Victorian Content Pirates Scraped Charles Dickens' Smash Stories

By Gary Cutlack on at

The mighty old words of Charles Dickens were embroiled in patter theft controversies back in the day, as a new book reveals that rip-off versions of his classics with titles like "Oliver Twiss" were created to scam readers out of their pennies or farthings or groats or whatever they used then, in a rough equivalent of today's internet keyword spamming.

The shameful clones of Dickens' works were created by rival publisher Edward Lloyd, with a new book on his life co-written by professor Rohan McWilliam revealing the depth of the scams. Dickens soundalikes Nickelas Nickelbery and The Penny Pickwick were published by Lloyd in the mid-1840s, which led Dickens and his people to attempt to sue Lloyd for fraudulent imitation – but a lack of any particular copyright law back in the age of workhouses and family fortunes put an end to that.

McWilliam said that Lloyd's thievery of Dickens may have actually contributed to the spread of the man's original works, as he explained: "What's particularly interesting is that many Victorian readers may have first encountered Dickens not through his own work, but through one of these imitations. There were many titles produced, which indicate that they were incredibly popular." [Telegraph]