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Sketches by Boz

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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 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.Sketches is a remarkable achievement, and looks towards Dickens's giant novels in its profusion of characters, its glimpses of surreal modernity and its limitless fund of pathos and comic invention.

635 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1836

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About the author

Charles Dickens

15k books27.2k followers
Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-1870) 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.

Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.

Dickens was regarded as the literary colossus of his age. His 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol, remains popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted, and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris, is his best-known work of historical fiction. Dickens's creative genius has been praised by fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell and G. K. Chesterton—for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. On the other hand, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of saccharine sentimentalism. The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.

On 8 June 1870, Dickens suffered another stroke at his home after a full day's work on Edwin Drood. He never regained consciousness, and the next day he died at Gad's Hill Place. Contrary to his wish to be buried at Rochester Cathedral "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner," he was laid to rest in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey. A printed epitaph circulated at the time of the funeral reads: "To the Memory of Charles Dickens (England's most popular author) who died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years. He was a sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England's greatest writers is lost to the world." His last words were: "On the ground", in response to his sister-in-law Georgina's request that he lie down.

(from Wikipedia)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 118 reviews
Profile Image for James.
425 reviews
October 26, 2017
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 scene etc.

What is important to note here is that this was written very early in the literary career of Charles Dickens, prior to the publication of his first novel ‘Pickwick Papers’. What Dickens gives us in these ‘sketches’ are vignettes from the past, from his world, from his London and provide us with a fascinating window on (mainly) London society of that time – as seen through the lens of Charles Dickens. What Dickens also gives us is a tantalising glimpse, a hint, a mere taste of his literary genius that was yet to come into fruition.

Whilst Dickens pieces in the first three sections of this book provide us with a fascinating insight into society of that time, it is the final section entitled ‘Tales’ that really gives us a feel for the literary delights that were to come ahead (particularly the most notable pieces such as ‘The Black Veil’ and ‘The Drunkards Death’). The pieces in that particular section constitute the most compelling part of the book and feel the closest to the novels that were to follow.

‘Sketches by Boz’ does very much feel like a combination of two elements here, in that Dickens is:

a. Practising, honing and fine-tuning his literary craft – doing the ground work and seeing how the pieces fit together, how things work, in preparation for the greater and infinitely more sophisticated things yet to come
b. Teasing and tantalising the reader with snippets of what was to follow – almost as though he knew what greatness he was yet capable of producing

Therefore – ‘Sketches by Boz’ is very much an introduction, a curtain raiser to the brilliance of his novels that were yet to follow.

For those of us who have read the novels of Charles Dickens, this collection provides an important addition and insight into Dickens’ craft; for those among us who have not – then this book is not the place to start, nor to be read in place of the great Dickens novels (Great Expectations, Hard Times, Little Dorrit, David Copperfield et al…) but as well as.
Profile Image for Davide.
488 reviews103 followers
December 31, 2018
[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 below can thus seem rather boring.
But it is the perfect bus reading, if you have a daily journey of twenty minutes to go, and you can view out the window and around you people, places and situations of a city today, that sometimes rhyme and sometimes contrast with the 19th-century London.

And you can already appreciate Dickens’s spiced writing, his good-natured irony, his ability to grasp the grotesque aspects of daily life, or create pathos in describing the most unacceptable living conditions.

The first part is Our Parish: portraits of typical characters and situations of a typical English parish, with mildly satirical descriptions of the world that constitutes («our parish, which, like all other parishes, is a little world of its own ...»).

The second is Scenes, opened by The Streets-Morning and The Streets-Night: plural portraits, with skilled transitions from one to another character or group. Then stores (and their owners), means of transport, entertainments, parliament, the courts and finally a terrible descent into prison (A Visit to Newgate), where we sink in the mind of a condemned, who in the last hours recalls childhood, relives the happy moments of love, falls asleep, dreams, and in the end wakes up: «he is the comdemned felon again, guilty and despairing; and in two hours more will be dead.»

Then we have the Characters, opened by Thoughts About People (also when he says he thinks, Dickens immediately begins to tell, with the deduction of a «whole life» from «manner and appearance»), and, in the end, the Tales.
The most of them are funny, some are more bitter, but again Dickens chooses to close with the most somber note: the last tale (The Drunkard’s Death) is horrible: an entire life of drunkenness, poverty and absence of all light.

And in all that, we have a large drinking of brandy-and-water.

Postilla italiana (5 febbraio 2017)

In italiano gli Sketches (compresi quelli dei giovani gentiluomini) sono adesso leggibili in tre volumi editi da Mattioli 1885: I Londinesi; Il grande romanzo di Londra; e Amori londinesi.
Come scrive oggi Ivan Tassi su «Alias Domenica» questi bozzetti rappresentano «la prima occasione in cui Dickens si presenta sulla scena, seppure sotto mentite spoglie, per reclamare a gran voce i diritti e i poteri di un mago incantatore determinato a esibire sortilegi di prodigiosa affabulazione». Un mago capace di evocare «l’incantesimo della vita quotidiana». E che in un certo senso inizia qui a costruirsi il pubblico per i romanzi che verranno.
Sì, direi che sta facendo anche questo.
Profile Image for MJ Nicholls.
2,022 reviews4,067 followers
April 3, 2020
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. To say that Dickens’s genius sprung fully-formed from nowhere is correct, as these remarkably evocative pieces demonstrate with each irresistible scene, bursting with the splendid dialogue and unforgettable characters common to every Charlie production. It’s in the Tales, however, where Dickens brings the Dickens ruckus, exploring class tensions in ‘The Tuggs’s at Ramsgate’, absurd marriage rituals in ‘Horatio Sparkins’, a proto-Scrooge called Nicodemus Dumps in ‘The Bloomsbury Christening’, and exquisite comic farce in ‘The Boarding House’. The darker, compromising Dickens is also on form in his piece on Newgate Prison, and the melancholy closer ‘The Drunkard’s Death’. The Pickwick Papers is not the beginning. This is where Dickens was born.
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
698 reviews200 followers
January 12, 2019
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 to get through the book.

