Giles Coren, inspired by recent census revelations about some of Britain’s most venerated literary figures, envisions a journal entry in which Charles Dickens castigates himself for approaching the task of falsifying census data as he would writing a novel:
Monday last … Mrs Dustanpolish, my housekeeper, animadverted me to the presence at my domiciliary portals of the census-takers, Pencilpush and Inkbottle.
“Beggin’ yer worship,” declared the portlier of the two, “we have been solicited to ‘umbly inquire whether we is genuinely expected to believe that you are the charitable employer of three orphan cooks by the names of Peelit, Parboil and Fry? It is rather beggin’ the credulousness of your ‘umble servant, is it not?”
Even as I upbraided the nefarious fellow for his suspicions I cursed myself for my lifelong inability to create anything but preposterously apposite surnames for the characters generated by my fervid imagination.Could I not as easily have called my kitchen staff Smith, Brown and Rowbotham?
Meanwhile, Matthew Gilbert imagines what names Dickens might have proposed for characters in CSI: Miami.
And here’s the U.K. Times report on the census findings, which reveal that while “George Eliot and Wilkie Collins are renowned today for their ability to expose Victorian hypocrisy, … when it came to their own lives they weren’t above a little literary creativity.”