More Edgar Johnson on Charles Dickens


  • Paperback: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (February 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140435808
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140435801

Before Dickens was a novelist he was, hold onto your bonnets, a reporter with a truly masterful grasp of shorthand.

(Okay, not really surprising OR earth-shattering. I’m just having a very slow day and am looking for any bit of sensation I can get.)

After the blacking factory Dickens did, as I think I already mentioned, return to school. He was known as a chubby, animated boy who loved laughing best of all.

He finished his schooling and very soon decided to try his hand at journalism, becoming lightning fast at writing shorthand. Not only was he fast, though, he was more importantly accurate. And, not just accurate as far as taking down dictation, but he wrote very, very well. People began to take notice of this. Most importantly
, employers began to realize here was an exceptionally gifted writer.mariabeadnell

That’s as far as I’ve gotten with the Edgar Johnson bio. Dickens is just now earning a name for  himself in journalism and making friends with abandon. He’s met and fallen in love with his first love, Maria Beadnell (PHOTO at right of the pretty thing), but I haven’t gotten into that very much just yet. I already know how that romance ends, but I’m looking forward to learning the details, cheeky gossip that I a

I’ll soon be taking a pause from the Johnson bio to read the selected journalism of Dickens, published by Penguin. I’ve had my copy of this book for years, and now seems as good a time as any to finally read it. I’m very curious to read these early writings, to compare and contrast with what I know of Dickens the novelist. Are there hints of his later, distinctive style in his reportings? I’ll soon know.

4 thoughts on “More Edgar Johnson on Charles Dickens

  1. Dickens=David Copperfield in so many ways
    Maria = Dora Copperfield
    Agnes Wickfield = Ellen Ternan
    Dickens and shorthand = David C and shorthand
    Mr Micawber = Mr Dickens Snr
    To read David Copperfield is really to read a Dickens autobiography though one hopes the Murdstones and Uriah Heep were not real…


  2. Elaine, that’s great advice re: DC. I’ve read that one two or three times before and will definitely read with even more detail the next time I give it a go.
    I’ve always heard writers write very autobiographical first books, but in the case of Dickens’s ‘Pickwick Papers’ I’m baffled as to how that could really be. I wonder if ‘Oliver Twist,’ his second novel, contains any autobio material? Oh, wait, wait, FAGIN!! He knew a Bob Fagin, but he wasn’t a villain so far as I know. That’s an autobio element, and I suppose the rough life in the streets of London, as well.
    I smell a complete CD re-read coming on …


  3. Dickens was a shorthand reporter and spent a large amount of time in the Inns of Court and so his very jaundiced and probably, true, view of the law is shown in the lawyers in Pickwick and of course, in Bleak House. He used Bob Fagin’s name, but not any of his characteristics. I find Dickens and his books totally fascinating.


  4. I was just reading in the Johnson bio last night about the Dickens/Maria Beadnell relationship. She sounds so much like the basis for Estella to me, now that I know more of the details. Maria encouraged Dickens until after she came back from her parent-imposed trip to the continent, then she turned cold and hard (though by turns a little softer), putting Dickens through his first real romantic heartbreak. Could he have had her in mind for Estella, do you think?


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