater led him to write drama criticism which was concerned with the acting, staging, and production of the play. One of the few cases when he focussed on the written play is the letter about Browning, found below. Dickens' earliest dramatic criticism was written for the Morning Chronicle, edited by John Black (1783-1855), for which he began to work in the summer of 1834 as a parliamentary reporter. His first known piece of theatre criticism appeared on October 14, 1834. A number of other brief pieces which have been identified by William J. Carlton in the Dickensian, v. 51, are reprinted here.

In the following two pieces, "Adelphi" and the letter to the Editor of The Monthly Magazine, Dickens points out that Buckstone's farce freely borrows from Dickens' own sketch, "A Bloomsbury Christening" which appeared in The Monthly Magazine for April 1834.

 

Carlton, William J. "The Story Without a Beginning?  An Unrecorded Contribution by 
Boz to the Morning Chronicle," Dickensian, XLVII (Spring, 1951), 67-70. Read Article

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839 
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982
Read Article

 

Carlton, William J. "Charles Dickens, Dramatic Critic," Dickensian, LI (Winter, 
1960), 11-27.

Mentioned in the article is Louisa Crunstown Nisbett (1812-1858), manager of the Queen's Theatre and a fine comic actress, and Lucia Elizabeth Vestris (1797-1856), a manager, actress, and singer. Read Article

 

In an article in the Morning Chronicle on September 8, 1835, Dickens wrote a review of an original musical. On the first page, he references the character Meg Merrilees, an old gypsy woman featured in Scott's play Guy ManneringRead Article

 

On September 29, 1835, Dickens published a review of a night of shows at the Adelphi Theater. In it he mentions a piece called The Christening, which was another reference by Dickens to "A Bloomsbury Christmas as the unacknowledged source of the burlettaRead Article

 

On October 9, 1835, Dickens reviewed a comedy featuring at the Queen's Theater. Read Article

 

On October 13, 1835 Dickens published a review of the shows that were playing at the Colosseum. Read Article

 

On November 4, 1835, Dickens reviewed a new play called The Castilian Noble and the Contrabandista by John Oxenford (1812-1877), who was a drama critic and later became a contributor to Household Words. Read Article

 

On November 17, Dickens described the changes at the Adelphi Theatre in the Morning Chronicle. Read Article

 

Dickens published a piece called Olympic Theatre in the Morning Chronicle on January 12, 1836. In it he mentions Charles James Mathews (1803-1878), an actor, dramatist, and manager who was married to Madame Vestris. Read Article

 

On January 15, 1836, Dickens published a description of the plays at St. James's Theatre. He mentions John Braham (1774-1856), an actor and singer who produced Dickens' opera The Village Coquettes with music by John Hullah. Read Article

 

On January 19, a review was published of The Bronze Horse at St. James Theater. Read Article

 

On February 4, 1836, Dickens reviewed an adaptation of Bulwer's novel Rienzi at the Adelphi Theater. Read Article

 

On November 25, 1842, Dickens wrote to Forster praising Robert Browning's new play, A Blot on the ‘Scutcheon.

 

In December of 1844, Dickens wrote to Forster about seeing Madame St. George, Napoleon's former mistress, at the theater.

 

On January 24, 1847, Dickens wrote a letter describing his theater outing to the Countess of Blessington. Maguerite Gardiner, Countess of Blessington (1784-1849) was an author and hostess of a salon frequented by London literary men.

 

On January 28, 1847, Dickens wrote a letter to Reverend Edward Tagart, a Unitarian minister, describing various plays he had seen.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Dickens wrote to R.H. Horne, critizing a bad staging of Bulwer Lytton's Not So Bad As We SeemRead Letter

 

In a letter to Forster dating from 1855, Dickens describes an opera that he liked called Manon Lescaut.

 

On January 3, 1855, Dickens wrote to William de Cerjat about several comedies he had seen, including Oliver Goldsmith's She Stoops to Conquer. William Woodley Frederick de Cerjat was a Swiss acquaintance whom Dickens had met in Lausanne in 1845.

 

Dickens praises Frédéric Lemaitre in a letter to Forster in February 1855 describing how the actor portrayed a murderer onstage.

 

In November of 1855, Dickens wrote to Forster about Paul Foucher's play La Joconde.

 

While Dickens idealized some French productions, he condemned others. In a letter to Forster dated January of 1856, Dickens rails against some plays he had seen at the Odéon.

 

In a letter from Spring 1856, Dickens describes another French play to Forster.

 

In a letter to Forster from around the same time, Dickens caricatures how the French portray the supernatural on the stage.

 

In another letter from April 1856, Dickens continued to describe to Forster his experiences with the French theatre, here detailing the plot of a play titled Mémoires du Diable.

