Sketches by Boz

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Sketches by Boz
SketchesbyBoz front.jpg
Frontispiece of the first edition, February 1836. Illustration by George Cruikshank
AuthorCharles Dickens ("Boz")
Original titleSketches by "Boz," Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People
IllustratorGeorge Cruikshank
Cover artistGeorge Cruikshank
CountryEngland
LanguageEnglish
Series20 Monthly parts:
November 1837 – June 1839
SubjectSocial criticism
GenreFiction
Nonfiction
Short story collection
PublisherJohn Macrone; St. James's Square
Publication dateNovel:1836 (in two volumes)
Followed byThe Pickwick Papers
 
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Sketches by Boz
SketchesbyBoz front.jpg
Frontispiece of the first edition, February 1836. Illustration by George Cruikshank
AuthorCharles Dickens ("Boz")
Original titleSketches by "Boz," Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People
IllustratorGeorge Cruikshank
Cover artistGeorge Cruikshank
CountryEngland
LanguageEnglish
Series20 Monthly parts:
November 1837 – June 1839
SubjectSocial criticism
GenreFiction
Nonfiction
Short story collection
PublisherJohn Macrone; St. James's Square
Publication dateNovel:1836 (in two volumes)
Followed byThe Pickwick Papers

Sketches by "Boz," Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People (commonly known as Sketches by Boz) is a collection of short pieces published by Charles Dickens in 1836 with illustrations by George Cruikshank. The 56 sketches concern London scenes and people and are divided into four sections: "Our Parish", "Scenes", "Characters", and "Tales". The material in the first three of these sections is non-fiction[citation needed]. The last section comprises fictional stories. Originally, the sketches were published in various newspapers and periodicals from 1833–1836.

The History of "Boz"[edit]

The sketch, "Mr. Minns and his Cousin" (originally titled "A Dinner at Poplar Walk"), was the author's first published work of fiction. It appeared in The Monthly Magazine in December 1833. Although Dickens continued to place pieces in the magazine, none of them bore a signature until August 1834, when "The Boarding House" appeared in The Monthly Magazine using the strange pen-name "Boz". A verse in the March 1837 issue of Bentley's Miscellany recalls the public's perplexity at the time regarding the author's pseudonym:

"Who the dickens 'Boz' could be
Puzzled many a learned elf,
Till time unveiled the mystery,
And 'Boz' appeared as Dickens' self."

Dickens took his famous pseudonym from a nickname he had given his younger brother Augustus, whom he called "Moses" (after a character in Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield), which "being facetiously pronounced through the nose" became "Boses", which in turn was shortened to "Boz". The name remained coupled with "inimitable" until "Boz" eventually disappeared and Dickens became known as, simply, "The Inimitable". The name was originally pronounced /ˈbz/ but is now usually /ˈbɒz/.[1]

The Streets, Morning.
Illustration by George Cruikshank.

Illustrations[edit]

The popularity of Dickens' writings was enhanced by the regular inclusion of detailed illustrations to highlight key scenes and characters. The stories typically featured two black-and-white illustrations per instalment, plus an illustrated cover design for the wrapper. The images were created with wood engravings or metal etchings. Dickens worked closely with several illustrators during his career, including George Cruikshank, Hablot Knight Browne (aka "Phiz"), and John Leech, although Browne is typically considered to be most strongly identified with Dickens' stories. The accuracy of the illustrations was of utmost importance to Dickens, as the drawings portrayed the characters just as he envisioned them, and they gave valuable insight to the reader about the characters' personalities and motives, as well as the plot.

Instalments[edit]

Sketches by Boz was issued in its own instalments from 1837 to 1839. Dickens was equally at home in both the short story and the full-length novel format. This is because nearly all his novels were serialised in periodicals in their first publications. Only later were they edited for book form. He and his publishers, Chapman & Hall, released most of his major novels in weekly or monthly instalments. These sold for 1 shilling apiece, which was within the affordable price range of most Victorian readers.

Title page of the second series (1836). The illustration by George Cruikshank portrays two figures closely resembling the author and his illustrator waving from a balloon.

This method of publication kept readers anxious to learn of the next plot twist, thereby ensuring sales of the following instalment. It also allowed Dickens to gauge public reaction to each instalment, and tailor the plot developments accordingly. Dickens wrote his novels as he published them, and readers frequently wrote to him to implore for the good fortune of their favourite characters. Although Dickens was not the first author to publish novels serially, he was by far the most successful in the use of this method.

Publications[edit]

The earliest version of Sketches by Boz was published by John Macrone in two series: the first as a two-volume set in February 1836, just a month before the publication of the first number of The Pickwick Papers (1836–37), and a "Second Series" in August 1836. After Dickens' fame skyrocketed, he purchased the rights to the material from Macrone. When Macrone died unexpectedly at age 28, Dickens published The Pic-Nic Papers to benefit Macrone's widow and children.

Instalment Contents[edit]

The majority of the fifty-six sketches that appear in the 1839 edition were originally published individually in popular newspapers and periodicals, including The Morning Chronicle, The Evening Chronicle, The Monthly Magazine, The Carlton Chronicle and Bell's Life in London, from 1833 to 1836:

Book Contents[edit]

The contents of Sketches by Boz are:

References[edit]

  1. ^ G.M. Miller, BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (Oxford UP, 1971), p. 19.
  2. ^ Philip V. Allingham, Faculty of Education, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario

External links[edit]

Online editions