Dickens’ notes solve Victorian literary mysteries

dickens, literature, victorian, britain, history
Charles Dickens illustration Credit: iStock

Magazines annotated by author reveal previously anonymous work to be that of Elizabeth Gaskell and Lewis Carroll, among others.

dickens, literature, victorian, britain, history
Charles Dickens illustration. Credit: iStock

A Dickensian discovery has cast light on some of Victorian literature’s biggest mysteries.

The authorship of thousands of articles, short stories and poems that were printed anonymously in a literary magazine edited by Charles Dickens after copies annotated by him uncovered by an antiquarian book dealer.

The notes reveal Elizabeth Gaskell, Lewis Carroll, Wilkie Collins and Dickens himself as authors of articles in the magazines.

It is a discovery that could solve some of the biggest mysteries of Victorian literature.

The find also gives insight into Dickens’ nepotism, showing that he used his weekly magazine All the Year Round to publish three articles of dubious quality by his then teenage sons, Frank and Sydney.

Last September Jeremy Parrott, an academic and book dealer, ordered a 20-volume bound collection of All the Year Round from an online bookseller in Wrexham but did not open the box until December.

Dr Parrott didn’t open the box of books until December, when he arrived in London from his home in Hungary.

The discovery solves the mystery of which Victorian writers were commissioned by Dickens and identifies new works by many leading authors of the time. Dickens’ notes mean that between 300 and 400 authors have been identified as responsible for some 2,500 contributions.

Dr Parrott announced his discovery at the weekend in a lecture at the annual conference of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals at Ghent University.


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