 

On April 13, 1856, Dickens sent a letter to Wilkie Collins describing Macready's account of a French rehearsal of As You Like It.

 

Dickens gives a very scornful account of the French version of As You Like It (Comme il vous plaira) he saw with his family in a letter to Collins on April 22, 1856.

 

On April 17, 1856, Dickens wrote to Forster describing favorably Médecin des Enfants, a play in which an actor reminded him of Macready. This is one of the highest compliments Dickens could give to an actor.

 

John Westland Marston (1819-1890) was a dramatist and author of The Patrician's Daughter, 1841, to which Dickens wrote a prologue. The play that Dickens praises in a letter to Marston is A Hard Struggle.

 

On December 17, 1858, Dickens witnessed an actress cleverly acting in a boy's role at the Strand Theatre. He writes to Forster in a letter that she is "the cleverest girl I have ever seen on the stage in my time."

 

Dickens wrote to de Cerjat on March 16, 1862 about an impressive rendition of Hamlet by the French actor, Fechter. Charles Albert Fechter (1826-1870) became a close friend of Dickens'.

 

After witnessing Madame Viardot do Gluck in a production of Orphée in Paris, Dickens wrote to Forster that it was worth a trip to Paris to see her.

 

Dickens wrote a letter to Fechter on December 6, 1862, giving him advice on how to choose plays that will be well-received.

 

On May 21, 1863, Dickens continued his correspondence with de Cerjat about Fechter's Hamlet, trying to convince de Cerjat that a Frenchman could grasp the subtleties of the role.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
Edited by Walter Dexter
The Nonesuch Press
Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

Thomas Beard (1807-1891) was a journalist and longtime friend of Dickens. The play mentioned in the letter is Bel Demonio. Read Letter

 

On January 6, 1866, Dickens wrote a letter to Mary Boyle describing one of Scott's plays, The Master of Ravenswood, which was adapted from The Bride of Lammermoor by Palgrave Simpson. Mary Boyle was the cousin of Mrs. Richard Watson, a well-known amateur actress who was often with Dickens' company and to whom he wrote several letters.

 

On December 25, 1868, Dickens wrote to Lady Molesworth (1839-1921), a novelist and author of children's books, describing a burlesque he had seen at the theater.

 

On April 10, 1869, Dickens and Herman Merivale published an article in AYR titled Robert Keeley. Herman Charles Merivale (1839-1906) was a playwright and novelist. In a letter dating April 8, 1869 Dickens wrote, "I did all the article about poor Keeley, except the opening references to Lamb-which were done by young Merivale, and poorly done too." Philip Collins in the Dickensian, volume 60 (January, 1969) attributes the first four paragraphs to Merivale and the rest, from "Low comedy…" to Dickens.

 

In August of 1869, Dickens published an article titled On Mr. Fechter's Acting in the Atlantic Monthly.

 

Practical Advice to Dramatists: letters

From the publication of Pickwick Papers in 1837, would-be dramatists and well-known literary figures wrote to Dickens seeking advice about their work.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
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On December 12, 1840, Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton thanking him for the copy of the play Money, which was produced at the Haymarket Theater on December 8, 1840. Dickens writes that it reminds him of Good Natured Man, a comedy by Goldsmith that was one of Dickens' favorites.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

Dickens gave critical advice to John Scott, most likely a friend of Dickens' from his days as a reporter. The tragedy discussed is Coracalla and Geta by William Lemaitre (1802-1839), whom Dickens knew when they both worked for the Morning Chronicle. Read Letter

 

On October 26, 1854, Dickens wrote to John Saunders about his play Love's Martyrdom. The Phelps mentioned in the letter was Samuel Phelps (1804-1878), an actor and manager.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
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John Hollingshead was a journalist and theatrical manager. The farce under discussion was The Birthplace of PodgersRead Letter

 

In a letter to Forster from 1860, Dickens retells the advice he offered to Fechter during the rehearsal of a play.

 

Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton on January 24, 1862, counseling him as to whether he should allow his play to be turned into an opera.

 

On February 4, 1863, Dickens wrote to Fechter congratulating him on his recent success in The Duke's Motto.

 

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Dickens wrote to Fechter about a play called The Long Strike by Dion Boucicault, which showed at the Lyceum Theater on September 15, 1866. Dion Boucicault (circa 1822-1890) was a British playwright and actor who emigrated to the U.S. in 1853.

