This collection brings together the most complete set of Dickens's verse to date, supplementing the work of existing editions with previously uncollected poems Dickens contributed to albums, or wrote anonymously.Though such productions receive scant attention from scholars interested in his fiction and journalism, Dickens composed a surprising amount of verse. It was a genre in which he evidently felt much less at home (and financially rewarded) than when writing in prose. However, several poems gained popular favour during his lifetime; that so many were written to be set to music indicates the permeable boundary between metered verse functioning as poem or song in the nineteenth century, and may explain why some of Dickens’s poems were more enduringly popular than others. Notably, 'The Ivy Green' from Pickwick Papers (1837), a story of time’s inexorable passing, was frequently republished in newspapers.
Several poems written to young ladies of Dickens’s acquaintance are released on Dickens Search as part of the author’s poetic output for the first time, testifying to the author’s ability to write impromptu poetry and gallantly turn a phrase. Since keeping autograph albums was a popular pastime for women in the Victorian era, it is possible that further examples of such activity remain to be discovered in various archives and private collections.
When writing letters to friends, Dickens occasionally included comedic poems for the recipient. Several of these are included. Considering the enormity of Dickens’s correspondence, likely more instances of this sort of poetic humour will result over time.
Epitaphs Dickens wrote for friends and family, whether used or not, are included with Dickens's other verse for the first time. Users can also browse verse from Dickens's plays, including songs removed from The Strange Gentleman and Is She His Wife? Or, Something Singular! before performance.
Care is necessary when verifying the accuracy of these poems, as some are misattributed to Dickens. Widespread reprintings of 'Dickens poems' in nineteenth-century newspapers are insufficient evidence for authorial attribution, owing to the mistakes intentionally or inadvertently made in ascribing authorship.
An unusual example of a poem that is and is not by Dickens, the lines of 'Little Nell’s Funeral' are taken, with minimal alterations, from Chapter 72 of The Old Curiosity Shop. An instance of the strikingly lyrical quality of Dickens’s sentimental prose, they were divided into metered, unrhymed verse by M.A.H. for the 1849 collection Echoes of Infant Voices. Because Dickens did not intend for this passage to be structured in verse form, the poem is not included in the poetry collection of Dickens Search. Read our blog post for more on poetry Dickens didn't write.
Occasionally, Dickens will quote a poem by another author, as in his burlesque Is She his Wife? Or, Something Singular! (1836). The character Mr Felix Tapkins launches into a short hunting song beginning 'The wife around her husband throws/Her arms to make him stay'. As William Chappell noted in 1840, this is a well-known variant of 'A Hunting We Will Go' (1777), by Thomas Arne, though he misattributes its composition to Henry Fielding.
Previous notable collections of some of Dickens's poetry include The Plays and Poems of Charles Dickens (1882) edited by Richard Herne Shepherd and The Poems and Verses of Charles Dickens (1903) edited by Frederic G. Kitton.
Caution has been taken when ascertaining that each poem is indeed by Dickens. Please contact us with any errors, corrections, suggestions, or other poems written by Dickens.
1. Robert Butterworth. 'The Hymn of the Wiltshire Labourers.' The Dickensian 516.118.1 (Spring 2022): pp. 43-56; Eva-Charlotta Mebius. 'Dreams of Dying Girls: The Poetry of Thomas J. Ouseley and Charles Dickens.' Dickens Quarterly 34.3 (September 2017): pp. 256-261; Robert C. Hanna. 'Before Boz; The Juvenilia and Early Writings of Charles Dickens, 1820-1833'. Dickens Studies Annual 40 (2009): pp. 231-364.
Emily Bell; Lydia Craig
Published in Household Words vol. XIV (6 December 1856).
From The Pickwick Papers, ch. 28, no. 10 (December 1836).
From the autograph album of Maria Beadnell (1830-1831).
Published in The Keepsake (1844).
Published in 'The Schoolboy's Story,' Household Words, Vol. VIII, no. 196, New Year Number, 18 February 1854, pp. 409-13.
Published in 'Romance. From the Pen of Lieutenant-Colonel Robin Redforth,' No. III. Holiday Romance. Our Young Folks, vol.4, no. 1 (March 1868), pp. 193-200. Edited by J.T. Trowbridge and Lucy Larcom, p. 194.
To Henry Riley Bradbury, from the Bradbury album, a scrapbook of letters, sketches, drawings, prints, photographs, and printed ephemera (3 June 1847).
From O'Thello (1833-1834).
From Act 1, Scene 1 of The Strange Gentleman (Lord Chamberlain’s Copy, 1836).
From The Village Coquettes, An Operatic Burletta in Two Acts (1836). Music by John Hullah, pp. 17-18.