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Sketches by Boz

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  1,265 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Charles Dickens's first published 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 ...more
Paperback, 635 pages
Published October 26th 1995 by Penguin Classics (first published 1836)
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Oct 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Not a novel, but as the title would suggest, a collection of passages or sketches by Charles Dickens (under the pseudonym of ‘Boz’) written between 1833-36 and originally published as individual pieces in newspapers/periodicals before being published collectively in one volume.

This collection consists of 56 separate ‘sketches’ and is divided into four sections namely: ‘Our Parish, Scenes, Characters and Tales’. Each one of which providing a descriptive piece about that particular character or sc
[postilla italiana, in fondo]

Early Dickens, already Dickens (in pieces)

«It would require the pencil of Hogarth to illustrate - our feeble pen is inadequate to describe ...»

The first book of Dickens is not a novel nor a collection of short stories (apart from some Tales in the fourth part) but a series of small portraits of people, places and situations of the early 19th-century London, halfway between journalism and essay (the great tradition of 18th- and 19th-century essay…).

To read it all b
MJ Nicholls
Split into four parts—Sketches, Scenes, Characters, and Tales—Sketches by Boz is Dickens’s apprenticeship to becoming a novelist of undeniable magnificence. The scenes here evoke pre-Victorian London with the forensic description, the restless persistence of detail, the compassionate eye, and the formidable wit familiar to those who have skimmed only a page of Chaz in school. Even in these earliest works, the only comparable depictions of London are to be found in everything Dickens wrote after. ...more
Tristram Shandy
Boz – the Budding Dickens

Now my difficulty in writing this review is that I started Sketches by Boz about five years ago, but the reason it took me so long to finish this collection of vignettes and short stories is not that I found them plodding – some of them I did, though – but that we read them in a Dickens reading group here on Goodreads, and that we always read some of the Sketches in between major novels instead of dealing with the collection as a unit. This way, it took raaaaaaather long
My favorite quotation from the collection, because it withstands the test of time: "Perhaps the cast of our political pantomime never was richer than at this day. We are particularly strong in clowns."

This is a collection of Dickens' earliest writing in the form of short sketches and tales. Written in the 1830s, they focus on early 19th-century London and include depictions of both the impoverished (and the difficulties they face) and the newly prosperous middle class just beginning to take shap
- Jared - ₪ Book Nerd ₪
Excellent short stories by Charles Dickens written before he was known as Dickens and written under his alias as Boz. Remarkably, the writing style and quality is almost as good in these short stories as it is in his more popular novels. I simply love Dickens and have finally come down to reading his last novel and the reading of this book is my effort to prolong the conclusion of reading all his works aside from some, more or less, obscure short story titles. The best overall description I can ...more
May 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie, Wanda
From BBC Radio 4:
Charles DickensSketches by Boz: Series 2

Episode 1 of 5 - Love and Oysters
Comic stories of London life. Meeting an oyster seller sparks disruption for orderly John Dounce. Stars David Calder.

Episode 2 of 5 - The Steam Excursion
Mr Percy Noakes, a friend to all until he is undone by the organisation of a river trip.

Episode 3 of 5 - Sentiment
After an MP's daughter arrives at finishing school, a romantic attachment comes to light.

Episode 4 of 5 - The Boarding House
Mrs Tibbs owns a r
Sep 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: london
I enjoyed these greatly, and they are ridiculously detailed descriptions of life and the city in a period we now suffer immense nostalgia for -- so it's nice to hear a humorous and highly critical counterpoint to the twee recreations of Victorian glory. In terms of the uselessness of politicians and the practices of parents and couples and aristocrats, indeed, surprisingly little has changed. I couldn't help feel though, that society has improved for the better now that a woman's options have ex ...more
Larry Chambers
Dec 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
[I wrote this review for in early 2002, shortly after reading Sketches by Boz for the first time.]