 

Dickens wrote to Fechter about Bulwer Lytton's The Lady of Lyons in a letter dated September 16, 1867.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
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The same day Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton making specific changes in The Lady of LyonsRead Letter

 

Playwriting advice to Wilkie Collins: letters

Not only did Dickens advise Wilkie Collins in writing novels but he also aided him with play-writing. The two men collaborated on the writing of The Frozen Deep, a play from which Dickens derived the character of Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities. Later Dickens helped advance Collins' own plays.

 

In November of 1856, Dickens wrote to Collins with feedback from both Forster and himself on characterization in The Frozen Deep.

 

On July 10, 1866, Dickens wrote Collins about his novel Armadale, providing criticism from both a literary and dramatic point of view.

 

In a letter to Collins on September 23, 1867, Dickens advised him on how to dramatize the Christmas story No Thoroughfare.

 

Dickens continued his advice to Collins in another letter on October 5, 1867, where he discusses major plot points.

 

On October 9, Dickens wrote to Collins with specific directions for the chapter, "Vendale Writes a Letter."

 

On November 28, 1867, Dickens wrote to Collins about an American actor who proposed to turn No Thoroughfare into a play. The George Dolby mentioned in the letter was Dickens' manager from 1866 who arranged for his readings.

 

On January 12, 1868, Dickens wrote to Collins describing the success of No Thoroughfare, but couldn't help adding his final suggestions for improving the play.

 

On May 25, 1868, Dickens wrote to Mrs. Fields about the rehearsals of No Thoroughfare. Mrs. Fields was the wife of publisher James Thomas Fields (1817-1851) of Ticknor, Reed, and Fields, who entertained Dickens during his second American tour, 1867-1868.

 

On February 25, 1869, Dickens wrote to Collins about the play that Collins and Fechter had written together.

 

Dickens' attitude to adaptation: Letters

In general Dickens discouraged the adaptation of his novels to the stage. However, on a few occasions he offered his advice to producers of stage versions of his works to insure that the adaptation was as close as possible to the spirit of the original. In one case Dickens cooperated with the composer who had written a piece of music based on A Tale of Two Cities entitled "Lucie Manette." Dickens wrote the introduction for the composer James Waterson.

 

Dickens politely refused to write the prologue to a staged version of Martin Chuzzlewit by Robert Keeley. Keeley (1793-1869) was an actor who played in several dramatizations of Dickens' works. See Dickens' tribute to Keeley here.

 

Mark Lemon (1809-1870) was a journalist, dramatist, novelist, and founder and editor of Punch. Under discussion in the next two letters to Lemon is the dramatization of Dickens' Christmas story for 1848, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, which was produced at the Adelphi. The first letter is dated November 28, 1848.

 

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Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
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In a letter to Angela Burdett Coutts, Dickens mentions the dramatization of A Tale of Two Cities at the Lyceum Theatre in January 1860. Read Letter

 

DICKENSIAN Read Letter

 

On January 12, 1861, Dickens focused on theater managers in a letter to the Times, drawing attention to the rights of authors.

 

Involvement in Theatrical Productions: letters

Dickens' life-long love affair with the theater involved his writing plays and acting in them, as well as attending as many as he could. By coincidence and through his own efforts, amateur theatrical productions would take place wherever he travelled. Dickens almost always acted in them and tried to convince everyone in his entourage to participate also.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982

John Pyke Hullah (1812-1884) was a composer and writer on music. Dickens and he wrote the comic opera The Village Coquettes after the Gondolier idea had been rejected. Read Letter

 

In May 1836, Dickens wrote to J.P. Hullah, describing Mr. Hogarth's excitement about Dickens as a playwright.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982
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The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
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Oxford University Press, USA, 1982
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On December 11, 1836, Dickens wrote to Hullah about the unfavorable reviews his opera received in the newspapers.

 

On May 26, 1842, Dickens wrote to Forster about the play Past Two O'Clock in the Morning in which he acted the part of Snobbington. In the letter he also mentions Sir Charles Bagot, Governor-General of Canada, and Sir Richard Jackson, the Commander of the Forces. Dickens also references Lord Mulgrave, the eldest son of the Marquis of Normandy; Dickens met the young man on the ship that carried them both to America.

 

On November 12, 1842, Dickens wrote to Macready about his idea for the prologue to the play The Patrician's Daughter, which was performed at Drury Lane on December 10 with Dickens' prologue.

Poetry

Advice to aspiring verse writers: letters

In his position as literary arbiter, Dickens received numerous volumes of poetry from would-be Tennysons. His criticisms of these works deal for the most part with poetic language.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969

Robert Sydney Horrell was a young clerk who first wrote to Dickens under the pseudonym S. Harford. Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
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Oxford University Press, USA, 1969
Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1969
Read Letter

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982
Read Letter

 

On April 1, 1848, Dickens wrote a discouraging letter to an aspiring young poet.

