For today's post, however, it's all about the nicknames. All of Dickens's children had them, some more than one, and they're fun. Herewith, in birth order:
Charles Culliford Boz Dickens, 18371896Two immediate thoughts come to mind on seeing this list assembled:
Flaster Floby (a corruption of Master Toby)
Mary Angela Dickens, 18381896
Catherine Macready Dickens, 18391929
Lucifer Box (which Gottlieb glosses: "A 'lucifer' was a safety match, and from her earliest years Katey's temper would flare up the way matches flared up--and the way her father's did as well.")
Walter Savage Landor Dickens, 18411863
Young Skull ("for his high cheekbones")
Frank Jeffrey Dickens, 18441886
Chickenstalker (Origin obscure: "One source claims it's descriptive of 'his make-believe hunting adventures around the home place.' More generally, it's ascribed to a character in 'The Chimes.' . . . But why would you name a baby boy after a jolly, fat old lady? Was baby Frank conspicuously jolly and fat? If so, we have no record of it.")
Alfred d'Orsay Tennyson DIckens, 18451912
Skittles (origin obscure)
Sydney Smith Haldimand Dickens, 18471872
The Ocean Spectre ("because of what Georgina [Hogarth, Dickens's sister-in-law, who more or less raised the children after Dickens repudiated their mother] called his curious habit of pausing in his play, cupping his tiny hands under his chin, and casting a faraway look over the ocean.")
Sir Henry Fielding Dickens, 18491933
The Jolly Postboy
The Comic Countryman
Mr. H, or just H
Dora Annie Dickens, 18501851
Dora, always frail, died after a mere six months of life and was never nicknamed.
Edward Bulwer Lytton Dickens, 18521902
Plorn (Plorn was the only Dickens child to actually use his nickname out in the world; it essentially became his name.)
1. The Dickens nicknames give the Mitford girls' nicknames a run for the money.
2. That's a whole lot of children in a short time span, even for the Victorian era. The failure of the Dickens marriage, like the failure of almost any marriage, surely had multiple causes--not least of which, by any means, was Dickens himself--but it's hard not to attribute a substantial part of Catherine Dickens's decline in health, emotional strength, and general appetite for life (which drove Dickens to distraction, scorn, and eventually cruelty) to the wear and danger of that constant cycle of pregnancy and birth.