Sketches by Boz [Penguin Classics edition]

In bookstores and libraries, literary classics are a dime a dozen. There are so many different editions available of each that the problem becomes one not of finding a good read but of selecting the edition of it that’s right for you. Charles Dickens is perhaps the most popular of the past masters. All his books are enormously entertaining, whethe
Ian Ayris
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Although not a novel, more a collection of short pieces - as the blurb says - Sketches by Boz - does have a certain continuous narrative. The first section contains a collection of vignettes entitled Our Parish, and describes certain personages inhabiting the parishes of the London of the late Georgian/ early Victorian period. The second part is entitled Scenes and concentrates more on individual scenes, for instance, The Streets - morning, The Streets - night, The River, etc. Part Three is enti ...more
John Hatley
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I understand this was one of the very first books Charles Dickens ever published. Nevertheless, it is already "Dickens at his best"! I was very much impressed with his attention to descriptive detail and his capacity of observation, and with his sense of humour. The sketches provide an excellent view of life in London in the middle of the 19th century and range from the very serious to the very funny. For Dickens fans and for those who have never read any of his work, I can highly recommend this ...more
David Bisset
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First literary steps

I have always regarded the Sketches as an apprentice work, and thinking so never read it. Now I have sampled a proportion of the book my opinion has not changed. But it is still a remarkable achievement for a young writer. It's structure is odd, but all the elements of the nature Dickens are there: multifarious characters, knowledge of London, humour, a jaundiced view of lawyers - and some parts which are worthy of the mature author. Well worth dipping into even if only for s
Nov 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, literature
‘Sketches by “Boz”: Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People’ was a collection of some of Dickens earliest work. Many of these pieces were published in newspapers and magazines before being published in book form in 1836. There were two series, the first being a two volume set in February of 1836, and the second as a single volume in December of 1836. Many of the earliest sketches were published without an author indicated, until he started using “Boz” as his pseudonym. This type of w ...more
Jan 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Andrew Ivers
Dickens has such a laudable knack for describing people and places as well as meditating so lucidly on society and culture. I've only read chunks of this book. Some of my thoughts below...

In Sketches by Boz, the meditations are intensified by the subtlety of storytelling. Also, Dickens suggests in these excerpts that the “speculations” afforded by the streets of London are identifiable by everyone. His meditations, although providing insightful and entertaining commentary on those less fortunate
Richard Jalbert
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dickens, classics, fiction
At 733 pages at times I had to muscle my way through it. Interesting prospective on life in England in the early 1800's including being thrown in the slammer for owing money. Scary times. ...more
Tim  Franks
Jun 25, 2020 rated it liked it
The original published works of Charles Dickens here. It is very long assortment of short stories, with a variance of cultural topics being discussed. You can see where many topics and characters of his most popular stories came from. Some of the stories are all over the place and hard to follow at times. His development of characters is as strong as ever here. He also provides such biting commentary at times it is hard to swallow, but very real at the same time.
Bookshire Cat
Have read ca 70 % for class, would like to finish it some day but I have another assignment reading coming. But it was a delightful reading, I love Dickens' sarcasm and depth of description and also his sympathy for the people he describes. ...more
Jun 11, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: research-dickens
I'm betting these are mostly consulted for historical purposes, rather than read for pleasure -- but if Dickens had never written anything else, the editors of the Norton Anthology of English Literature would probably have included one of these sketches; he'd be important enough to be remembered on the strength of these alone.