The collection Sketches by Boz consists of 56 individual pieces, which are divided into four groups. The reader starts with “Seven Sketches from Our Parish”, then there follow 25 “Scenes”, 12 pieces on “Characters”, before the collection is rounded off with another 12 “Tales”. The names of these groups are not strictly apt in that the “Scenes” tend to dwell on description of places in London – some of them particular, like Newgate, Doctor’s Commons, Vauxhall Gardens, some of them more generic, like London streets in the morning and at night, various shops or criminal courts – or that the “Characters” present us ingenious portrayals of people one would frequently meet in Victorian London, but still these sections also contain several narrative pieces. By the same token, the section entitled “Tales” is not exclusively made up of stories. Sketches by Boz, as we know it today, was published in a one-volume edition in 1839 – when Dickens’s fame had already been established with Pickwick Papers –, but there were two earlier collected editions of the sketches in 1836. The individual stories, as I will call them, appeared in various newspapers and periodicals between 1833 and 1836. Among them is the earliest story ever written by Dickens, namely “Mr. Minns and his cousin”, originally published in The Monthly Magazine in December 1833, as “A Dinner at Poplar Walk”. Sketches by Boz does not present the stories in their original chronological order, and there is one story – “The Drunkard’s Death”, a very melodramatic piece with some quite impressive passages – that was written by Dickens expressly for the second 1836 edition, to “finish the volume with eclat”, as the Inimitable said. Whether “The Drunkard’s Death” is really the most memorable piece and the most suitable one to close this collection, is a question that will probably divide opinions: The early Dickens often got slightly heavy-handed when trying to give a description of domestic drama – nowhere more so than in The Old Curiosity Shop –, but then “The Drunkard’s Death” is redeemed from stock drama through bewilderingly subjective passages like this one, when the drunkard drowns himself in a liquid he has hitherto rather neglected:

”The tide was in, and the water flowed at his feet. The rain had ceased, the wind was lulled, and all was, for the moment, still and quiet—so quiet, that the slightest sound on the opposite bank, even the rippling of the water against the barges that were moored there, was distinctly audible to his ear. The stream stole languidly and sluggishly on. Strange and fantastic forms rose to the surface, and beckoned him to approach; dark gleaming eyes peered from the water, and seemed to mock his hesitation, while hollow murmurs from behind, urged him onwards. He retreated a few paces, took a short run, desperate leap, and plunged into the river.”

Here, we can even steal some glimpse at the later Dickens and his ability to allow us readers to see into a haunted character’s mind and to share their agonies and fixations. All in all, this was, to me, the major attraction of this collection – to spot signs of Dickens as I have always known and loved him, in those earlier pieces. For example, when we take a look at most of the “Scenes”, we already find a lot of places described that will play their roles in later Dickens novels – and there is no question that Dickens’s ability to imbue places with a life of their own, sometimes driving on the characters in their pursuits, sometimes taking their characteristics from the very people living in them, was fully-fledged in some of these early pieces. There is such a thing as pathetic fallacy, when nature is vested with human emotions or characteristics, and Dickens – in these Sketches, but also later in his novels – proves himself a master of a particular kind of pathetic fallacy, an urban one, so-to-speak, namely when he draws the city itself, or parts of it, or people’s houses and rooms, as being imbued with a spirit of their own. Nobody who has read Bleak House will ever forget the beginning of that haunting novel. This gift of Dickens’s, the ability to present a certain place as though it were pulsating with a life of its own, can be witnessed in many of these Sketches. And although lots of the situations presented in the Sketches could easily have found their way into the Pickwick Papers, e.g. in the form of interspersed tales, whereas other stories are rather lame in their lack of focus, there is already a lot in these tales that reminded me of Dickens in his maturity and at the height of his creativity. In a way, reading these Sketches is like doing an archaeologist’s work – only you are not digging downwards but into what was, at that time, still a future.

In short, if you like Dickens and are more or less familiar with his novels, then I think that reading Sketches by Boz can be a rewarding experience for you.
Profile Image for P.J. MacNamara.
Author 1 book86 followers
July 14, 2021
There is nothing like reading a little Dickens for giving yourself a new perspective as a writer. When you find yourself on a bit of an ego trip, thinking how great and undervalued you are, Dickens makes you ashamed. He makes you feel like a pretender. And that's what you need. You need to strive to be better. Always. That's what Dickens did. A great example to us all. No matter what you're writing, you'll find you have something to learn from this man. His words are as relevant today as they always were.

I gave this book 4 stars because it's quite obviously NOT his best book. But it's still good enough to put all but a very select handful of us in our place. I love this because it's a collection of small pieces, both fiction and non-fiction. Poignant. Amusing. Full of beautiful detail. Obviously I've read it before. But I need to learn this lesson again.


Sorry, I got fed up after about 100 pages and had to move on. I have read this twice before, so I suppose it's only to be expected.
Profile Image for Bucket.
860 reviews42 followers
January 28, 2014
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 shape. Also included about 50 original illustrations.

It took me a while to finish, but I thoroughly enjoyed this collection. The further I read, the sillier and more absurd the stories got, culminating in the ridiculous dispatches from Mudfog on the Mudfog Association, a group of scientists who have invented, discovered and researched the most useless, absurd and sometimes dangerous things. One memorable one is an automated pickpocketing machine that the government could use to pick pockets of debtors all day long without being caught. The only worry? That the machine will wear out too soon.

I also particularly enjoyed the Sketches of Young Gentlemen and the section called "Tales" was my favorite. The stories here were a bit longer and featured Dickens' earliest dives into the character development and visual description we all know and love in his novels. Many aspects of the tales missed the mark, particularly their endings, but other aspects were spot on, especially early in the tales as Dickens set the stage and introduced his ridiculous characters.

There's Mrs. Tibbs, who runs a boarding house and walks all over her dim-witted husband, and Mr. Minns, who hates children and dinner parties but ends up taking a disastrous trip to his cousin's house. More disaster strikes in The Steam Excursion where a day-long boat trip is planned and the families with eligible young women compete for male attention. There's the Gattleson family who practice like crazy to put on Othello for their neighbors. This, of course, goes horribly wrong. Another child-hater nicknamed Long Dumps attends the christening of his godson and makes everyone miserable, and the uptight Mr. Watkins Tottle mistakenly thinks he has proposed to an also uptight woman.

All in all, this was great fun to read and an excellent way to learn more about the humor that makes Dickens tick before he tamed it and learned to use it to advantage in his novels.


"We love to walk among these extensive groves of the illustrious dead, and to indulge in the speculations to which they give rise; now fitting a deceased coat, then a dead pair of trousers...upon some being of our own conjuring up, and endeavouring, from the shape and fashion of the garment itself, to bring its former owner before our mind's eye."

"To return from this digression, we were about to say that these are the sort of people whom you see talking, and attitudinising, outside the stage-doors of our minor theaters."

About the first of May: "Magic scenes indeed; for the fancies of childhood dressed them in colours birghter than the rainbow, and almost as fleeting!"

"There are strange chords in the human heart, which will lie dormant through years of depravity and wickedness, but which will vibrate at last to some slight circumstance apparently trivial in itself, but connected by some undefined and indistint association with past days that can never be recalled, and with bitter recollections from which the most degraded creature in existence cannot escape."

