Dickens's Lifetime Reading

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Dickens’s reading knowledge was vast, and serves as a testament to how effectively he digested and recalled a range of material that could be used in his various forms of output, including fiction, journalism, letters, and speeches. His primary influences stemmed from childhood reading: nursery stories, fairy tales, and the Bible. To these he added more standardised reading acquired at school, including the classics, and from the age of eighteen, a systematic programme of reading, including the works of Shakespeare, that was consciously undertaken in order to make the transition to a professional writing career. Other major influences include the eighteenth-century poets, novelists, and essayists, the Romantic poets, and early nineteenth-century novelists and poets. He was intimately familiar with the literary trends of his own day in poetry and fiction, as well as in such diverse fields as history, geography, travel, science, and industry; such wide comprehension assisted not only his own imaginative output, but also his work as editor of Household Words and All the Year Round.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Charles Dickens
EditorsRobert L. Patten, John O. Jordan, Catherine Waters
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Print)9780198743415
Publication statusPublished - 03 Oct 2018


  • Dickens
  • Reading
  • Library
  • Intertextuality
  • Literaty influences
  • Shakespeare
  • Bible
  • Fairy tales
  • Common Prayer
  • Influences
  • Nursery stories

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory

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  • Activities

    • 1 Invited or keynote talk at national or international conference
    • 1 Invited talk

    Dickens's Reading Habits: Keys to Composition

    Leon Litvack (Invited speaker)

    06 Oct 2000

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talk

    What Books Did Dickens Buy and Read: His Lifetime Reading

    Leon Litvack (Invited speaker)

    14 Oct 2000

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited or keynote talk at national or international conference

    Cite this

    Litvack, L. (2018). Dickens's Lifetime Reading. In R. L. Patten, J. O. Jordan, & C. Waters (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Charles Dickens (pp. 25-42). Oxford University Press. https://doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780198743415.013.2