My favorite is "Meditations in Monmouth Street," in which he looks at the display windows of used-clothing stores and creates characters to go with the clothes: "There was
Ian Warr
Oct 19, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dickens
I have to admit I only read this because I want to read all of Dickens' books, but I actually really enjoyed it. Not so well known now, but this is actually the book that made him famous. Some of the stories are better than others, but at its best the quality of writing is top class. ...more
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I liked it better than I thought I would. Dickens style is already there, with a few missteps. If you are interested in everyday life in 1836 London, this is it.
Dr G
Oct 16, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
These pieces were, essentially, Dickens's first published writings. It is fascinating to read them and to observe how this man whose beginnings were inauspicious, if not really as desperate as he subsequently painted them, started on the road to being such a masterful writer. He appears to have had, for so long, a strong sense of his own destiny and indeed it does seem to have been imprinted on his very being that, regardless of what trials he would have, his destiny was set.
It is interesting th
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a very different way to experience Dickens than reading his novels. These sketches by Dickens under his pseudonym "Boz" were the first of Dickens' writings to appear in newspaper serials and launched his writing career. These sketches really are just like an artist's pencil or chalk sketches of what he sees everywhere he goes. Being married to an artist, I know what it's like to see an artist stop, sit down, pull out a sketch book, and start sketching some random building with unique arc ...more
Richard Subber
Mar 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Of course, they don’t write ‘em like this anymore.
Hooray for Charles Dickens (1812-1870). I’m talking about Sketches by Boz, his first book published in 1836.
I’m talking not only about the obvious point (Dickens has been dead these many years), but also about my understanding of the palpably inimitable Dickensian style.
Dickens does not fail to offer, time after time after time, character portraits that spring to life as you turn the pages—he sketches his characters with disinterested honesty, st
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a highly varied collection of short (for Dickens anyway) stories and mostly consist of his early works. As such, it is great at giving windows into the culture of the time, but should be read as a short story collection as there is little to nothing to connect all of the stories, and several of them (particularly the "Mudfog" chapters) are meant to be satirical. What is really fascinating for the dedicated Dickens reader are the brief location and character sketches in the beginning of t ...more
Brenda Conry
Sep 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love Dickens, the way he describes life in Victorian England, his love for his characters, his obvious heart for the poor, and especially his convoluted plots. But I must admit finding it difficult to keep track of the cast of characters in his novels sometimes. Which makes his Sketches by Boz ideal reading when I need a break. Sketches they are. If you love his descriptive writing, but are befuddled by his teeming casts and plot twists you will enjoy this. Some are just small scenes of everyd ...more
Ali Miremadi
Oct 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
You could rebuild the London of 1835 from this book - in that sense it is Cockney predecessor to ‘Ulysses’. The ‘scenes’ and ‘character’ sections are brilliant; ‘sketches’ and ‘tales’ sections just very good. The observation and moral sense of the later work are already well developed, as well as lots of the stylistic points, such as extensive lists, metonymy and precise observation of clothes, interior decoration and physiognomy. Some of the comedy is more catty from the 24 year old Dickens the ...more
~ Cheryl ~

I’ve been dipping in and out of these for over a year. They are a collection of Dickens’s earliest writing: “A rich and strange mixture of reportage, observation, fancy and fiction” centered in and around the London of the early 1800s.

Like most collections, I found it a bit uneven in terms of my enjoyment level. Some duds, most engaging, and some laugh-out-loud funny. As a whole, it’s a marvelous glimpse into the genius of the great author, before he ever made a splash with Pickwick.

I wouldn’t
Oct 21, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sorry for the rating Boz, but, let's face it, this is the beginnings of greatness, and sometimes that's not an author best work. I wanted to read (and I still do) all of Dickens major works in chronological order so this is the first. Some parts are absolutely hilarious and some are long winded and completely forgettable. I'm glad I read it. I enjoy it for the most part. It is lacking in the depth that Dickens usually has but I think that's to be expected for a first set of serial writings. On a ...more
Jun 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sketches of places and people; hundreds of characters, none with a normal name. These newspaper columns and articles were Dickens’ first published works. He gained wide popularity from these (and became famous with his Pickwick Papers, which followed). A little of these goes a long way, but you get a preview of the goofy names, support of the powerless folks and ridicule of the new middle and old upper class to come.
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Old Curiosity...: The Drunkard's Death 17 11 Jan 21, 2019 11:54AM  
The Old Curiosity...: The Bloomsbury Christening 10 11 Jan 21, 2019 11:51AM  
The Old Curiosity...: Reading Schedule and General, Major or Private Observations 39 50 Jan 03, 2019 10:34AM  
The Old Curiosity...: The Steam Excursion 12 10 Jun 07, 2018 07:55AM  
The Old Curiosity...: The Great Winglebury Duel 12 9 Jun 06, 2018 01:31PM  
The Old Curiosity...: Sentiment 8 13 May 29, 2017 05:35PM  
The Pickwick Club: Characters, 10: Shabby-genteel People 49 20 Dec 01, 2016 01:21PM  

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Charles John Huffam Dickens was a writer and social critic who created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the twentieth century critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories enjoy lasting popularity.


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