 

On February 3, 1852, Dickens wrote to Thomas Connolly (unidentified) about a manuscript that he had sent Dickens.

 

On April 6, 1852, Dickens wrote to Horne about a proposed preface to a volume of poems.

 

On October 12, 1852, Dickens wrote to W.H. Wills about a poem written by John Critchly Prince (1808-1866), a shopkeeper and poet.

 

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On October 19, 1863, Dickens wrote a note of discouragement to Mary Nichols on her writing talents. Mrs. Mary Sargeant Gove Nichols was an American living in England.

 

Comments to Well-Known Poets: letters

Because of his respected position even well-known poets sent Dickens their verses for comment.

 

On February 23, 1849, Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton praising his epic poem "King Arthur," which was published in twelve books.

 

Dickens wrote to Mark Lemon on October 19, 1856 critical of his book of poems.

 

On December 19, 1858, Dickens wrote to B.W. Proctor, thanking him for the song he had sent and promising to publish it in Household Words.

 

In a letter to Forster dated August 25, 1859, Dickens was enthusiastic about poetry by Tennyson.

 

Preface to Evenings of A Working Man, 1844, by John Overs

In two cases Dickens wrote prefaces to volumes of poetry by poets in whose careers he had taken interest. His appreciation of both was founded more on their personal worth than on the quality of the poetry.

 

John Overs (1808-1844) worked as a carpenter, but wrote stories and poems in his spare time. He interested Dickens in his writings through a correspondence in which he revealed himself as a diligent, sincere person, earnestly endeavoring to rise above his limited education and working class environment. To Dickens, Overs personified the honorable poor, often romanticized in his own novels.

 

Dickens penned the preface to Overs' Evenings of a Working Man. In the first paragraph, he mentions several working men who all produced literature. Best known is Robert Burns (1759-1796), the only important poet in this group. James Hogg (1770-1835) was author of The Queen's Wake, 1813, and The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner, 1824. Ebenezer Elliot (1781-1849) wrote Corn Law Rhymes, 1830, about an issue that ceased to exist soon after. Bloomfield is forgotten today.

Introduction to the Poems of Adelaide A. Procter

Adelaide A. Procter (1825-1864) first became known to Dickens as Miss Mary Berwick, contributor of poems to Household Words. Later she was revealed to be the daughter of Bryan W. Procter, novelist and essayist under the pen-name Barry Cornwall, and a friend of Dickens'. Dickens was delighted to find a poet in the daughter of an old friend and encouraged her poetic efforts. He was even more attracted by her personal qualities-her good humour and courage during the long illness from which she knew she could never recover. When her poems were collected and published after her death, Dickens wrote the introduction, paying tribute to the young woman.

 

In Dickens' introduction to Adelaide Procter's book of poetry, he goes into great detail about her life and death.

 

On September 26, 1865, Dickens wrote to Mrs. Anne Procter, sending her his introduction to Adelaide Procter's poems. Mrs. Procter was the wife of poet Bryan W. Procter and mother of Adelaide A. Procter.

 

On June 2, 1858, G.A. Sala published an article titled "Poetry on the Railway" in HW. George Augustus Sala (1825-1895) was another of the young men who received their literary training from Dickens while on staff of HW and AYR. The article is included in this volume because it exemplifies, in the realm of poetry, Dickens' tendency to find imagination in the most prosaic contexts.

Periodicals

I. Dickens Plans His Periodicals

 

Periodicals Edited By Dickens

Bentley's Miscellany

Dickens' first periodical Bentley's Miscellany, grew out of his success with serial writing in Sketches by Boz and Pickwick Papers. In the Prospectus the objectives and contents of the Miscellany are outlined. Dickens' youthful playfulness is illustrated in his humorous approach in both the Prospectus and Addresses to the reader.

 

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In March of 1837, Dickens published the lighthearted "Speech of His Mightiness on Opening the Second Number of 'Bentley's Miscellany.'"

 

In his Editor's Address on the completion of the First Volume, Dickens wrote proudly about the continuation of the second volume of BM.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982

On September 16, 1837, Dickens wrote a letter to Richard Bentley resigning his position at BM. Bentley (1794-1871) was the publisher and founder of both Richard Bentley and Sons, and owner of Bentley's Miscellany. Read Letter

 

In December of 1837, Dickens wrote a succinct but positive "Address on the Completion of the Second Volume of 'Bentley's Miscellany.'"

 

In 1839, Dickens wrote his farewell editorial in Bentley's Miscellany, titled "Familiar Epistle from a Parent to a Child," in which he fondly addressed the magazine as a young child.

