Sketches by Boz

Sketches by Boz

Frontispiece of the (first series) first edition, February 1836. Illustration by George Cruikshank
Author Charles Dickens ("Boz")
Original title Sketches by "Boz," Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People
Illustrator George Cruikshank
Cover artist George Cruikshank
Country England
Language English
Genre Sketches
Published 1833-1836 in newspapers and periodicals; in 1836 (two series); first one volume edition 1839
Publisher John Macrone, St. James's Square
Followed by The Pickwick Papers

Sketches by "Boz," Illustrative of Every-day Life and Every-day People (commonly known as Sketches by Boz) is a collection of short pieces Charles Dickens originally published in various newspapers and other periodicals between 1833 and 1836. They were re-issued in book form, under their current title, in February and August 1836, with illustrations by George Cruikshank. The first complete one volume edition appeared in 1839. The 56 sketches concern London scenes and people, and the whole work is divided into four sections: "Our Parish", "Scenes", "Characters" and "Tales". The material in the first three sections consists of non-narrative pen-portraits, but the last section comprises fictional stories.

The History of "Boz"

The sketch "Mr Minns and his Cousin" (originally titled "A Dinner at Poplar Walk"), was the first work of fiction Dickens ever published. It appeared in The Monthly Magazine in December 1833. Although Dickens continued to place pieces in that magazine, none of them bore a signature until August 1834, when "The Boarding House" appeared under the strange pen-name "Boz". A verse in Bentley's Miscellany for March 1837 recalled the public's perplexity about this pseudonym:

"Who the dickens 'Boz' could be
Puzzled many a learned elf,
Till time unveiled the mystery,
And 'Boz' appeared as Dickens's self."

Dickens took the pseudonym from a nickname he had given his younger brother Augustus, whom he called "Moses" after a character in Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield. This, "being facetiously pronounced through the nose," became "Boses", which in turn was shortened to "Boz". The name remained coupled with "inimitable" until "Boz" eventually disappeared and Dickens became known as, simply, "The Inimitable". The name was originally pronounced /ˈbz/ but is now usually /ˈbɒz/.[1]


The popularity of Dickens's writings was enhanced by the regular inclusion of detailed illustrations to highlight key scenes and characters. Each sketch typically featured two black-and-white illustrations, as well as an illustration for the wrapper. The images were created with wood engravings or metal etchings. Dickens worked closely with several illustrators during his career, including George Cruikshank, Hablot Knight Browne (aka "Phiz"), and John Leech. The accuracy of the illustrations was of the utmost importance to Dickens, as the drawings portrayed the characters just as he envisioned them, and gave readers valuable insights about the characters' personalities and motives, as well as the plot.

Title page of the second series (1836). The illustration by George Cruikshank portrays two figures closely resembling the author and his illustrator waving from a balloon.


The earliest version of Sketches by Boz was published by John Macrone in two series: the first as a two-volume set in February 1836, just a month before the publication of the first number of The Pickwick Papers (1836–37), and then a "Second Series" in August 1836. After Dickens's fame skyrocketed he purchased the rights to the material from Macrone.

Instalment Contents

The majority of the 56 sketches that appeared together in 1839 were originally published individually in popular newspapers and periodicals, including The Morning Chronicle, The Evening Chronicle, The Monthly Magazine, The Carlton Chronicle and Bell's Life in London, between 1833 and 1836:

Book Contents

The contents of Sketches by Boz are:

"The Streets – morning", Illustration by George Cruikshank


  1. G.M. Miller, BBC Pronouncing Dictionary of British Names (Oxford UP, 1971), p. 19.
  2. Philip V. Allingham, Faculty of Education, Lakehead University, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Online editions

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