Mr. Dickens: Artist and Business Man

So the story goes that Charles Dickens, the young author of Sketches by Boz, was interviewed by Chapman and Hall to write the cover plates for a series of illustrations of a whimsical men’s club by Robert Seymour, a leading London artist, who looked to make a personal killing with a desperate publisher and a neophyte author. How surprised they were when upstart Dickens asked for a few minutes to consider their proposal, and left the room. He returned to say he would accept, but had conditions.

He would not just write captions, but an entire story about the men’s club. It would be written in eighteen chapters, bundled in threes. The third chapter would culminate in a harrowing turn of events, insuring sale of the next series. It would be written on cheap, unbound paper to make it affordable. At the end of a year, and the story, a handsomely bound leather edition would be published, and a “deluxe” edition would soon follow.

Thus “The Pickwick Papers” came to be, as well as  Charles Dickens’ inventions of the “serial” and the “paperback”. And he became the first writer to ever sell the same book to the same patron three times.

Charles Dickens, who forewent his own schooling to work in a bootblack factory to save his father from debtor’s prison, became a  very wealthy man. Join us to celebrate his words.