Charles Dickens' notes solve the mystery of unidentified Victorian authors

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.

Charles Dickens

[Image Source: Charles Dickens - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia ]

 

Key discoveries

Elizabeth Gaskell: two new works have been discovered by the North and South author. The pair of articles on French song and poetry had been attributed to Henry Chorley.

 

Sydney and Frank Dickens: Charles commissioned his sons to write aged 16 and 17 despite their obvious lack of talent. The three articles on Lord Nelson, preachers and servants are ‘schoolboy essays’ according to Dr Parrott. ‘They’ve taken a book and plagiarised it heavily ... there’s not much in the way of original thought or style.’

 

Wilkie Collins: the collection reveals eight pieces by author of The Moonstone which nobody has previously suggested were written by him. One is an article called ‘The Crusoe of the Snowy Desert’, telling the gripping true story of an explorer in the American Midwest who is stranded for a year in a barren snowy landscape and is eventually saved by a tribe of ‘savages’. In another, called ‘Hear The Postman,’ Collins argues postmen should be paid more because of their use to society.

 

Lewis Carroll: A possible new poem has been discovered by the Alice in Wonderland author, though its provenance is still under debate.

 

Eliza Linton: the first salaried woman journalist in Britain, is revealed to be far more prolific than first thought. Previously just a handful of pieces had been listed under her name for All The Year Round but Dickens’ notes show she wrote more than 100 articles.

 

Women: despite his reputation among some academics for misogyny, the list reveals that Dickens was very supportive of female writers. Parrott estimates that around 40 per cent of the list is women writers. ‘Cumulatively it’s very interesting how many women authors are there,’ he says. ‘Dickens is not generally recognised as having female protégés but you’ve got Queen Victoria’s favourite poet, Adelaide Proctor writing a lot and Hesba Stretton, as well as women writing on serious subjects, such as science.’

 

Misattributed: The list shows that scholars have wrongly assumed that pieces by his contemporaries were actually by Dickens. An article assigned in his collection to his son-in-law, Charles Collins, had previously been assumed to be by Dickens.