 

Master Humphrey's Clock

Despite Dickens' difficulties with Bentley he was not disenchanted with editing a periodical. As early as July 1839, he had already made a proposal for a new magazine, as revealed in a letter to Forster, his friend and literary advisor. A change in attitude occurred between the completion of the Miscellany and the commencement of Master Humphrey, as evidenced by the more serious tone of the addresses and prefaces in the latter.

The second publication became, increasingly, a vehicle for Dickens' own work. The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge ran serially in it.

 

Decreasing sales, as well as his feeling expressed in the last address that the weekly format cramped his writing, forced Dickens to abandon the periodical after a year and a half.

 

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 1: 1820-1839
Edited by Madeline House, Graham Storey
Oxford University Press, USA, 1982
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In a letter to Forster dated January 9, 1840, Dickens wrote to Forster that he had decided on either "Master Humphrey's Clock" or "Old Humphrey's Clock," ultimately choosing the former.

 

On March 4, 1840, Dickens wrote to Forster, about the beginnings of an idea for Little Nell in what would later become The Old Curiosity Shop.

 

Dickens wrote to Forster again one day later with several titles for the new work featuring Little Nell.

 

The Letters of Charles Dickens: The Pilgrim Edition Volume 2: 1840-1841
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Oxford University Press, USA, 1969
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In his Address for Master Humphrey's Clock, Dickens establishes the periodical by the ticking of Master Humphrey's clock.

 

In the preface to Volume I of The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens discusses the motivation and methods behind its writing.

 

In the preface to Volume II of The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens begins with a quotation from Henry Fielding's Tom Jones.

 

Dickens published his "Address Announcing the Termination of 'Master Humphrey's Clock'" in September of 1841, describing how the pace of weekly publication cramped his style.

 

Dickens published his Postscript for Master Humphrey's Clock in November of 1841.

 

The Daily News

Dickens was involved in the founding of the newspaper, The Daily News. His tenure as editor was shortlived, however, because of conflict over editorial policy. As  seen in the three letters to Bradbury and Evans, Dickens insisted on his "exercising an active and vigilent superintendence over the whole machine."

 

His major contribution to the periodical was Pictures From Italy, which continued in the paper after he had resigned as editor.

 

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The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume I
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Several days later, Dickens sent another letter of negotiation to Bradbury and Evans, this time expressing his frustration with their disagreeing with his terms. In the letter he mentions Joseph Paxton (1801-1865), a gardener and architect who was involved in the founding of the Daily News. Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume I
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In his next letter to the uncooperative Bradbury and Evans, Dickens mentions John Easthope (1784-1865), politican and owner of the Morning Chronicle. Read Letter

 

Dickens published Introductory Address to the Readers of the "Daily News" on January 21, 1846, describing his plans for the paper.

 

Household Words

The first issue of Dickens' next periodical, Household Words, appeared on March 30, 1850. When he originally thought of the new publication he had envisioned a unifying concept, the Shadow, much like Master Humphrey (see letter to Forster, October 7, 1849), but, he abandoned this idea when he took the title Household Words. "A Preliminary Word" illustrated his now fully realized philosophy of endowing the commonplace with fantasy, or transforming fact through fancy. Household Wordsflourished for nine years until Dickens, in conflict with the publishers Bradbury and Evans, abandoned it. (See "Last Household Word.")

 

On September 24, 1849, Dickens wrote to Forster about a reoccuring idea for a periodical that he could not shake.

 

On October 7, 1849, Dickens wrote again to Forster about his "floating ideas" for a new periodical.

 

In a letter to Forster from January 1850, Dickens proposed several names for the new periodical, such as "The Robin," and "Charles Dickens."

 

On March 30, 1850, Dickens published "A Preliminary Word" in his newly-minted periodical, Household Words.

 

On October 16, 1851, Dickens wrote to Wills about the past numbers, trying to understand why they weren't successful.

 

"A Last Household Word" was published on May 28, 1859 at the end of the nineteenth volume.

 

All The Year Round

The first issue of Dickens' last periodical All the Year Round appeared on the newsstands on April 30, 1859. It was essentially a continuation of Household Words with the exception of the new policy of always running a serial novel and advertising the name of the author.

 

On a letter to Wilkie Collins on January 26, 1859, Dickens organized the titles in the periodical.

 

On May 28, 1859, there was an announcement in HW that All the Year Round would supplant the previous publication.

 

On December 26, 1863, Dickens included a brief note in AYR about the role fiction would play in the publication.

 

Chapter Two: Dickens Conducts His Periodicals

Requirements of Periodical Publication

In these letters Dickens commented on the suitability of material for inclusion in his periodicals, especially Household Words and All the Year Round. He was at the same time able to see a story's merit and the qualities that made it unfit for serial publication.

