Select Dickens Miscellany

Here are some Dickens stories and accounts over the years:

Dickens and "-Kins" Type Surnames

Dickens is one of the surnames with suffixes “-kens” or “-kins,” meaning “the little one.”  The table below shows other “-kins” surnames and their numbers in the 1891 census.

Pet form of:
Numbers (000's)
Most found in:
West Midlands         
Hobb (from Robert)
West Midlands

The origin of these diminutive-type names would seem either to be the West Midlands or Wales.

What the Dickens!

The Oxford English Dictionary says the expression “the dickens!” isan interjectional exclamation expressing astonishment, impatience, or irritation, usually with interrogative words such as what, where, how, why, etc.”  The OED labels it as a slang or colloquial term meaning “the deuce, the devil.”  It says the exclamation is “apparently substituted for ‘devil,’ as having the same initial sound.” 

The OED notes that “Dickin” or “Dickon,” a diminutive of Dick, “was in use long before the earliest known instance of this and Dickens as a surname was probably also already in existence.” 

So who was the first person to use a “dickens” expression in print? 

The earliest citation in the OED is from Thomas Heywood’s play King Edward IV (1st Part), published in 1599: “What the dickens is it loue that makes ye prate to me so fondly.” 

Shakespeare used the expression in The Merry Wives of Windsor: "I cannot tell what the dickens his name is."  This play was written sometime before Shakespeare died in 1616.  Nevertheless, some scholars think it was written in the late 1590s, so perhaps “dickens” is another “first” for Shakespeare.

Dickins of Wem in Shropshire

The beginnings of the Dickin family of Loppington and Wem in Shropshire were summarized in Burke’s Genealogical and Heraldic Dictionary as follows: 

“Nicholas Dickin of Loppington in Shropshire, Gentleman, died in 1685, leaving a son, John Dickin, born in 1659 who was interred at Loppington in 1698, and a son, Thomas Dickin of Loppington, Gentleman, who died in 1729, leaving Sarah his wife and two sons."

Dickins became local gentry in Wem, residing first at Aston Hall and then at Loppington Hall (a brick house built in the early 1700’s and recently restored).  Thomas Dickin was High Sheriff of Shropshire in 1799. Thomas Dickin and Lieutenant Colonel John Lloyd Dickin, who served out in India, were 19th century Justices of the Peace in Shropshire.

Charles Dickens' Descendants

Charles Dickens married Catharine Hogarth and they were to have ten children.  Through their sixth son Henry, a King’s Counsel and barrister, came: 
His other sons had varied lives, serving with the Royal Navy, the British Indian Army, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  Two – Alfred and Edward - emigrated to Australia in the 1860’s. 

Charles Dickens himself had five other brothers and sisters.  All remained in England - with the exception for his youngest brother Augustus who left his wife and family and took off for Chicago in the 1850's.

George Dickens of Feltham in Middlesex

His father Robert ran an ironmongery business in Feltham.  But George at seventeen decided to enlist in the Royal Navy, signing on for a period of ten years. 

After many exploits on various ships, George's last posting was to a new, state-of-the-art battleship Bellerophon which cruised in ceremonial fashion between Portsmouth, Spithead, Portland and Plymouth.  It was from this ship that he purchased his discharge in 1868. 

On his return to Feltham, he lost no time in picking up his former trade of tinsmith and plumber and took over his father's business in 1872.  He had married a Feltham girl, Isabel Gardner, on Christmas Day 1869 and they proceeded to have eleven children. 

In Ken Baldwin's Memoirs of Old Feltham which came out around 1900, it was written of George Dickens: 

“What a character, an old sailor; was to be seen most days touring the district with his pony and trap, his bowler hat at a jaunty angle plying his trade, scissors to grind, kettles to mend, knives to sharpen and anything else within reason.  He was also a member of the Minstrel Troupe and noted for his stump speeches that he used to give.” 

Clearly George was something of a local celebrity and a 'card.'

Rev. John Dickens, Methodist Preacher

The Rev. John Dickens is considered one of the founding fathers of the Methodist movement in America.  Born in London, he came to America in the early 1770’s and was a travelling preacher in Virginia and North Carolina while the Revolutionary War was raging.  He was stationed later in New York and Philadelphia and also made the journey to preach in the new Cumberland settlements in Tennessee. 

He made his home near Eden church in Halifax county, North Carolina.  That was where he had met and married his wife Elizabeth Yancey and where, in 1780, plans had been drawn up for the first Methodist school in America. 

His likeness can be seen in a 1961 painting by Charles Hargens based on an 18th century engraving.

Little Jimmy Dickens Turned Ninety in 2010

Little Jimmy Dickens stands under five feet in physical form, but he takes on legendary proportions when he takes center stage at the Grand Ole Opry.  He has been a member and a performer there for more than sixty years. 

It was Roy Acuff who first brought Dickens to the Opry in 1948.  Two years later he became
the first country performer to wear a suit with rhinestones.  By the 1960’s he became the first to “circle the globe” on a world tour that included stops in Tokyo, Okinawa, Taipei, Bangkok, Saigon, Turkey, Denmark, Germany and Montreal.  Needless to say these tour dates have never ended. 

Little Jimmy Dickens, born in West Virginia, is said to have been distantly related to the English writer Charles Dickens.  But there is no real evidence supporting this conjecture. 

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