frontispiece and title page
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 figures closely
resembling the author and his illustrator wave from the car of the rising balloon.