Initial I n Circle of Fire: Dickens' Vision and Style and the Popular Victorian Theatre (1966), William Axton notes that young Charles Dickens's first literary production was not a novel, sketch, or short story, but a tragedy entitled Misnar the Sultan of India (1820). The earliest fragment of Dickens's writings to survive is again a drama, The Stratagems of Rowena , a Venetian comedietta that he wrote at sixteen. His first published work, however, was indeed a sketch (a Victorian species of character comedy/short story), "A Dinner at Poplar Walk" (afterwards entitled "Mr. Minns and his Cousin"), which Dickens published anonymously (and gratuitously) in the December, 1833, issue of London's The Monthly Magazine under the pseudonym "Boz."

Only after the publications of The Pickwick Papers (1837) and Oliver Twist (1838) in volume form did the Victorian reading public begin to think of Boz as a novelist. Certainly, since his career as a writer of short fiction spans four decades, Dickens devoted as much of his life to writing short- as he did to full-length fiction, and it would be the height of folly to regard A Christmas Carol (1843) as the only significant piece of short fiction he produced.

Indeed, although the series of Christmas Books that he produced in the mid-1840s are novellas, the majority of his short fiction would fall under the headings "character sketches," "prose farces," "domestic melodramas," and "tales of the supernatural," excepting the four-part whimsy A Holiday Romance (1868), a novella-length piece intended for both parents and children. Finally, in the Special Christmas Numbers for Household Words and its successor, All the Year Round Dickens wrote collaboratively, often providing the openings and closings and leaving writers in his "stable" such as Elizabeth Gaskell and Wilkie Collins to do the rest.

Last modified Novermber 2 2000