When asked about the role of note-taking in his compositional practice in 1839 edition of The Knickerbocker Magazine, a young Charles Dickens asserted:
I never commit thoughts to paper until I am obliged to write, being better able to keep them in regular order on different shelves of my brain, ready ticketed and labelled to be brought out when I want them.
In this case, the mythology doesn’t seem to stack up to the material. Examining the handwritten culture at the heart of Charles Dickens’s compositional practice pulls the researcher in many directions. In what material evidence we have remaining, we do not find ‘regular order’, the ‘ready ticketed and labelled’ shelving system of the brain, artfully and systematically laid bare on paper. Oftentimes, rather than fullness, one finds fragments, rather than surety, one finds scribbles. Continue reading