 

Dickens wrote personalized letters in response to most contributions to Bentley's Miscellany even if he chose not to accept their work. Read Letter

 

On September 22, 1850, Dickens wrote to Reverend Edward Tagart with a kind refusal of his story for HW.

 

On February 21, 1851, Dickens wrote to Miss Mary Boyle about edits in her story, which he proposed to call "My Mahogany Friend."

 

On August 9, 1851, Dickens wrote a letter to John Hills (unidentified), explaining that the paper he suggested on the treatment of lunatics was a little too dry for HW.

 

On February 28, 1852, Dickens again wrote to Hills, this time in response to a much more extensive letter on the article about the treatment of the insane. The end of the letter, not available online, follows below: Read Letter

 

On November 22, 1852, Dickens wrote to Reverend James White, accepting his story, but specifying that it didn't fit the Christmas number.

 

On February 9, 1855, Dickens wrote to Miss King (unidentified) praising her story and also expressing doubts about its ability to be published.

 

On February 24, 1855, Dickens again responded to Miss King, with specific edits and continuing doubt over its suitability for HW.

 

Dickens wrote to Wills on July 12, 1855 about "The Wife's Story," written by Emily Jolly. The story ran in HW in September that year.

 

Dickens wrote to Emily Jolly on July 17, 1855, excited about her story's potential and suggesting specific edits for its improvement.

 

On July 21, Dickens sent a letter to Jolly about the edits he suggested. It is clear he tried to encourage writers to edit their own stories as much as possible.

 

On July 22, 1855, Dickens wrote to Wills about "the long story without a title," which was to become "Gilbert Massenger" by Holme Lee, pseudonym of novelist Harriet Parr (1828-1900). In the letter he also mentions "Miss Lynn's story," which was "Sentiment and Fiction" by Elizabeth Lynn, later known as Mrs. Lynn Linton.

 

On August 14, 1855, Dickens wrote to Forster about these two stories.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
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This letter is probably written to John Prescott Knight (1803-1881), a portrait painter who had submitted a story by a young woman. Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
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Charles Lever (1806-1872) was a comic novelist who wrote The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer, 1839, and Charles O'Mally, the Irish Dragoon, 1841. Dickens is referring to his correspondence with George Eliot, the author of the novel Adam Bede. Read Letter

 

On May 30, 1857, Dickens wrote again to Emily Jolly with straightforward criticism of her story even despite his editorial efforts.

 

On February 22, 1856, Dickens wrote a letter to Mrs. Brookfield, recommending that she publish her story in two volumes, as periodical publishing in installments would not do its contents justice.

 

On July 22, 1869, Dickens wrote to Miss Jolly with praise for her latest story, "An Experience," which appeared in AYR on August 14, 1869.

 

On August 6, 1869, Dickens wrote to Forster about Jolly's latest story, calling it "remarkable."

 

Revisions of Contributors' Works: I

These letters are characteristic of Dickens as editor, revising most of the material submitted to his periodicals, to make it conform to his concept of what a periodical should be.

 

On December 1, 1852, Dickens wrote to Mrs. Gaskell with the proofs of her "Old Nurse's Story" attached.

 

On January 31, 1850, Dickens wrote to Mrs. Gaskell asking her to write a short tale for his new journal.

 

On March 14, 1850, Dickens wrote to Mrs. Gaskell about specific plot points in her story.

 

Revisions of Contributor's Works: II

'As editor of Household Words, Dickens regularly corresponded with his sub-editor W.H. Wills, and with contributors. The letters as well as the "Preliminary Word," illustrate his insistence on imaginative writing, what he called, in one letter, the "elegance of fancy."

 

On December 12, 1850, Dickens wrote a letter to W.H. Wills about editorial retouches and orchestrating weekly stories with current events.

In a letter to W.H. Wills on December 14, Dickens detailed several more editorial revisions, and told him about a visit with Augustus Egg (1816-1863), who was a painter friend of Collins and Dickens.

 

Dickens became interested in the writing of G.A. Sala when the latter had a piece published in the September 6, 1851 issue of HW. In a letter to Wills on August 13, 1851, Dickens mentioned his discovery of Sala's piece. Dickens also reflected on the idea for an article titled "A Flight," which was printed on August 30, 1851.

 

Dickens wrote to Charles Knight on July 27, 1851, praising his most recent article in the Shadow series, a collection of articles about famous people or literary characters.

 

In a hasty and apologetic letter to Elizabeth Gaskell on December 5, 1851, Dickens explained that the changes Gaskell wanted to make to her story were too late because it had already gone to the printers. Dickens changed the reference to Pickwick Papers in Cranford to Hood's Poems.

