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Household Words Almanac

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The digitisation of the Household Words Almanac is the result of a collaboration between Dickens Journals Online and the British Library, to whom we are grateful for the supply of the high resolution images presented here. The original machine-reading of the text (OCR) was carried out by Dickens Journals Online, and the resulting transcript has been patiently corrected by volunteers participating in our Online Text Correction project. Copyright in the corrected text is made freely available by Dickens Journals Online. Permisssion must be sought from the British Library for reproduction of the page images, via djo@buckingham.ac.uk.

The Household Words Almanac was a fourpenny calendar and factual guide to annual, seasonal, domestic, and national affairs, illuminated with decorative woodcuts, devised and first compiled by Henry Morley for the year 1856. It was intended to join the parent publication and its monthly supplement, The Household Narrative of Currents Events, to complete a suite of publications  that would form a comprehensive, cheap, and widely-available compendium to the life of the times. Unlike the Narrative’s expressly linear march through time, the Almanac emphasized the cyclical nature of life.

Though Dickens had little directly to do with its composition, Henry Morley was by 1856 well placed to convey his Editor’s earnest preoccupation with sanitation and hygiene, and imbue the ‘Remarkable Predictions’ with the heavy ‘Examiner’ style of irony Dickens regularly adopted for describing the opponents of reform. Though Morley did his best to sound like Dickens, the venture was not a success. Something was missing, as Dickens later noted: ‘The Almanac ought to have done more. It is a pity (I observe now) that my name is nowhere upon it’ (Letters, 7, p. 754). Interesting in and of itself, as one of the least-known and rarest of Dickens's productions as a magazine editor, the Almanac also expresses something of its founder's worldview, expressed in his frontpage announcement of the new publication, on 24 November 1855 (Household Words XII, No. 206):

“WE have been at some pains to prepare an Almanac for the coming year. It is now published ; and we may be allowed briefly to make known to our readers, the general nature of its contents.

It has been our endeavour, in the preparation of the HOUSEHOLD WORDS ALMANAC, to compress within a small space the greatest possible amount of interest and information, applicable to the varying seasons of the year and of mortal life. The laws that maintain this wonderful structure, the Earth, in its appointed place among the stars, and regulate the winds and waters ; the principles on which the preservation of our health and cheerfulness mainly depends ; the times of the development of the several kinds of trees and flowers, and when the melody of the various sorts of birds is first awakened ; we have tried to set forth in a clear and attractive manner. We have attached to the Calendar of every month, a Chronicle of Progress, enabling the reader to compare the times in which he lives, with the times of a hundred years ago. We have accumulated a number of remarkable Predictions, all falsified by the result, inculcating the wisdom of not too venturously binding down the Future. The rearing of children, the nursing of the sick, and the readiest means of doing good in cases of sudden accident or other emergency, we have not neglected. It has been our aim to make our Almanac a serviceable friend every day in the year, and, while it is full of human interest, to associate it with every pleasant sight and sound in Nature.

Finally, in the contemplation of the beautiful harmonies by which Man is surrounded, and of the adorable beneficence by which all things are made to tend to his advantage, and conduce to his happiness, we hope we may have necessarily infused into our work, a humble spirit of veneration for the great Creator of the wonderful Universe, and of peace and good-will among mankind.”

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