"Christmas time! That man must be a misanthrope indeed, in whose breast something like a jovial feeling is not roused -- in whose mind some pleasant associations are not awakened -- by the recurrence of Christmas. There are people who will tell you that Christmas is not to them what it used to be... never heed such dismal reminiscences. There are few men who have lived long enough in the world, who cannot call up such thoughts any day in the year. Then do not select the merries... for your doleful recollections."

"He was to his wife what the 0 is in 90 -- he was of some importance with her -- he was nothing without her."

"Matrimony is proverbially a serious undertaking. Like an overweening predilection for brandy-and-water, it is a misfortune into which a man easily falls, and from which he finds it remarkably difficult to extricate himself."

"There are three classes of animated objects which prevent your driving with any degree of comfort or celerity through streets which are but little frequented -- they are pigs, children, and old women."

"...the most stupendous objects in nature are but vast collections of minute particles, so the slightest and least considered trifles make up the sum of human happiness or misery."

Themes: London, 19th century, classic, short stories, poverty, humor, early creative nonfiction, daily life, slapstick, tragicomedy
Profile Image for - Jared - ₪ Book Nerd ₪.
227 reviews92 followers
November 21, 2017
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 give to Dickens writing is that it is like a caricature of writing where the personalities and mannerisms are hilariously exaggerated making it really illustrate and allowing the reader to get into the character's personality and other characterizations. I really want to do it justice and write reviews on these short stories individually. Unfortunately they are not all listed on GR so I'll only be able to do a few.

More about the book:
From Wikipedia: Dickens took the 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. This, "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 ˈboʊz but is now usually ˈbɒz.

A verse in Bentley's Miscellany for March 1837 recalled the public's perplexity about this pseudonym:
"Who the dickens 'Boz' could be
Puzzled many a learned elf,
Till time unveiled the mystery,
And 'Boz' appeared as Dickens's self."

The contents of Sketches by Boz are:

Our parish:
The Beadle. The Parish Engine. The Schoolmaster.
The Curate. The Old Lady. The Half-pay Captain
The Four Sisters
The Election for Beadle
The Broker's Man
The Ladies' Societies
Our Next-door Neighbour

The Streets – morning
The Streets – night
Shops and their Tenants
Scotland Yard
Seven Dials
Meditations in Monmouth-Street
Hackney-coach Stands
Doctors' Commons
London Recreations
The River
Greenwich Fair
Private Theatres
Vauxhall Gardens by Day
Early Coaches
The Last Cab-driver, and the First Omnibus cad
A Parliamentary Sketch
Public Dinners
The First of May
Brokers' and Marine-store Shops
The Pawnbroker's Shop
Criminal Courts
A Visit to Newgate

Thoughts about People
A Christmas Dinner
The New Year
Miss Evans and the Eagle
The Parlour Orator
The Hospital Patient
The Misplaced attachment of Mr. John Dounce
The Mistaken Milliner. A Tale of Ambition
The Dancing Academy
Shabby-Genteel People
Making a Night of It
The Prisoners' Van

The Boarding-house
Chapter the first
Chapter the second
Mr. Minns and his Cousin
The Tuggses at Ramsgate
Horatio Sparkins
The Black Veil
The Steam Excursion
The Great Winglebury Duel
Mrs. Joseph Porter
A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle
Chapter the first
Chapter the second
The Bloomsbury Christening
The Drunkard's death
Profile Image for Laura.
6,869 reviews556 followers
July 20, 2020
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 respectable establishment, until the arrival of a mysterious new lodger.

Episode 5 of 5 - Horatio Sparkings
The socially ambitious Maldertons are elated when a mystery suitor courts their daughter.


Charles DickensSketches by Boz: Series 1

Episode 1 of 5
The Tuggses at Ramsgate
It seems that money cannot buy you love.

Episode 2 of 5
The Bloomsbury Christening
The arrival of a baby boy is good news, but not for miserable bachelor Nicodemus Dumps.

Episode 3 of 5
The Great Winglebury Duel
Alexander Trott finds it is possible to become betrothed in very trying circumstances.

Episode 4 of 5
The Private Theatricals or Mrs Joseph PorterThe British love for amateur dramatics takes over a household with farcical results.

Episode 5 of 5
Profile Image for Ian Ayris.
Author 19 books54 followers
February 12, 2017
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 entitled, Characters, and begin to read more like short stories, combining the focus of Part One and Part Two. Part Four - taking up a good half of the book - breaks out entirley into short stories, entitled as it is, Tales.

Dickens was firmed as a the sharpest of the political commentators of the time, and his cutting wit is displayed on every line of the book - with many laugh out loud moments. Dickens perenial themes of poverty, social inequality, and the plight of children are present throughout. The writing, of course, is not just insightful and playful, but utterly beautiful. is

The vignettes and tales present scenes and characters in misunderstandings, clashes of class situations and expectations of the male of the species being unflatteringly, and quite rightly, rebutted. All is, more or less, light and fluffy. Until we get to the very final tale in the book, entitled The Drunkard's Death. This story is by far the most powerful piece of writing I have ever read. The tale tells the demise of an unnamed man due to his dependence on alcohol, his children, his wife, his life itself, all falling victim to his addiction. Here is an extract:

'At last, one bitter night, he sank down on a door-step faint and ill. The premature decay of vice and profligacy had worn him to the bone. His cheeks were hollow and livid; his eyes were sunken, and their sight was dim. His legs trembled beneath his weight, and a cold shiver ran through every limb.

And now the long-forgotten scenes of a misspent life crowded thick and fast upon him. He thought of the time when he had a home - a happy, cheerful home - and of those who peopled it, and flocked about him then, until the forms of his elder children seemed to rise from the grave, and stand about him - so plain, so clear, and so distinct they were he could touch and feel them. Looks that he had long forgotten were fixed upon him once more; voices long since hushed in death sounded in his ears like the music of village bells. But it was only for an instant. The rain beat heavily upon him; and cold and hunger were gnawing at his heart again.'

Just so bleak. Of course, the story reaches its inevitable conclusion. And Dickens does not reach for sentiment, even at the last . . .

'A week afterwards the body was washed ashore, some miles down the river, a swollen and disfigured mess. Unrecognised and unpitied. It was borne to the grave; and there it has long since mouldered away.'

