In the authoritative Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens, John Drew describes the complex relationship of Dickens to his staff and consquently of his roles as author and editor. Thus, in Household Words "all items were unattributed, but in the case of the opening and closing editorials [in the first number] . . . and a handful of other items, Dickens made it clear that he himself was the author" (282). Drew estimates that 380 writers contributed articles to the journal over the decade but that some 200 of these contributed just once and that therefore staff-writers and regular contributors were responsible for the majority of articles.

"'It was a common complaint, not without foundation,' Hollingshead concluded, 'that all good things in Household Words were credited to Dickens'" (284); contemporary reviews noted that "a Dickensy flavour predominated in the journal" (284). The editor was regarded by all contributors as "The Master," and all contributions had to come up his standard (or be brought up to it), even those non-fiction pieces on "science for the layman" (284) that made up about a third of each issue. "Dickens ccontributed 108 full-length essays and articles, and co-wrote a further 45" (285). Drew considers many of the Household Words articles as collaborations, "with Dickens supplying a fancial narrative or dramatic framework for the more factual and explanatory material of his co-writer" (285). Such would certainly seem to be the case of the dramatic context of the Wilkinson family in three of the four Faraday lectures transformed by Percival Leigh into articles. That Leigh used an entirely different persona for the essay on the chemistry of brewing suggests once again Dickens's intervention in the writing process as he was the journal's ultimate arbiter of taste.

Related Material


Leigh, Percival. "The Laboratory of the Chest."Household Words. (7 September 1850): 565-569.

Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens. Ed. Paul Schlicke. Oxforc: Oxford UP, .

Last modified 2 June 2023