|Author||Editor: Charles Dickens|
|Original title||Household Words, A Weekly Journal conducted by Charles Dickens|
30 March 1850 – 28 May 1859
|Publisher||Bradbury & Evans|
|Followed by||All the Year Round|
Household Words was an English weekly magazine edited by Charles Dickens in the 1850s. It took its name from the line in Shakespeare's Henry V: "Familiar in his mouth as household words."
During the planning stages, titles originally considered by Dickens included The Robin, The Household Voice, The Comrade, The Lever, and The Highway of Life.
Household Words was published every Saturday from March 1850 to May 1859. Each number cost a mere tuppence, thereby ensuring a wide readership. The publication's first edition carried a section covering the paper's principles, entitled "A Preliminary Word":
We aspire to live in the Household affections, and to be numbered among the Household thoughts, of our readers. We hope to be the comrade and friend of many thousands of people, of both sexes, and of all ages and conditions, on whose faces we may never look. We seek to bring to innumerable homes, from the stirring world around us, the knowledge of many social wonders, good and evil, that are not calculated to render any of us less ardently persevering in ourselves, less faithful in the progress of mankind, less thankful for the privilege of living in this summer-dawn of time.— Charles Dickens
A longer version of the publication's principles appeared in newspapers such as The Argus in September 1850.
Theoretically, the paper championed the cause of the poor and working classes, but in fact it addressed itself almost exclusively to the middle class. Only the name of Dickens, the journal's "conductor", appeared; articles were unsigned (although authors of serialised novels were identified) and, in spite of its regularly featuring an "advertiser", the paper was unillustrated.
To boost slumping sales Dickens serialised his own novel, Hard Times, in weekly parts between 1 April and 12 August 1854. It had the desired effect, more than doubling the journal's circulation and encouraging the author, who remarked that he was, "three–parts mad, and the fourth delirious, with perpetual rushing at Hard Times".
That Dickens owned half of the company and his agents, John Forster and William Henry Wills, owned a further quarter of it was insurance that the author would have a free hand in the paper. Wills was also appointed associate editor and, in December 1849, Dickens's acquaintance, writer and poet Richard Henry Horne was appointed sub-editor at a salary of "five guineas a week". In 1859, however, owing to a dispute between Dickens and the publishers, Bradbury and Evans, publication ceased and Household Words was replaced by All the Year Round, in which he had greater control.
The journal contained a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. A large amount of the non-fiction dealt with the social issues of the time.
Prominent works that were serialised in Household Words include:
Dickens also collaborated with other staff writers on a number of Christmas stories and plays for seasonal issues of the magazine. These included:
Other contributors to Household Words included James Payn, John Hollingshead, Harriet Martineau, Frances Shayle George and Henry Morley.
A complete key to who wrote what and for how much in Household Words was compiled in 1973 by Anne Lohrli, using an analysis of the office account book maintained by Dickens's subeditor, W. H. Wills.