Harsh and beautiful, insightful and hilarious. Sketches by Boz is a wonderful collection of Dickens writing. And, as the world knows, just the very beginning . . .
Profile Image for Armin.
952 reviews36 followers
August 30, 2021
Absolut empfehlenswert für Fans und als angenehme Zweitlektüre bei anstrengendem Hauptbuch

Ungefähr zur Hälfte im Original (auf youtube gehört), den Rest auf Deutsch gelesen. Die streckenweise herrlich dramatisch oder komödiantisch in Szene gesetzten Librivox-Lesungen sind schon ein besonderes Vergnügen, angesichts der Vielzahl der Beteiligten, gibt es aber auch etliche Ausreißer nach ganz weit unten zu beklagen.
Für Spurensucher und Entdecker, bzw. Leser, die mit den folgenden Romanen (PP/OT/NN) vertraut sind, ist die Lektüre der Skizzen eine herrlich viele Glücksmomente oder Erfolgserlebnisse, die ihre fünf Sterne wert ist. So wurde bei Fagins Tod im Roman nur der Name geändert, sonst sind die letzten Stunden vor der Hinrichtung identisch mit einer Skizze. Der (vermeintlich) hässlichste antisemtische Satz, - tatsächlich geht es nur um die Aufdringlichkeit gewisser Händler, die der Entwicklung einer Geschichte anhand des Angebots in einem Gebrauchtwarenladen verhindern -,
eröffnet die Skizze, aus der sich das Leben von Sikes und entwickelt. Die Gegenüberstellung einer misshandelten Frau mit ihrem Peiniger im Krankenhaus, weist auch auf Konsellationen in OT voraus. (Zahlreiche weitere Belegstellen finden sich in den Kommentaren des Reading Progress).
Auch sonst finden sich permanent Motivationen für Hauptfiguren, größere und kleinere Schurken, hochanständiger, aber schrecklich herzlose Zeitgenossen und zahlreiche Gründe, warum das Schicksal diese allzu hochanständigen Leute zu Recht am empfindlichsten Punkt trifft. In den Erzählungen wie in den folgenden Romanen, etwa beim alten Erbonkel in NN, In den Erzählungen werden neureiche Spekulanten, die ihre Nase allzu hoch tragen, ihre Töchter nicht los, bzw. allzu gestrenge und standesgemäß rechnende Väter erleiden einen Totalverlust, wenn sie ihr Kind in eine Verwahranstalt einsperren, in der sich nichts lernen lässt.
Für die journalistischen Arbeiten würde ich sogar fünf Sterne geben, unter den Erzählungen gibt es, für meinen Geschmack, allzu viele Vorstudien zu den Pickwickiern, die bei mir mit einem Stern unter die Räder gekommen sind. Vielleicht würde ich bei einer Lektüre im unmittelbaren Anschluss an die Londoner Skizzen und die pannenreichen Ausflüge ziemlich gemischter Gesellschaften ins Umland sogar auf zwei Sterne aufrunden, trotzdem gibt es einen Stern Abzug.
Profile Image for Andrea.
Author 6 books177 followers
September 20, 2014
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 expanded beyond marriage and class isn't quite all it used to be, not that it has changed enough. Dickens' humour is directed here there and everywhere and sometimes I quite loved him -- his descriptions of children and their doting mothers were timeless for example -- but sometimes I couldn't help but feel he was being a bit of a pompous and patronising **. The risks of this kind of social commentary really. The tale of the four Miss Willises is quite my favourite and will never be forgotten, and this could easily have been a Monty Python sketch in the tradition of the twits:

MR. COPPERNOSE called the attention of the section to a proposition of great magnitude and interest, illustrated by a vast number of models, and stated with much clearness and perspicuity in a treatise entitled “Practical Suggestions on the necessity of providing some harmless and wholesome relaxation for the young noblemen of England.” His proposition was, that a space of ground of not less than ten miles in length and four in breadth should be purchased by a new company, to be incorporated by Act of Parliament, and inclosed by a brick wall of not less than twelve feet in height. He proposed that it should be laid out with highway roads, turnpikes, bridges, miniature villages, and every object that could conduce to the comfort and glory of Four-in-hand Clubs, so that they might be fairly presumed to require no drive beyond it. This delightful retreat would be fitted up with most commodious and extensive stables, for the convenience of such of the nobility and gentry as had a taste for ostlering, and with houses of entertainment furnished in the most expensive and handsome style. It would be further provided with whole streets of door-knockers and bell-handles of extra size, so constructed that they could be easily wrenched off at night, and regularly screwed on again, by attendants provided for the purpose, every day. There would also be gas lamps of real glass, which could be broken at a comparatively small expense per dozen, and a broad and handsome foot pavement for gentlemen to drive their cabriolets upon when they were humorously disposed—for the full enjoyment of which feat live pedestrians would be procured from the workhouse at a very small charge per head. The place being inclosed, and carefully screened from the intrusion of the public, there would be no objection to gentlemen laying aside any article of their costume that was considered to interfere with a pleasant frolic, or, indeed, to their walking about without any costume at all, if they liked that better. In short, every facility of enjoyment would be afforded that the most gentlemanly person could possibly desire. But as even these advantages would be incomplete unless there were some means provided of enabling the nobility and gentry to display their prowess when they sallied forth after dinner, and as some inconvenience might be experienced in the event of their being reduced to the necessity of pummelling each other, the inventor had turned his attention to the construction of an entirely new police force, composed exclusively of automaton figures, which, with the assistance of the ingenious Signor Gagliardi, of Windmill-street, in the Haymarket, he had succeeded in making with such nicety, that a policeman, cab-driver, or old woman, made upon the principle of the models exhibited, would walk about until knocked down like any real man; nay, more, if set upon and beaten by six or eight noblemen or gentlemen, after it was down, the figure would utter divers groans, mingled with entreaties for mercy, thus rendering the illusion complete, and the enjoyment perfect. But the invention did not stop even here; for station-houses would be built, containing good beds for noblemen and gentlemen during the night, and in the morning they would repair to a commodious police office, where a pantomimic investigation would take place before the automaton magistrates,—quite equal to life,—who would fine them in so many counters, with which they would be previously provided for the purpose. This office would be furnished with an inclined plane, for the convenience of any nobleman or gentleman who might wish to bring in his horse as a witness; and the prisoners would be at perfect liberty, as they were now, to interrupt the complainants as much as they pleased, and to make any remarks that they thought proper. The charge for these amusements would amount to very little more than they already cost, and the inventor submitted that the public would be much benefited and comforted by the proposed arrangement.

‘PROFESSOR NOGO wished to be informed what amount of automaton police force it was proposed to raise in the first instance.

‘MR. COPPERNOSE replied, that it was proposed to begin with seven
divisions of police of a score each, lettered from A to G inclusive. It
was proposed that not more than half this number should be placed on
active duty, and that the remainder should be kept on shelves in the
police office ready to be called out at a moment’s notice.

‘THE PRESIDENT, awarding the utmost merit to the ingenious gentleman who had originated the idea, doubted whether the automaton police would quite answer the purpose. He feared that noblemen and gentlemen would perhaps require the excitement of thrashing living subjects.