 

On October 13, 1852, Dickens wrote Wills complaining about the lack of good articles in the next issue of HW. Sala's piece, "The Sporting World," appeared in HW on October 23, 1852.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
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On November 6, 1852, Dickens wrote to Elizabeth Gaskell about her ghost story, "The Nurse's Story," that was published in the 1852 Christmas number of HW. The following three letters refer to this story. Read Letter

 

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On December 1, 1852, Dickens sent Mrs. Gaskell his proposed alternate ending to "The Nurse's Story."

 

On December 17, 1852, Dickens wrote a letter to Mrs. Gaskell assuring her that her original ending was not better than the one he suggested.

 

Dickens wrote to an unidentified person about several bad pieces that had been submitted, lapsing into a rare moment of scorn.

 

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On May 3, 1853, Dickens wrote to Mrs. Gaskell encouraging her idea and ridiculing some ladies they both knew.

 

On May 30, 1854, Dickens wrote to Wills about edits on a story by William May Thomas. Thomas (1828-1910) was on the staff of the Athenaeum, and his story "Miss Furbey" was printed in HW on June 17, 1854.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume II
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On June 15, 1854, Dickens gave Mrs. Gaskell very specific feedback on how to divide her novel North and South to fit the weekly publication schedule of HW. Read Letter

 

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On June 22, 1856, Dickens sent Forster a letter about a story he was attempting to shape into form for HW.

 

On November 16, 1857, Dickens sent a politely deferential letter to Edmund Yates, accepting the story he had submitted, and suggesting several changes.

 

Dickens sent a letter accompanying an excerpt of "The Clergyman's Wife" to Wills for printing. Two papers with that title appeared in HW on January 22 and 29, 1859. They were written by a Mrs. Blacker.

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
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Charles Allston Collins (1828-1873) was a painter, writer, and Dickens' son-in-law as well as younger brother of Wilkie Collins. Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
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Charles Lever (1806-1872) was an Irish novelist and editor of the Dublin University Magazine whose story A Day's Ride Dickens found difficulties serializing. Read Letter

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The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
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In this letter to Lever where Dickens demonstrates how careful he could be to avoid wounding another writer, Dickens says that he has started a new book, which would become Great Expectations that would run along with Lever's story in AYR. Read Letter

 

The Nonesuch Dickens: The Letters of Charles Dickens, Volume III
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Duckworth & Co, London, 2005

In this letter of October 15, 1860, Dickens again tries to convince Lever that the poor public reception of A Day's Ride is due to weekly publication and not the quality of the story. Read Letter

On May 12, 1861, Dickens wrote to Bulwer Lytton with feedback on his story, including suggested titles. The final title was "A Strange Story."

 

On September 17, 1861, Dickens a delighted letter to Bulwer Lytton thanking him for  editorial suggestions.

 

On November 20, 1861, Dickens sent Bulwer Lytton editorial suggestions, asking him to restrict the amount of footnotes in the text.

 

Dickens wrote to Wills about Wilkie Collins' latest periodical novel, The Moonstone, saying "It is in many respects much better than anything he has done."  Mentioned also in the letter is the story by George Walter Thornbury (1828-1876), a novelist, writer, and contributor to HW. The story is about the poisoner Eliza Fenning in the series "Old Stories Retold."

 

Notes to the Reading Public

Conducting a periodical meant that Dickens was constantly in front of his public. He frequently addressed his readers to announce new plans, or to correct the impression left by an article, or to add some new information.

 

On April 13, 1850, an article in HW was published describing the addition of a new periodical called Household Narrative. The article was identified as Dickens' by P.A.W. Collins in the Dickensian (LVI, Issue 332, September 1960, 86-87).

 

On January 31, 1852, Dickens wrote Macready a letter discussing the taxes involved in publication of a magazine, such as paper duty and stamp duty.

 

On November 24, 1855, "Our Almanac," was published in HW. P.A.W. Collins identified the writer as Dickens in Dickensian, LVI, 88-89.

 

In the November 26, 1859 issue of AYR, Dickens ran his Tale of Two Cities followed by Collins' Woman in White. He inserted this paragraph between the two stories in the periodical.

 

A fictional piece entitled "Four Stories" appeared in AYR on September 14, 1861, telling the story of a painter "Mr. H." who saw the ghost of the dead lady he had been asked to paint from description. Shortly thereafter, Dickens received a letter from a Mr. Heaphy who claimed to be the painter of the story and to have seen the lady's ghost on the very date given in the story. Struck by the coincidence, for Dickens had selected a date chosen at random, he printed Heaphy's account of the episode on October 5, 1861, along with this note. Identified by P.A.W. Collins in Dickensian, LVI, 91.

