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

The World of Imagination

Dickens' belief in the importance of the imagination, to which all his writings attest, led him to a profound appreciation of the supernatural. For Dickens the supernatural meant ghost stories, fairy tales, and other kinds of literature not bound by an insistence on realism. He considered that such literature had helped form his own mind, and he considered individuals who did not agree with him about the importance of imaginative literature limited and fact-bound.


Dickens, Charles, ‘On Ghosts' (1848), reprinted as ‘Dickens on Ghosts: An
Uncollected Article,' The Dickensian, vol. 59, no. 339 (1963), pp. 5-14.
--‘Review: The Night Side of Nature; or, Ghosts and Ghost Seers by Catherine Crowe,' The Examiner (26 February 1848), reprinted in ‘The Amusements of the People' and Other Papers: Reports, Essays and Reviews 1834-51, vol. 2 of The Dent Uniform Edition of Dickens' Journalism, ed. Michael Slater (London: J.M. Dent 1996), pp. 80-91.

This review is identified as Dickens' by Philip Collins in Dickensian LIX (January 1963), 5-14. Catherine Crowe (1790-1872), a novelist and writer on the supernatural, wrote these two novels in 1841 and 1847 respectively. William Hone (1780-1842), mentioned on the second page, was a radical publisher. Read Letter


On December 9, 1846, Dickens reviewed a book by Robert Hunt (1807-1887), a scientist. The book was titled The Poetry of Science, or Studies of the Physical Phenomena of Nature.


On January 1, 1853, Dickens wrote an article in HW titled "Where We Stopped Growing."


The article "Gone Astray" was published in HW on August 13, 1853. Read Article


Angela Burdett Coutts (1814-1906) was a philanthropist whom Dickens aided in charitable

projects. On September 18, 1853, he wrote her recommending she read a paper called Frauds on the Fairies.


On October 1, 1853, Dickens published "Frauds on the Fairies" in HW, satirizing George Cruikshank's fairy tales.


Henry Morley's "The School of the Fairies," which here follows Dickens' "Fraud on the Fairies," was printed in Household Words less than two years after Dickens' article. The two are clearly related as the first essay attacks those who sought to introduce moral instruction into the fairy tale, while the second discusses the benefits children can reap from reading the original stories.


On June 30, Henry Morley published "The School of the Fairies" in HW.


On May 16, 1856, Dickens published "Railway Dreaming" in HW.


In 1859, Dickens wrote Forster a letter musing on the author's responsibility to state the truth. He criticized contemporary practice: "in these times, when the tendency is to be frightfully literal and catalogue-like," saying it may be a necessary evil.


On September 8, 1860, Dickens published "Nurse's Stories" in AYR as part of "The Uncommercial Traveler."


On January 16, 1869, Dickens published "Mr. Barlow" in AYR.


Childrens's Literature:

The following letter replies to an unidentified woman who had sent Dickens a number of stories for children. In it, Dickens restates some of his views on imginative literature for children. Read Letter


Rolfe, Franklin P. "Addition to the Nonesuch edition of Dickens' Letters."
The Huntington Library Quarterly, V (October, 1941) 115-140. Read Letter

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