‘MR. COPPERNOSE submitted, that as the usual odds in such cases were ten noblemen or gentlemen to one policeman or cab-driver, it could make very little difference in point of excitement whether the policeman or cab-driver were a man or a block. The great advantage would be, that a policeman’s limbs might be all knocked off, and yet he would be in a
condition to do duty next day. He might even give his evidence next
morning with his head in his hand, and give it equally well.

Profile Image for Dave.
232 reviews19 followers
November 8, 2010
‘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 writing served Dickens well as he became used to writing in installments and as many of his novels were published this way. The earliest of these pieces (“A Dinner at Poplar Walk” known in this collection as “Mr. Minns and his Cousin”) was published in December of 1833. The latest of these pieces was published for the first time in December 1836 along with the second series volume, and this was the closing piece “The Drunkard’s Death”. These pieces are organized into four sections in the book, Of the four sections, only the last are considered fictional stories, though to be sure, Dickens uses all his story-telling skill even on those which are considered non-fiction.

The first section is titled “Our Parish” and contains just seven pieces dealing with some of the characters who are part of his church’s parish. The last piece doesn’t really fit in with the rest for the most part as he starts by discussing knockers and their being replaced by bells, and moves into the problem with renting to single gentleman, which then leads into a very touching story of a mother and her son of eighteen who are poor and mourning the loss of the father. What these stories show is Dickens ability to write about serious subject matter, and yet have a touch of humor as well.

The second section it titled “Scenes”, and this section demonstrates Dickens ability to describe the overall feel of a place, from the streets of London, to private theatres, coaches, and so on. This section contains 25 pieces which cover a wide variety of areas of London, types of stores and buildings, as well as the people one finds in these areas. The last piece is “A Visit to Newgate”, which is a powerful piece about the conditions a prisoner faces in Newgate prison, and finishing with the environment facing a condemned man during his last night.

The third section is similar to the second section except it looks at “Characters” a bit more than setting, though to be sure this dividing line is not so firm as the section headings would indicate. There are 12 pieces in this section, and like the section before it ends with a piece touching on the criminal system in London with “The Prisoners’ Van”, a.k.a ‘Her Majesty’s carriage’. In this story, Dickens introduces us to two young women. Once again Dickens clearly has a social conscious and it comes through loud and clear in his writing. Such observations as “What the younger girl was then, the elder had been once; and what the elder then was, the younger must soon become.” express so well the situation facing the young and poor.

The fourth and final section is “Tales”, and here the stories are more complete, sketches no more, they are full fictional stories in which Dickens puts all the pieces together. Despite being in the last section of this collection, 6 of these 16 pieces of short fiction are actually older than any of the “Sketches” in the first three sections. So while the setup of this collection creates an arc from a non-fictional account, through the development of scenes and characters to a fictional story, that isn’t the actual progression of how these pieces were written. In fact, Dickens was accomplished at telling a fictional story from the start of his career.

‘Sketches by “Boz”’ is nowhere near the most significant work that Dickens produced, but it does offer a good look at his early writing, along with numerous examples of his ability to describe scenes and characters, as well as blend humor and drama together for a very effective result. There are probably many people who could skip this work without missing out on anything, and for that reason I am giving it just three stars, but for those who study Dickens and/or 19th century literature, this is an essential work to better understand one of the greatest writers of the era.
Profile Image for Larry Chambers.
10 reviews10 followers
August 16, 2012
[I wrote this review for amazon.com 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, whether he’s writing about the tragedies of this world or its travesties. His eye for the ludicrous is faultless; his representation of it in print is perfection. He never fails to paint on the canvass in our mind, with a few simple strokes, a comic character that resembles someone we’ve met somewhere, sometime in our lives. His characters are so real that he needs to do nothing more than describe their appearance briefly and then let them speak for themselves. They speak with all the dignity and importance we all feel in ourselves, yet they unwittingly disclose for the reader all the foibles we all possess ... and mistakenly think known only to ourselves. Likewise, when introducing tragic characters, Dickens prefers to offer brief but unerringly accurate descriptions of their build, demeanor, and dress, and then allow their own words and actions to speak for themselves. His creations elicit mirth and misery in us without fail as Dickens masterfully plucks the strings of our hearts.

Unlike most writers, Dickens is equally at home in both the short story and the full-length novel format. This is because his novels were serialized in periodicals in their first publications. Only later were they edited for book form. Sketches by Boz is an offering of Dickens’s first attempts at writing for a living. It consists of 56 passages, most of which can be read in a single sitting of less than half an hour. These are divided into four sections: “Our Parish”, “Scenes”, “Characters”, and “Tales”. Of these, only the last contains fiction. The 44 nonfiction accounts are just as entertaining as their made-up brothers. In fact, I found them even more fun to read at times. Dickens only thinly disguised the identities of his victims while lampooning them, and as editor Dennis Walder so rightly points out, many of these descriptions would surely result in lawsuits for libel if they were published about public figures today.

This was my first experience reading a Penguin Classics edition of Dickens, and I was extremely pleased with it. The editor introduced Sketches with a few notes of academic and historical interest, a particular one of which I found to be of great interest as it finally answered a question I’d had for half my life: namely, where Dickens had acquired his nickname of Boz. But more important for today’s reader of Dickens is the “Notes” section at the back of the book in which Mr. Walder defines Dickensian slang and explains the author’s references to people, events, and places of early nineteenth century London. Much of Dickens’s wit is lost on today’s reader without such disclosures.

One of my favorite ways of reading a classic author is to collect all of his or her works and then read through them at a leisurely pace in the order they were written. I did this with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with the intention of noting how his style developed over the years. I was surprised to find an unexpected benefit of that project: I was transported to those times and felt as I imagine one of Doyle’s contemporary fans must have felt as he read each new Sherlock Holmes story. After finishing Doyle, I immediately began collecting Dickens for a similar project. Sketches by Boz, being a collection of Dickens’s first literary efforts, was of course the first in this series. The second Dickens book is The Pickwick Papers, of which I have the Library of the Future edition. But after reading the Penguin Classics Sketches, I’m determined to first replace Pickwick with the Penguin edition. The Penguin books are reasonably priced and well worth every penny.
Profile Image for John Hatley.
1,177 reviews195 followers
November 20, 2016
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 collection.
Profile Image for David Bisset.
657 reviews6 followers
December 13, 2017
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 social history!
Profile Image for Richard Jalbert.
13 reviews5 followers
July 10, 2015
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.
1,768 reviews33 followers
August 19, 2022
This work is divided into four sections: "Our Parish" (7 chapters), "Scenes"(25 chapters), "Characters" (12 chapters) and "Tales" (12 chapters).