 

In Charles Reade's novel Very Hard Cash, serialized in AYR from March 28 to December 26, 1863, the poor management of asylums was criticized. Perhaps to soothe John Forster who was one of the Commissioners in Lunacy.

Dickens added a footnote in capital letters at the end of one number, according to P.A.W. Collins in Dickensian, LVI, 92, as well as this "Note."

Dickens further separated himself from Reade's work in the statement at the end of the serial's last number.

 

An article "The Warning Man," by an unidentified contributor, reviewed and praised the book Some Habits and Customs of the Working Class by journeyman engineer Thomas Wright. The author disparaged the theater-going public in this passage to which Dickens replied in the starred footnote at the bottom of the page. Identified by P.A.W. Collins in Dickensian, LVI, 94.

 

This "Note," followed "Is It Possible?" an article in which two ghost stories are told. Dickens discusses only the one about Lady Anne Beresford who had made a pact with her brother Lord Tyrone that whoever died first should visit the survivor as a ghost. Dickens uses the story of Lady Anne's seeing her brother's ghost to introduce his own supernatural experience. Identified by P.A.W. Collins in Dickensian, LVI, 95.

 

On December 5, 1868, Dickens wrote a Note to the Public in AYR dispelling rumours that he had stepped down as editor of the magazine.

 

In "H.W.," written by Dickens and Henry Morley (1822-1894),  the demands of people who write letters to Household Words, the so-called "Voluntary Correspondents," are satirized.

 

In the article "It Is Not Generally Known," mentioned in his letter of August 7, 1854, Dickens uses the contemporary editorial cliché "It is not generally known," as the springboard for a defense of the English middle and working classes. It is typical of Dickens' sliding from criticism of writing into social criticism.

 

In a letter to W.H. Wills on August 7, 1854, Dickens describes his idea for "It is Not Generally Known."

 

On September 2, 1854, Dickens published "It Is Not Generally Known" in Household Words.

 

The article "Calmuck" appeared in HW on April 3, 1858. Written by B. Brough, it is the comic story of a painter who lacks physical courage. Brough seems to be poking fun at artists who profess to live only for their art. Although innocent enough, the article provoked a reaction from William Holman Hunt (1827-1910), a pre-Raphaelite and leading painter of the day, who took it as a personal attack. This may have been because of Dickens' attack on Pre-Raphaelite painters in "Old Lamps for New Ones" which appeared in HW on June 15, 1850.

Dickens' three letters to Hunt attempt to smooth ruffled feathers, but, at the same time, Dickens is adamant about not printing a retraction. The letters illustrate how Dickens insisted on having his own way where his periodical was concerned.

 

Grylls, Glynn R. "Dickens and Homan Hunt," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 
Ist ed. Vol. 6. Spring 1964. 76-79. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/40753799)

On April 13, 1858, Dickens wrote his first letter to placate Hunt. Read Letter

 

Grylls, Glynn R. "Dickens and Homan Hunt," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 
Ist ed. Vol. 6. Spring 1964. 76-79. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/40753799Read Letter

 

Grylls, Glynn R. "Dickens and Homan Hunt," Texas Studies in Literature and Language, 
Ist ed. Vol. 6. Spring 1964. 76-79. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/40753799Read Letter

 

The offending article, "Calmuck," by B. Brough was published on April 3, 1858 in HW.

 

"The Unknown Public" by Wilkie Collins is included here because Collins, whose writings were very closely supervised by Dickens at this time (see Dickens' letter of August 11, 1858 which follows), reflects Dickens' ambivalent attitude to working-class readers. On the one hand, Dickens wished his magazine to reach them, and often expressed concern for their welfare. On the other hand, he is keenly distressed by their limitations, especially in terms of demanding only amusement from literature.

The "Unknown Public," did not read the major reviews of the day such as Edinburgh and Westminster, or the important magazines such as Blackwood's and Fraser's. Instead, they read the penny journals, which contained highly romantic or melodramatic stories.

 

On August 11, 1858, Dickens wrote to Collins telling him about some minor changes in tone he made to Collins' article.

 

"The Unknown Public," by Wilkie Collins, was published in HW on August 21, 1858.

 

"New Puppets for Old Ones" by John Hollingshed belongs in this volume because the author voices Dickens' objection to stereotypes in literature and implies a great deal about the responsibility of the periodical writer to the public.

 
 
 
 
 

Bentley's Miscellany

Master Humphrey's Clock

The Daily News

Household Words

All The Year Round

November 4, 1836–February, 1839

April 4, 1840–November 27, 1841

November 17, 1845–February 9, 1846

March 30, 1850–May 28, 1859

April 30, 1859–June 13, 1970