Charles Dickens’s first book, complete with all the pathos and comic invention of his later masterpieces
Published under the pen-name ‘Boz’, Charles Dickens’s first book Sketches by Boz (1836) heralded an exciting new voice in English literature. This richly varied collection of observation, fancy and fiction shows the London he knew so intimately at its best and worst – its streets, theatres, inns, pawnshops, law courts, prisons, omnibuses and the river Thames – in honest and visionary descriptions of everyday life and people. Through pen portraits that often anticipate characters from his great novels, we see the condemned man in his prison cell, garrulous matrons, vulgar young clerks and Scrooge-like bachelors, while Dickens’s powers for social critique are never far from the surface, in unflinching depictions of the vast metropolis’s forgotten citizens, from child workers to prostitutes. A startling mixture of humour and pathos, these Sketches reveal London as wonderful terrain for an extraordinary young writer. In his introduction, Dennis Walder discusses Dickens’s social commentary, his view of London and his imaginative mixing of genres, and places the Sketches in the tradition of eighteenth and nineteenth-century reportage. This edition also includes the original illustrations by George Cruickshank, a chronology, further reading, appendices and notes.
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Charles Dickens was born in a little house in Landport, Portsea, England, on February 7, 1812. The second of eight children, he grew up in a family frequently beset by financial insecurity. When the family fortunes improved, Charles went back to… More about Charles Dickens