Our Parish
The Beadle. The Parish Engine. The Schoolmaster 3.25⭐
The Curate. The Old Lady. The Half-pay Captain 3.5⭐
The Four Sisters 3.25⭐
The Election for Beadle 3.5⭐
The Broker's Man 4⭐
The Ladies' Societies 3⭐
Our Next-door Neighbour 3.5⭐

The Streets – morning 3.5⭐
The Streets – night 4⭐
Shops and their Tenants 4⭐
Scotland Yard 3.25⭐
Seven Dials 4.5⭐
Meditations in Monmouth-Street 4⭐
Hackney-coach Stands 3.25⭐
Doctors' Commons 4⭐
London Recreations 4⭐
The River 4⭐
Astley's 3⭐
Greenwich Fair 3.25⭐
Private Theatres 3⭐
Vauxhall Gardens by Day 3.25⭐
Early Coaches 4⭐
Omnibuses 4⭐
The Last Cab-driver, and the First Omnibus cad 4.25⭐
A Parliamentary Sketch 3.5⭐
Public Dinners 4.25⭐
The First of May 3.5⭐
Brokers' and Marine-store Shops 3.5⭐
Gin-shops 3.25⭐
The Pawnbroker's Shop 3.75⭐
Criminal Courts 5⭐
A Visit to Newgate 4.5⭐

Thoughts about People 4.5⭐
A Christmas Dinner 4⭐
The New Year 3⭐
Miss Evans and the Eagle 3.5⭐
The Parlour Orator 3.25⭐
The Hospital Patient 3.5⭐
The Misplaced Attachment of Mr. John Dounce 3.5⭐
The Mistaken Milliner. A Tale of Ambition 3.5⭐
The Dancing Academy 3.5⭐
Shabby-Genteel People 3.5⭐
Making a Night of It 3.25⭐
The Prisoners' Van 4⭐

The Boarding-house 4.25⭐
Chapter the first ✔
Chapter the second ✔

Mr. Minns and his Cousin 4⭐
Sentiment 4.25⭐
The Tuggs's at Rams Gate 3.25⭐
Horatio Sparkins 3.25⭐
The Black Veil 4⭐
The Steam Excursion 2⭐
The Great Winglebury Duel 3.5⭐
Mrs. Joseph Porter 3.5⭐

A Passage in the Life of Mr. Watkins Tottle 4⭐
Chapter the first ✔
Chapter the second ✔

The Bloomsbury Christening 3.5⭐
The Drunkard's Death 4.25⭐
Profile Image for Gill James.
Author 78 books33 followers
October 22, 2021
Charles Dickens apologizes that these were his early writings and that he was very young when he created them. But here you can see a writer learning his craft well. We can see that he is an astute observer of people, place and life. These really are sketches and sometimes the character are cartoon-like and larger than life. He includes minutes of meetings and these are just as funny as the recording that went viral recently, We thought Monty Python was new when it came along but really Dickens had done it all before.
Profile Image for Erin.
67 reviews1 follower
January 25, 2009
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, assume that contemporaries who read the sketches would nod their heads in agreement. Yet, simultaneously, there seems to be an educational imperative in the sketches; maybe, it is through the rhetoric of satire, maybe nostalgia. In each of these sketches, Dickens relates the “sorrow” and “heartache” that we feel as we “see” the history of a shop, a street, and a class of people.

For example, in “Shops and Their Tenants”, Dickens states, “we have formed an intimate acquaintance” with certain shops, watching their “rise and fall” (61). He gives a history of one as a “sample of the rest”, which may be a speculative generalization, but also serves as a simple reminder that these shops that come and go have a genealogy, containing a history of families and shop owners with successes and failures (62).

In “Meditations in Monmouth Street”, Dickens creates mystery behind the “few suits of clothes” by imagining a glimpse into the life of an unknown man: “There was the man’s whole life written as legibly on those clothes, as if we had his autobiography engrossed on parchment before us (78). Dickens suggests that “what we imagine” or “fancied we saw” comes quite close to what we “see” because “we had seen it a hundred times” (79). Dickens gives imaginative life to a mundane and sorrowful existence by “conjuring up” and “speculating” on what the reader already knows about the unknown man (through his clothes): “we knew all about him; we had seen him… half a thousand times” (81).

In “Shabby-genteel People”, easily my favorite, Dickens begins by stating that there are certain types of people, exclusive to London, that one meets every day such as “shabby-genteel” (261). Again, he draws on shared experience. His speculation about the man shapes into a fictional narrative that certainly has factual components. His contemporary readers would be entertained by the fiction, sorrowed by the fact that these representations/meditations are, what Dickens repeatedly states, what we see everyday. From a 21st century perspective, these sketches are fascinating and informative, but for a 19th century audience reading these in the daily or weekly newspaper, I wonder to what degree were these instructional or entertaining? Would the equivalent be sketches of less fortunate people and places in Boston? Dickens makes it his duty to inform as much as entertain with these sketches.
Profile Image for mia :•).
92 reviews1 follower
October 8, 2021
obviously didn't read the whole thing. can't remember who it was that thought this was the bible when i took it out of my bag but that was FUNNY. dickens, i genuinely just don't care, i'm sorry. nice record of victorian london and what not but god SHUT UP. (did actually like the one about door knockers though 'if you ever find a man changing his habitation without any reasonable pretext, depend upon it, that, although he may not be aware of the fact himself, it is because he and his knocker are at variance')
Profile Image for bikerbuddy.
205 reviews2 followers
October 12, 2021
By the time Dickens’s earliest work was printed as a single volume in 1839, Sketches by Boz had already enjoyed several publications in various forms. The book is not a single story. Rather, it is a collection of scenes from London life, descriptions of character types and anecdotes about London lives, as well as a series of short stories that form almost half the volume. It represents the beginning of Dickens’s writing career, compiled from works published in newspapers and periodicals. It’s a good place to start reading Dickens if you’re interested, for instance, in tracing his development as a writer. The Sketches were originally published anonymously. In fact, Dickens wasn’t even paid for his earliest work and his name wasn’t associated with the Sketches until he gained notoriety from The Pickwick Papers . The name ‘Boz’ derived from a nickname for a brother. As I read the Sketches I sometimes sensed that this anonymity was an advantage to Dickens. It allowed him to attain a level of credibility in his early writing that would have been difficult to achieve for a young man. He was only 21 when he published his first story, and by the age of 24 he had written most of the pieces for this volume. It is not surprising, then, that he sometimes assumes a much older persona: “In our earlier days,” he writes as he introduces his subject in ‘Greenwich Fair’, and he later states, “We have grown older since then, and quiet, and steady.” It’s a conceit subtly introduced into ‘The Last Cab-driver, and the First Omnibus Cad’, with its sense of nostalgia and loss, and its implicit experience of London from the perspective of an older man: “there is one who made an impression on our mind which can never be effaced”; “The last time we saw our friend”; “the appearance of the first omnibus”; “the class of men to which they belonged are fast disappearing.” Dickens is not just writing about London: he is establishing a persona – Boz – who is not a twenty-something newcomer, but an older, more mature man; a purveyor of opinions; a man wise and experienced enough to rail against politicians and expose human foibles.

