Sketches by Boz Part 1
Publisher: Assembled Stories
Date: January 2009
Duration: 11 hours 49 minutes
Charles Dickens started his literary career as a journalist reporting for ‘The Morning Chronicle,’ a profession which encouraged his observing eye. This collection of essays and short stories was first published in that journal and anticipates, and frequently demonstrates, the genius that was to come.The Sketches ‘Illustrative of Everyday Life and Everyday People’ are a valuable documentary account of existence in the great metropolis during the early part of the nineteenth century and exhibit to the full the waspish wit, joie de vivre and compassion, for which the author was known.From the humorous gossip of ‘The Curate’ to the informative ‘Scotland Yard’ and on to a campaigning descriptive piece about Newgate Prison, Dickens takes us on a rewarding journey across our capital city, enlivened by the quirks and foibles of its inhabitants.This is the first of several volumes of Dickens’ journalistic writing to be published in audio format by Assembled Stories. We are sure you will enjoy them.
Victorian London, either as a setting for fiction or a subject for social biography, has fascinated contemporary writers as different as Lisa Jardine and Sarah Waters, but, entertaining as they are, nothing beats the authentic eyewitness account. Here it is. Boz, as every cruciverbalist knows, was the pseudonym Dickens used for his early contributions to the Morning Chronicle, these atmospheric urban sketches and The Pickwick Papers among them. Its conversational style - "we happened to be walking through St Paul's churchyard when ..." - reminded me, to start with at least, of the New Yorker diary's casual man-about-town tone and witty observations on the manifold absurdities of life. Humour there certainly is - travelling menageries, omnibus excursions, glee clubs packed with bewhiskered men banging their pewter tankards on the tables in time to choruses of "Fly, fly from the world, my Bessy, with me" - but for the most part it's pretty grim. Those familiar with the details of Dickens's wretched childhood won't be fazed by the ghastly descriptions of abject poverty, workhouses, prisons and asylums. Newgate chapel's condemned pew, where those to be hanged in the morning must listen to their own burial service, is a tough call. Once you've got used to sentences weighed down with such ear-twisting phrases as "for aught his appearance betokened to the contrary", I guarantee you'll settle back and enjoy his leisurely descriptions of a changing city: from tricorn hats to coachmen's slouches, old yellow hackney carriages with wheels of different sizes and colours to streamlined cabs 4mph faster, and the gradual gentrification of a small Thames-side enclave called Scotland Yard from kidney pie shops, taverns and coal heavers to wine lodges with tablecloths, bootmakers and jewelleries sporting signs that read "Ladies' ears may be pierced within". This is social history with a soul.