Charles Dickens, one of England’s most-loved novelists, was born 200 years ago this week and a Victoria University researcher has come up with what, for some, will be a new twist on his life.
Not many know that before Dickens became famous as an author, he was a parliamentary reporter. The style he developed there had two major effects: on how he was to write in the future, and on what we expect even today from our parliamentary reporters.
Victoria University Senior Lecturer Dr Nikki Hessell has studied this part of Dickens’s life. She says:
"When he was a parliamentary reporter, Charles Dickens had two styles of reporting: a serious style, where he reported exactly what happened; and a more maverick style, where he lampooned the politicians and made them into types of characters, or caricatures of themselves.
"Dickens was a brilliant shorthand writer, able to actually capture the words as they were spoken. He knew that it was important for people to understand exactly what was said by the politicians. He could recreate a voice, a personality—exactly as that person would speak. This, of course, was to later influence his writing style, making his characters real and enduring.
"Alongside this, he pioneered the satirical side of politics, the kind of writing that has endured and exists even today, where we have journalists known for their own—and often merciless—individual opinions on what takes place in parliament."
Charles Dickens was a parliamentary reporter from 1832 until 1836. In 1836, he started to write The Pickwick Papers, his first novel.
Dr Hessell, from the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies, has recently written a book, Literary Authors, Parliamentary Reporters, Johnson, Coleridge, Hazlitt, Dickens, which was published this year and is available through Cambridge University Press.