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This is a sample entry from the Dictionary Nineteenth-Century Journalism (DNCJ), part of C19: The Nineteenth Century Index from ProQuest. Cross-links and other functionality have been removed from this version of the entry. Find out more about DNCJ.

Title: DICKENS, CHARLES (1812-1870)
Type: Journalists/Editors
Entry:

Dickens served a full newspaper apprenticeship, beginning as a teenage pennya-liner for the British Press (1826). Having taught himself shorthand in the late 1820s, Dickens practised the craft in the antiquated courts of Doctors' Commons before moving up to join the select band of parliamentary reporters, working first for his uncle's voluminous Mirror of Parliament, then for the radical True Sun during the stormy passage of the Reform Bill through Parliament (1832), and finally securing a coveted reporter's job on the newlyreorganiZed Morning Chronicle, under veteran Benthamite editor John Black (1783-1855). There he undertook varied work – theatre reviewing, election reporting, express reporting of extra-mural political events, as well as enduring the daily grind of parliamentary debates. Given the fluctuating demands for space which the latter placed on a 7-column broadsheet like the Chronicle, room was soon found for Dickens's witty sketches employing, among a wardrobe of other styles, the rhetoric of political journalism to narrate the world of everyday Londoners. These came to be signed 'Boz', and between 1836 and 1839, together with tales from the Monthly Magazine and Bell's Life in London they were republished to extensive acclaim, overlapping with the monthly release of 'Boz's' next great success, The Pickwick Papers (1836-1837).

Thereafter, Dickens's writing ventures all self-consciously straddled the permeable frontier between journalism and popular literature. He left the daily press for the more genteel world of monthly magazines, with the editorship of Bentley's Miscellany (1837-1839), but sought to reconnect with satirical weekly journalism through editing Master Humphrey's Clock for Chapman & Hall 1840-1841. This was something of a misfire, in journalistic terms, though it bequeathed Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge to literature. So too was Dickens's involvement with the Daily News 1845-1846; critics note that only 17 issues of the new Liberal broadsheet were published under his watch. Yet Dickens's effectiveness, as celebrity launch editor, should not be underestimated; his news-gathering and recruiting arrangements stood the test of time, and he led from the front with a series of inventive contributions on social and cultural issues.

Even while seeking to reposition himself as a serious novelist with Dombey and Son (1846-1848), Dickens returned to newsprint, with around 30 anonymous reviews and irony-laden leaders for the Examiner under John Forster (1848-1849). These were a prelude to his return to full-time editing and leaderwriting, with Household Words and All the Year Round – hugely successful enterprises in weekly magazine journalism which, however, did not prevent Dickens from writing a further eight serial novels and undertaking punishing tours as a public reader in Britain, France and America. Dickens is now widely recogniZed – and was during his lifetime – as a crucial contributor both to the popular appeal and the respectability of the mass-market newspaper and periodical press.

Figure 11: Homage to Charles Dickens in the Illustrated Review, 14 Oct. 1870: 1.

Figure 11: Homage to Charles Dickens in the Illustrated Review, 14 Oct. 1870: 1.


Sources: Drew 2003, Drew 2007, Maurice 1909, Schlicke 2005, Slater 1994-2000.
Author: John Drew, University of Buckingham
See also: ALL THE YEAR ROUND (1859-1895)
BELL'S LIFE IN LONDON, AND SPORTING CHRONICLE (1822-1886)
BENTLEY'S MISCELLANY (1837-1868)
CHAPMAN AND HALL (1830-1938)
COLUMNS
COURT AND PARLIAMENTARY REPORTING
DAILY NEWS (1846-1912)
EXAMINER (1808-1881)
FORSTER, JOHN (1812-1876)
HOUSEHOLD WORDS (1850-1859)
LEADING ARTICLES / LEADERS
MASS JOURNALISM AND THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY PRESS
MASTER HUMPHREY'S CLOCK (1840-1841)
MONTHLY MAGAZINE (1796-1843)
MONTHLY MAGAZINES
MORNING CHRONICLE (1770-1862)
NEWS
COURT AND PARLIAMENTARY REPORTING
POLITICAL PARTIES AND THE PRESS
REVIEWS
SERIALS AND THE NINETEENTH-CENTURY PUBLISHING INDUSTRY
SHORTHAND
Themes: Popular appeal

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