The New York Public Library, Berg Collection of
English and American Literature
Boz: What's in a name?
The first of what would become the Sketches by Boz, "A Dinner at Poplar
Walk," was published in the Monthly Magazine in December 1833. Dickens
continued to place pieces in the Monthly Magazine, but in fact they
bore no signature at all until August 1834, when "The Boarding House" appeared, the
first of the "Sketches" to be signed "Boz." A verse in the March 1837 issue
of Bentley's Miscellany recalled the public's perplexity at the time:
Who the dickens "Boz" could be
Puzzled many a learned elf,
Till time unveiled the mystery,
And "Boz" appeared as Dickens' self.
Dickens had taken his famous pseudonym from a nickname
he had given his younger brother Augustus, whom he called "Moses"
(after a character in Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield), which "being
facetiously pronounced through the nose" became "Boses," which
in turn was shortened to "Boz." The name remained coupled with "inimitable" until "Boz" eventually
disappeared and Dickens became known as, simply, "The Inimitable."
On this engraved title page of the second series
of the Sketches by Boz (1836), Cruikshank picks up
on the metaphor elaborated by Dickens in his preface to the first series: two
resembling the author and his illustrator wave from the car of the rising balloon.