Publication of Dickens’s first book didn’t happen as aspiring young writers might now expect. He wrote for magazines and newspapers that were hungry for copy. As a result, his pieces were published singly, to begin with. The Sketches, themselves, as they eventually came to be arranged, suggest, somewhat misleadingly, a progression, divided as they are into four sections that begin with mostly descriptive works, which evolve into more fictive works, and later, short stories. The first section, Seven Sketches from Our Parish describes London life in the 1830s, beginning with functionaries like the beadle and clergyman. Even here, though, Dickens draws from life, with some of his types actually based upon real people from his local parish. This is the unifying theme of the first section of the book: the parish and its people. As twenty-first century readers, we glimpse a world that often seems quaint, mannered and stylised, but through Dickens’s pen, is painted as realistically as our own, both in its absurdity and pretence, in its drama and tragedy .......

My review is too long for Good Reads. If you want to read the complete review, use the following link:

Profile Image for Brian Willis.
577 reviews32 followers
December 31, 2021
There are at least two areas of writing at which Dickens proved himself the absolute master: the construction of elaborate plotlines which weave into a satisfactory and sensational ending, and the masterful eye for detail that can capture a scene or setting and convey minute detail to the reader that rings truthful and insightful.

Sketches by Boz is a triumphant example of the latter. Of course, these sketches were prior to novel writing and established Dickens's reputation. As he was writing these, he was constructing the episodic picaresque long form novel The Pickwick Papers, and then the first undeniable masterpiece Oliver Twist. So the plot mastery was about to emerge. But each and every one of these sketches are masterpieces at eye for detail and caricature, as well as snapshots into the transformation of Victorian city life: transportation, occupations, personalities, areas of London, and peculiarities of London life. They are fascinating brief dives into the world at large that illuminate the human condition within 1830s London.

With these early sketches, Mr. Dickens's announces his talent to the world. Recommended for enthusiasts of Dickens's descriptive powers as well as those who like a time capsule on London society at the dawn of the Victorian age.
Profile Image for Tim  Franks.
215 reviews2 followers
June 25, 2020
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.
Profile Image for ~ Cheryl ~.
326 reviews4 followers
March 29, 2021

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 recommend reading these back to back. But I marked my favorites in my copy, and will certainly go back for another dip when I need a lift.
3.5 stars rounded up to 4.

488 reviews56 followers
September 4, 2007
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 one pair of boots in particular -- a jolly, good-tempered, hearty-looking pair of tops, that excited our warmest regard; and we had got a fine, red-faced jovial fellow of a market-gardener into them, before we had made their acquaintance half a minute."
Profile Image for Ian Warr.
27 reviews1 follower
April 17, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Lori.
353 reviews17 followers
May 31, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Mariano Hortal.
717 reviews175 followers
August 26, 2015
Publicado en http://lecturaylocura.com/escenas-de-...

“Escenas de la vida de Londres” por “Boz” de Charles Dickens. Lo cotidiano como expresión de grandeza literaria

