Charles John Huffam Dickens (1812-70) remains one of Britain’s most influential writers, producing Victorian classics such as ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Great Expectations’ and ‘Oliver Twist’. He was born in Hampshire and became a remarkably successful and renowned author, recitalist and social reform advocate. We can also partly blame him for the sentimentalisation of Christmas!
Dickens’s novels were serialised in magazines as he wrote them, which meant that he could tweak the plot in response to feedback. His clever style of writing, with playful use of language, kept his readers wanting more and he became very popular in his own lifetime. He had originally wanted to be an actor and audiences flocked to see his animated recitals of his work.
There were plenty of Dickens words and phrases that became part of everyday language ~ whoosh, scrooge, slow-coach, dustbin, ickle, bah humbug and whizz-bang, to name but a few. He liked to make up compound words (putting two words together), particularly for people’s surnames, and he loved a good metaphor!
“The emphasis was helped by the speaker’s square forehead, which had his eyebrows for its base, while his eyes found commodious cellarage in two dark Caves overshadowed by the wall.“
(Hard Times, 1854)
(Top image from Rochester Dickens Festival: Colin Smith at geograph.org.uk / CC BY-SA 2.0)