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Charles Dickens
(1812-70):

His pen name was Boz. Like that of the children in many of his novels, Dickens's father, a navy clerk, was constantly in debtor's prison, and Dickens was sent to work in a blacking factory at the age of twelve. Most bitter for him, was his parents' failure to educate him. He reacted to this indifference by working hard, a lifelong characteristic. An office boy in a lawyer's office, in time he was to become a parliamentary reporter; after that, Dickens soon found himself in the business of journalism. By age 24 he had written The Pickwick Papers and was, thereafter, famous.

In 1885, the Spectator, an outstanding English newspaper, said that Dicken's "chief fault" was his "mawkish and unreal sentiment."1 In his book, Dickens as a Legal Historian, Wm. S. Holdsworth2, in referring to the popularity of Dickens, wrote:

"Caricature, the humorous exaggeration of characteristics, is always popular, for every one likes to see every one else ridiculed, and burlesque renders any subject ludicrous by an incongruous manner of treating it. So when a talent for caricature and burlesque is turned loose upon the unpopular profession of the law, the result is highly edifying to the laity."3
Dickens works include: The Pickwick Papers (1837), Oliver Twist (1837-9), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840), and Barnaby Rudge (1841).

As a concluding note, we should say: Though Dickens was an immensely popular author, he did not write of average circumstances, he was too much involved in the business of selling books. A poor understanding of the Industrial Revolution will be had if one were to consider only the works of Dickens as entertaining as they may be. Consider too William Cunningham's history, Growth of English Industry and Commerce (Cambridge University Press, 1908), or the work of Jocelyn Dunlop and Richard D. Denman, English Apprenticeship and Child Labour: A History (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1912), or a more recent work by Clark Nardinelli, Child Labor and the Industrial Revolution (Indiana University Press, 1990).

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NOTES:

1 8 Aug. 1048/2. Bierce was of the view that the characters in the books of Dickens "would, I think, have been improved by a more frequent change of underwear."

2 (Yale University Press, 1929.) Holdsworth was a professor at Oxford and a Bencher of Lincoln's Inn.

3 G. M. Young, in his work, Victorian England: Portrait of an Age (1936) and described as "The greatest single study of the age," wrote, "The political satire of Dickens is tedious and ignorant" (Oxford University Press, 1966, p. 29).

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Peter Landry