Thursday, 17 May 2001

Charles Dickens: Sketches by Boz (1836)

Edition: Heron
Review number: 823

The young Charles Dickens became a published author (anonymously) when the first of the Sketches was printed; he went on to write two volumes of them, some of which overlapped with the early parts of The Pickwick Papers. The pieces all attempt to give a picture of life in London, which remained probably the most important theme in almost all of Dickens' writing. The central theme is elaborated in a surprisingly wide variety of ways, considering the inexperience of the writer, from humorous descriptions to short stories to a vivid recreation of the lives of the former owners of the clothes in a second hand shop.

In general, the sketches combine humour and social comment; some are more amusing, some more serious (notably the ones about Newgate Prison). At their best, they foreshadow the most famous virtues of Dickens' writing; they are, however, variable in quality and some of them have dated atrociously. Sketches by Boz is the work of an extraordinarily gifted writer at the very beginning of his career, still feeling his way and not yet sure of himself.

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