Poverty and Oysters; how words inspired Charles Dickens
Gotham Press 1970
“It’s a wery remarkable circumstance, Sir,’ said Sam, ‘that poverty and oysters always seem to go together.”
— Sam Weller to Mr Pickwick
One of the most striking things about Dickens’ writings is the range of curious names his characters, places and book titles sport — Micawber, Chuzzlewit, Mudfog, Uriah Heap, and so on.
Georgian literature was replete with artful names, of course, usually suited to the nature of the person so called: Mrs Malaprop in Sheridan’s play The Rivals, for example, is from the French mal à propos (meaning ‘inappropriate’), and religious allegories like Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress were chock-full of them.
But the names Dickens invents are altogether more playful and seemingly pointless except for their memorability. Where did he get his inspiration for them? George Braintree thinks he knows.