Memoranda and Mutual Friends: Dickens and his practices of note-taking in the Book of Memoranda

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.[1]

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

The Elision of Mark Pattison in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure

Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Thomas Hardy, Jude the Obscure. © The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum holds both the original manuscript and first edition proofs for Thomas Hardy’s novel Jude the Obscure (Object Numbers MS 1-1911 and PB 9-2008). The novel was published in 1895 and follows the tragic tale of Jude Fawley, whose impassioned ambition to become a scholar is repeatedly thwarted by a troublesome blend of social impediments and regrettable personal decision-making. The novel transpired to be Hardy’s swansong in literary fiction, and is an astonishingly rich vision of the troubled philosophical and political conditions in the fin de siècle.

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