La lectura de “Escenas de la vida de Londres por “Boz” de Charles Dickens me lleva a este post que escribí hace poco tiempo sobre el Dickens primerizo; bien podría haber aparecido en ese momento ya que, en esta recopilación de Abada Editores, nos encontramos veinticinco esbozos que puede ser la recopilación más completa traducida por estos lares. En el prólogo de esta fantástica edición de Miguel Ángel Martínez-Cabeza queda bien claro lo que nos podemos encontrar:
“El Londres de los Esbozos es el de los aprendices y oficinistas, de los juzgados y los periódicos, de las crónicas parlamentarias y las cenas benéficas, de los teatros, la feria de Greenwich y el circo de Astley, de los jardines públicos y de las licorerías, de los viejos coches de punto y los nuevos ómnibus. Los cinco primeros esbozos urbanos, “Los ómnibus”, “Las tiendas y los comerciantes”, “Los tribunales de justicia”, “Las casas de empeño y las tiendas de efectos navales” y “Los caballeros venidos a menos”, representarían algo nuevo en las descripciones de Londres. Ensayistas como Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt y Washington Irving habían escrito con espíritu romántico sobre los rincones pintorescos de la ciudad; Pierce Egan en su popular Life in London (1820) había llevado a los lectores por los locales nocturnos de una forma estilizada; pero serían las dotes de observación y atención al detalle lo que permitiría a Boz reflejar las escenas de la vida diaria londinense y los hábitos de las clases menos favorecidas con asombrosa fidelidad.”
Es más que patente el reflejo de lo cotidiano gracias al realismo de descripciones, más cercano gracias a la reproducción del habla de la calle, ese cockney que causa quebraderos de cabeza en la traducción; pero lo mejor de todo es que nos encontramos al Dickens más creativo sin perder de vista las características que le harán grande, bien lo dice Miguel Ángel:
“En los Esbozos es fácil encontrar elementos que más tarde definirían el sello “dickensiano”: las situaciones absurdas, la disparidad entre los pensamientos y las acciones, o el conflicto entre la conducta natural y las convenciones sociales. Sin embargo el material del que parten –excluyendo los cuentos- viene dado por la realidad.”
En una descripción de una escena diaria podemos comprobar el estilo del escritor inglés, en plena efervescencia; tiene la maravillosa virtud de hacernos partícipe del momento; como si estuviéramos viendo la acción, cargada de elementos que suceden habitualmente, todos los días:
“Chicos de los recados con sombreros más grandes que ellos, convertidos en hombres antes de ser niños, pasan de prisa en parejas con su primer frac bien cepillado y los pantalones blancos del domingo pasado profundamente manchados de polvo y tinta. Por supuesto requiere un considerable esfuerzo mental evitar invertir parte del dinero para la comida del día en la compra de tartas rancias expuestas tentadoramente en latas empolvadas a las puertas de las pastelerías; sin embargo, la conciencia de sentirse importantes y la paga de siete chelines a la semana con la expectativa de un rápido aumento a ocho viene en su auxilio y en consecuencia inclinan sus sombreros un poco más hacia un lado y miran bajo las tocas de todas las modistillas de los sombrereros y fabricantes de corsés -¡pobres chicas!- a quienes mientras más trabajan peor les pagan, y que muy a menudo son la clase más explotada de la sociedad.” (“Las calles de día”).
Cada momento tiene su magia inherente, a pesar de estar describiendo acciones que no pasan de ser el día a día de una gran ciudad, con su aparente monotonía, hasta se puede escribir sobre el transporte público sin ser aburrido; los coches de día y los ómnibus se vuelven familiares gracias al humor de Dickens:
“Generalmente se admite que el transporte público proporciona un vasto campo para la observación y el entretenimiento. De todos los transportes públicos que se han inventado desde los tiempos del Arca de Noé –pensamos que ese es el más antiguo del que se tiene constancia- hasta la actualidad, me quedo con el ómnibus.” (“Los ómnibus”).
Buena cuenta de su capacidad humorística se pone de relieve en algo tan aparentemente falto de interés como una crónica parlamentaria; así en “Un esbozo parlamentario” el prólogo es muy sintomático de esta virtud, además de utilizar la exhortación directa al lector como recurso para aumentar la involucración:
“Esperamos que nuestros lectores no se alarmen por lo ominoso del título. Les aseguramos que no vamos a tratar de política ni tenemos la más ligera intención de ser más aburridos que de costumbre –si podemos evitarlo-. Se nos ha ocurrido que un esbozo superficial del aspecto general de “la Cámara” y las multitudes que acuden a ella la noche de un debate importante daría lugar a algún entretenimiento.”
Según avanzamos en su lectura comprobamos que, en efecto, su sátira es aún más ejemplarizante y cómica al mismo tiempo:
“El espacio principal de la Cámara y las galerías laterales están llenos de parlamentarios, unos con las piernas sobre el asiento de delante, otros con las piernas estiradas por completo en el suelo, unos saliendo, otros entrando, todos hablando, riendo, ganduleando, tosiendo, gritando de asombro preguntando o gruñendo, presentando un conglomerado de ruido y confusión imposible de encontrar en ningún otro lugar, ni tan siquiera con las excepciones de Smithfield en día de mercado o una pelea de gallos en su apogeo.”
Solamente por el proverbial esbozo “Una visita a Newgate” esta recopilación valdría la pena; prodigio de estilo y manejo de la estructura más arriesgada a medio camino del realismo más lírico sin dejar de ser social:
“La chica pertenecía a una clase –por desgracia tan extendida- cuya misma existencia debería hacer sangrar los corazones. Apenas pasada la infancia, no hacía falta más que una ojeada para descubrir que era una de esas criaturas nacidas y criadas en el abandono y el vicio, que jamás han conocido lo que es la niñez, a las que nunca se les ha enseñado a amar ni buscar la sonrisa de los padres, o temer su ceño fruncido. Los mil cariños de la infancia, su alegría e inocencia les son todos desconocidos. Han entrado en seguida en las duras responsabilidades y penurias de la vida, y después es casi inútil apelar a su mejor naturaleza con las referencias que despiertan, aunque sea solo durante un instante, algún buen sentimiento en el pecho de cualquiera, por más corrupto que haya llegado a estar.”
Red Christmas giftEntrando por momentos en el territorio del sueño para volver a la crónica:
“Sigue un periodo de inconsciencia. Se despierta, aterido y consternado. La mortecina luz gris de la mañana se cuela en la celda y cae sobre la figura del carcelero de guardia. Confuso por los sueños, salta del camastro dudando por un instante. Pero solo es un instante. Todos y cada uno de los objetos de la estrecha celda son demasiado terriblemente reales como para dar lugar a duda o error. Vuelve a ser el reo condenado de nuevo, culpable y desesperado; y en dos horas más estará muerto.”
Todo ello acompañado, además, por los magníficos grabados de la época de George CruikShank, que componen una indisoluble unión de mucha calidad.
Los textos provienen de la traducción y edición de Miguel Ángel Martínez-Cabeza para Abada Editores.
Bis Dickensiano: “La navidad cuando dejamos de ser niños” es una recopilación de cuentos navideños, o que se relacionan con lo navideño y que el mismo Dickens escribió entre 1851 y 1853, ya alejado de sus cuentos más conocidos. Tanto el cuento homónimo como los otros cuatro guardan una calidad media que nos retrotraen a esa época a la que tanto valor daba el británico. Especialmente hermoso resulta “El cuento del pariente pobre” donde juega nuevamente con la imaginación como elemento alienador a la hora de sobrevivir:
“Ese es mi castillo, y esas son las circunstancias reales de vida allí. A veces llevo al pequeño Frank conmigo. Mis nietos lo reciben con alegría, y juegan juntos. En esta época del año, Navidad y Año Nuevo, rara vez salgo de mi Castillo. Pues los recuerdos de estos días parecen retenerme allí, y sus preceptos parecen enseñarme que es bueno estar en él.
-Y el castillo está… -empezó a decir la voz grave y armoniosa de uno de los presentes. […]
-¡Mi castillo está en el aire! He llegado al final. ¿Tendría la amabilidad de contar su historia el siguiente?”
El verdadero valor de la Navidad tal y como entendía Dickens tenía que ver con lo social, con el amor fraterno, sobre todo de los que no están en buenas relaciones:
“Nuestra marcha, la de los más orgullosos lleva el camino polvoriento por el que ellos avanzan. ¡Ay! Acordémonos de ellos este año al calor del fuego navideño, y no los olvidemos cuando este se extinga.”
cover silverman.cdrTextos de la traducción de Marta Salís de “La Navidad cuando dejamos de ser niños” para Alba Brevis
Segundo Bis Dickensiano: “La declaración de George Silverman”, cuento corto de un Dickens ya en su madurez que nos trae la curiosa historia de uno de esos pequeños inadaptados, un relato de formación que comienza en la nada más absoluta:
“Hasta entonces no había tenido la más ligera idea de lo que era el deber. Tampoco había tenido conocimiento de que existiera nada hermoso en esta vida. Cuando en alguna ocasión había trepado por las escaleras del sótano hasta la calle y había mirado los escaparates, lo había hecho sin un ánimo superior al que le suponemos a un cachorro sarnoso o a un lobezno. Igual que nunca había estado a solas, en el sentido de mantener una conversación altruista conmigo mismo. Muy a menudo estaba solo, pero nada más.”
Y que avanza a través de la vida eclesiástica:
“Al saberme incapacitado para la ruidosa agitación de la vida social, pero creyéndome cualificado para cumplir mi deber de una forma ponderada, aunque con esfuerzo, en el caso de obtener algún nombramiento poco importante en la Iglesia, me dediqué a la carrera eclesiástica.”
Descubriendo igualmente lo malo que puede ser todo, pero encontrando también amor en un camino lleno de dolor; una pequeña gran historia aderezada con las iconoclastas y vivaces ilustraciones de Ricardo Cavolo.
Los textos son de la traducción de Elena García Paredes para esta edición de Periférica
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