Saturday, 29 September 2012

Dickens' s Boot Boy - Sepia Saturday


Alan's photo of boys with their football boots reminded me that without a Cockney boot boy Charles Dickens may have remained an obscure author.

The sales of the first three monthly instalments of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club were so low at less than one thousand a month that the his publishers were tempted to abandon the venture. Dickens was to seize control of the project and after a series of false starts engaged a 20 year-old Hablot Knight Browne  as illustrator.

Courtyard of the White Hart Inn
(Scanned image by Phillip V Allingham; source:http://www.victorianweb.org/art/illustration/phiz/pickwick/12.html)

Mr Pickwick, on the right, strokes his chin while the legalistic Mr Perker, second left, checks the work by the Cockney boot boy.

Sam Weller
When Boz (Dickens) and Phiz (Browne) introduced Sam Weller polishing boots in the courtyard of the galleried White Hart Inn sales rose from 20,000 a month by the end of the year and later in 1837 to an unheard of 40,000. Charles John Huffam Dickens had been transformed into a best selling author thanks to Sam.

If boots are made for walking, now it's time for you to walk over to sepia-saturday-145



16 comments:

Little Nell said...

Wonderful, Sam Weller is oneof my favourite Dickens characters, and one of the most quotable!

Jo said...

Interesting bit of trivia. Had never heard that.

Karen S. said...

Bob this was quite a delightful post into Sepia this week, and you ended with bringing me to the thoughts of dear old Nancy who really knew and made those boots for walking...yes, I just might have to youtube a tune of it for old times sake! Enjoy your weekend with sports or not in it!

Peter said...

Jo said it for me. But his sales promotion activities were very effective. The whole world now knows who Charles Dickens is!

Wendy said...

I had never heard this either. Very interesting and quite a clever twist on this week's theme.

smkelly8.com said...

I like the literary take on the theme.

Oregon Gifts of Comfort and Joy said...

This is so cool! I am glad that you thought of this for the theme, Bob.

Kathy M.

Caminante said...

I bet Sam could have been kept busy on a saturday evening, after the game!

kathy said...

I guess I'm not alone in being unfamiliar with this bit of literary history. Interesting!

Joy said...

And the rest, as they say is history... Pickwick Papers was my fathers favourite Dickens, as Little Nell says he found it very quotable.

TICKLEBEAR said...

Great spin on the theme. Perseverance was key, apparently, for Mister Dickens.
:)~
HUGZ

Jana Last said...

Interesting bit of history! I hadn't heard of this before.

Mike Brubaker said...

I've recently added the Pickwick Papers to my Kindle. I believe it has the same illustrations. Amazing how adding something like pictures or a new character could send a book over the top. Has J K Rowling found an illustrator/director for her new book?

Tattered and Lost said...

This was absolutely fascinating!

imagespast said...

Wonderful illustrations, Bob :-)

Stephen Jarvis said...

Googling “Pickwick Papers” has certainly led me to some interesting blogs! If it isn’t too vulgar (or “wulgar” as Sam Weller might say) for an author to namedrop his own works, you might take a look at my forthcoming novel Death and Mr Pickwick, which tells the story of the origins and history of The Pickwick Papers. I cover in great detail how Pickwick became the greatest literary phenomenon in history. More information can be found at www.deathandmrpickwick.com where I can also be contacted.
Best wishes
Stephen Jarvis