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25474.  Fri Sep 30, 2005 11:32 am Reply with quote

An interesting author... (yes he is, Natalie!)

Charles Dickens earned $68 million from his writing, which makes him one of the top-grossing authors of all time who is still regarded as a classic.

However, he started his writing career (as do so many of us) by writing for nothing. There were a lot of magazines in those days that would accept literary sketches by unknown writers and publish them, but not pay the writers anything - the reward was to see your words in print. However, it was common to use a pseudonym for this, and Dickens chose Boz as his.

He borrowed the name Boz from his youngest brother, seventeen years younger than himself. Dickens' brother's name was originally Augustus, but his parents regretted this choice, and nicknamed him Moses (a popular name in consequence of a character in Oliver Goldsmith's novel The Vicar of Wakefield that had a cute little boy named Moses as a minor character). However, as a small child, Augustus/Moses Dickens was rather adenoidal and couldn't pronounce M, so his attempts to pronounce 'Moses' came out as 'Boz'.

25476.  Fri Sep 30, 2005 11:38 am Reply with quote

Thirtysix different sketches were published under the name 'Boz' and Dickens wasn't paid for one of them. He talked a publisher, John Macrone, into bringing out all of them in a book, called Sketches by Boz. In Dickens' own words, it 'fell stillborn from the press.' However, it was customary for publisher to send complimentary copies to other booksellers, and it was later seen by a famous illustrator of the day, Robert Seymour, at the premises of some new and rather incompetent publishers called Chapman and Hall.

What Chapman and Hall did not know was that Seymour was an alcoholic, a drug user and a gambler, who was in dire need of money. Seymour used his fame to talk Chapman and Hall into publishing his new picture book and giving him 85% of the profits. He told them it was about a sports club with only four old fat men as members, who are so incompetent that they fail hilarioiusly at every sport they try. Chapman and Hall knew Seymour's name would guarantee sales, and thought it sounded like a wonderful idea. Seymour then suggested that they hire somebody to write humorous captions, and Mr Hall remembered the copy of Sketches by Boz mouldering on his bookcase and suggested Dickens.

It took them some time to track him down, as the name on the title page was only 'Boz', but Macrone eventually put them in touch with him, and Seymour, Chapman, Hall and Dickens met on February 8th 1836, to sign the agreement for the joke book.

You would have thought Dickens would leap at the chance to work with Seymour without quibbling, but in fact he withdrew to another room 'to consider the proposal' for five minutes, and came back with a list of demands. He wanted to release it as a novel, which Dickens would write and Seymour illustrate. However, he wanted to release it once a month, three chapters at a time, covered in cheap paper rather than expensive hardback.

(Yes, Dickens invented the mass-market paperback! But this was not what made him so wealthy...)

He also proposed to end each section on a cliff-hanger to keep the public coming back for more.

(Yes, Dickens also invented the format beloved of so many soap operas! But this was not what made him so wealthy...)

It was decided to call the book The Pickwick Papers, because it was coming out in paperback section rather than as a single volume.

25480.  Fri Sep 30, 2005 11:44 am Reply with quote

The Pickwick Papers was the best-selling novel of not only 1836 but 1837, as it took two years for all the chapters to come out. In fact, it was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, for reasons that will now become clear.

After two years of buying chapters, all the public had left was a pile of rather tatty (because printed on poor quality paper) chapter sections, and of course they wanted to re-read the book. So in September 1837, Dickens republished it in hardback at the same time as the last chapters were published in paperback. Dickens, in fact, sold the same book to the same people twice.

Once the hardback came out, salesmen went knocking on people's doors and bought back, very very cheaply, all the piled-up paperback copies. The publishers then ripped off the front and back covers of each installment, and sewed them into a gorgeous leather cover with gold leaf on it, and sold this 'new' version as The Collector's Edition, advertising it as 'printed on the original paper when this world-famous novel first appeared. It was hideously expensive, but people bought it anyway as an investment and stored it in safe deposit boxes.

So Dickens sold the same book to the same people three times - once in parts, once in hardback, and once in the collector's edition.

And that's how Dickens became a very wealthy man.

25487.  Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:22 pm Reply with quote

He was called Charles John Huffam Dickens and has 10 children.

I find that interesting.

25489.  Fri Sep 30, 2005 12:41 pm Reply with quote

Source for all the above information by the way, was a book called 'A Dab of Dickens and a Touch of Twain' by Eliot Engel, who is president of the largest branch of the Charles Dickens Fellowship.

28485.  Wed Oct 26, 2005 5:19 pm Reply with quote

What do the following have in common?

    Walter Landor
    Alfred D'Orsay Tennyson
    Sydney Smith
    Henry Fielding
    Edward Bulwer Lytton

No peeking, now ....

The answer's in white between these two brackets - highlight them to reveal the solution.

( They were five of Charles Dickens' ten children: Henry Fielding Dickens, Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, etc.)

28491.  Wed Oct 26, 2005 7:15 pm Reply with quote

So where does the phrase "What the Dickens" come from? Has he been attributed to the element of surprise because his books were so dramatic?

28494.  Wed Oct 26, 2005 9:54 pm Reply with quote

According to the Phrase Finder, this is nothing to do with Charles Dickens, and predates him by a few hundred years:

Dickens is a euphemism for the word devil, possibly via devilkins. Shakespeare used it in The Merry Wives of Windsor: 'I cannot tell what the dickens his name is my husband had him of.'

29218.  Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:49 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
The Pickwick Papers was the best-selling novel of not only 1836 but 1837, as it took two years for all the chapters to come out. In fact, it was the best-selling novel of the 19th century

It's also, in my humble and probably completely worthless opinion, one of the best debut novels ever written. And Samuel Weller is a great character :)

29219.  Tue Nov 01, 2005 12:54 pm Reply with quote

On the subject of Dickens, at the end of Old Commercial Road, Portsmouth, site of the Charles Dickens birthplace museum, there's a pub called the Oliver Twist. On the outside wall of this pub it says that it was established in (I think) 1739, yet the book wasn't published until about 100 years later. I wonder what the pub was called before?

29226.  Tue Nov 01, 2005 1:39 pm Reply with quote

And Samuel Weller is a great character :)

So great you named yourself after him, Sam?

29227.  Tue Nov 01, 2005 1:42 pm Reply with quote

The pub is now closed, by the way.

29243.  Tue Nov 01, 2005 4:00 pm Reply with quote

A regular haunt of Dickens was the Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street, The current pub is a mere youngster dating back to 1668, built to replace the older pub that had stood on the site sinc the 14th Century. a very interesting place.

*Disclaimer Charles Dickens drank in every pub in England in a similar way to George Washington has stayed in every hotel in America

32146.  Thu Nov 17, 2005 2:27 pm Reply with quote

Charles Dickens wrote and slept facing north, aligning himself with the poles of the earth.

Before settling on the name Tiny Tim for his character in "A Christmas Carol", three other names were considered by Charles Dickens. They were Little Larry, Puny Pete and small Sam.


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