[The information below comes from the Pilgrim edition of Dickens’s correspondence edited by Graham Storey, K. J. Fielding, and Anthony Laude.]

Dickens and Reynolds disliked each other’s politics, and the author of Pickwick Papers could not have been happy with the imitations and continuations of it that Reynolds wrote, which include “Pickwick Abroad (1837-78) in the Monthly Magazine, Noctes Pickwick-ianae in his own temperance paper, The Teetotaller, 1840), and Pickwick Married (1842 and 1846-47) in Master Timothy’s Bookcase.

A note to the Collected Letters explains that Dickens “undoubtedly had Reynolds in mind when he wrote of the ‘Panders to the basest passions of the lowest natures’ whom he sought to “displace” with Household Words (“A Preliminary Word”, 1 (30 March 1850): 2. In the April 1851 Household Narrative described Reynolds as “a person notorious for his attempts to degrade the working men of England by circulating among them books of a debasing tendency”. In the June 1851 issue of Reynolds’s Newspaper, the author The Mysteries of London, responded with an article that addressed his critic as “That lickspittle hanger-on to the skirts of Aristocracy’s robe—‘Charles Dickens, Esq.’ —originally a dinnerless penny-a-liner on the Morning.”

The two novelists' politics were an especial source of mutual dislike, for as Dickens wrote in a letter of 30 August 1849 to W. C. Macready, “I feel strongly for the genuine working men who are Chartists, but have no sympathy whatever with the amateurs. If ‘Mr. G. W. Reynolds’ be the Mr. Reynolds who is the Author of the Mysteries of London, and who took the chair for a mob in Trafalgar Square before they set forth on a window-breaking expedition,” his name should not be associated with that of ladies and gentlemen. Perhaps not, but, Like Dickens, Reynolds consistently demonstrated in his fiction a willingness to attack political and social injustice. Both men, for example, attacked imprisonment for debt, but Reynolds fought and fought fiercely against a far wider range of injustices than Dickens, targeting among other abuses capital punishment, child labor in coal mines, governmental spying on citizens and reading private mail, class discrimination in the established church, and the “infamous Poor-Laws,” “the atrocious Game-Laws,” and the Corn-Laws.”


Dickens, Charles. The Letters. Ed. Graham Storey and K. J. Fielding with Anthony Laude. “The Pilgrim edition.” vol 5. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989.

Last modified 28 September 2016w