Small picture Of Guy Faukes: 5KCharles Dickens on The Gunpowder Plot

Midi Music Thomas Campion, 1567-1620, "Suite in D-min: Tombeau," 9k

Charles Dickens made reference to Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder plot in several novels and in his A Child's History of England.
Explore the links below to see how he related to the story of the plot.

Singing the Song of Guy Fawkes to his Children click here
Child's History of England click here
Our Mutual Friend click here
From Little Dorrit click here
From Mudfrog and other Sketches just click



In his A Child's History of England. Dickens reveals that he had studied the plot and had even developed a few opinions both concerning Kinge James I, who he seems not to have appreciated much at all to say the very least! and the plotters.


The descriptions provided are in true Dickensian style. 

It is interesting that Dickens concerned himself with the plot the celebration of which was increassing in popularity in Britain during his lifetime.  I wonder Does Dickens mention the plot or Guy Fawkes Day in any of his other works? If you know of a passage send its reference to me at once!  Mail to

Selections.... from:
A Child’s History of England,The Complete Works of Charles Dickens, The Kelmscott Society,New York, (published originally in three vols. having appeared in Household Words. Jan.25 1851- Dec. 10 1853
It was published comletely in 1854 with a dedication to his own children) Frontispieces were provided by F.W. Topham)

Chapter XXXII
“England Under James the First"

    Part First

“Our cousin of Scotland” was ugly, awkward, and shuffling, both in mind and person.  His tongue was much too large for his mouth, his legs were much too weak for his body, and his dull goggle-eyes stared and rolled like an idiot’s.  He was cunning, covetous, wasteful, idle, drunken, greedy, dirty, cowardly, a great swearer, and the most conceited man on earth.  His figure--what is commonly called rickety from his birth--presented a most ridiculous appearance, dressed in thick padded clothes, as a safeguard against being stabbed (of which he lived in continual fear), of a grass-green color from head to foot, with a hunting-horn dangling at his side instead of a sword and his hat and feather sticking over one eye, or hanging on the back of his head, as he happened to toss it on.  He used to loll on the necks of his favorite courtiers, and slobber their faces, and kiss and pinch their cheeks;  and the greatest favorite he ever had, used to sign himself, in his letters to his royal master, His Majesties “dog and slave,” and used to address his majesty as “his Sowship.” His majesty was the worst rider ever seen, and thought himself the best.  He was one of the most impertinent talkers (in the broadest Scotch) ever heard, and boasted of being unanswerable in all manner of arguments.  He wrote some of the most wearisome treatises ever heard- among others, a book upon witchcraft in which he was a devout believer--and thought himself a prodigy of authorship.  He thought and wrote , and said, that a King had a right to make and unmake what laws he pleased and ought to be accountable to nobody on earth.  This is the plain true character of the personage whom the greatest men about the court praised and flattered to that degree, that I  doubt if there be anything much more shameful in the annals of human nature....

...Now, the people still laboring under their old dread of the Catholic religion, this Parliament revived and strengthened the severe laws against it. And this so angered Robert Catesby, a restless Catholic gentleman of  an old family, that he formed one of the most desperate and terrible designs ever conceived in the mind of man; no less a scheme than the Gunpowder Plot.
    His object was, when the King, lords and commons, should be assembled at the next opening of Parliament, to blow them up, one and all, with a great mine of gunpowder......
....Here they admitted two other conspirators; Thomas Percy, related to the Earl of Northumberland and John Wright, his brother-in-law.  All these met together in a solitary house in the open fields which were then near Clement’s Inn, now a closely blocked-up part of London; and when they had all taken a g reat oath of secrecy, Catesby told the rest what his plan was. They then went up-stairs into a garret, and received the Sacrament from Father Gerard, a Jesuit, who is said not to have known actually of the Gunpowder Plot, but who, I think, must have had his suspicions that there was something desperate afoot.....
......This same Fawkes, who, in the capacity of sentinel, was always prowling about , soon picked up the intelligence that the King had perogued the Parliament again, from the seventh of February, the day first fixed upon,  until the third of October.  When the conspirators knew this, they agreed to separate until after the Christmas holidays, and to take no notice of each other in the mean while, and never to write letters to one another on any account. So, the h ouse in Westiminster was shut up again, and I suppose the neighbors thought that those strange-looking men who lived there so gloomily, and went out so seldom, were gone away to have a merry Christmas somewhere.....

....he had now admitted three more; John Grant, a Warwickshire gentleman of a melancholy temper who lived in a doleful house near Stratford-upon-avon, with a frowning wall all round it, and a deep moat....

....They found it dismal work alone there, underground, with such a fearful secret on their minds, and so many murders before them.  They were filled with wild fancies.  Sometimes they thought they heard a great bell tolling, deep down in the earth under the Parliament House; sometimes they thought they heard low voices muttering about the Gunpowder Plot; once in the morning , they really did hear a great rumbling noise over their heads as they dug and sweated in their mine. Every man stopped and looked aghast at his neighbor, wondering  what had happened, when that bold prowler, Fawkes who had been out to look, came in and told them that it was only a dealer in coals who had occupied a cellar under the Parliament House, removing his stock-in -trade to some other place.......

And now all was ready. But now, the great weakness and danger which had been all along at the bottom of this wicked plot, began to show itself.  As the fifth of November drew near, most of the conspriators  remembering that they had friends and relations who would be in the House of Lords that day, felt some natural-relenting, and a wish to warn them to keep away.  They were not much comforted by Catesby’s declaring that in such a cause he would blow up his own son.  Lord Mounteagle, Tresham’s brother in law, was certain to be in the house; and when Tresham found that he could not prevail upon the rest to devise any means of sparing their friends, he wrote a mysterious letter to this lord and left it at his lodging in the dusk, urging him to keep away from the opening of Parliament, “since god and man had concurred to punish the wickedness of the times.”  It continued with the words “ that the Parliament should receive a  terrible blow, and yet should not see w ho hurt them.”  And it added, “the danger is past, as soon as you have burnt the letter.” ...The ministers and courtiers made out that his Sowship, by a direct miracle from Heaven, found out what this letter meant....

However, they were  all firm and Fawkes, who was a man of iron, went down every day and night to keep watch in the cellar as usual.....

They took him to the King’s bed-chamber  first of all, and there the King (causing him to be held very tight, and keeping a good way off) asked him how he could have the heart to intend to destroy so many innocent people? “Because,” said Guy Fawkes, “desperate diseases need desperate remedies.” To a little Scotch favorite, with a face like a terrier, who asked him (with no particular wisdom) when he had collected so much gunpowder, he replied, because he had meant to blow Scotchmen back to Scotland, and it would take a deal of powder to   do that.....

His Sowship would pretty willingly, I think, have blown the House of Commons into the air himself; for his dread and jealousy of it knew no bounds all through this reign....

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Singing the Guy Fawkes Song to his Children

From: Glimpses of Charles Dickens by Charles Dickens the Younger
The North American review. / Volume 160, Issue 462
University of Northern Iowa  May 1895, Cedar Falls, Iowa

"Another favorite song of ours---and I thnk my father enjoyed them all even more than we did --was one that was concerned with the history of Guy Fawkes: "Guy Fawkes, that prince of sinisters, who once blew up the House of Lords, the King, and all his ministers." The beginning of each verse contained some startling statement of this kind, which was afterwards modified and eplained away in what we considered a most artful and humorous manner.  I forgot exactly what happened to interfere with the final stage  of Guy Fawke's nefarious project, but in another verse it was stated that Guy "crossing over Vauxhall Bridge, that way came into London.  That is, he would have come that way to perpetuate hi guilt, sir.  But a little thing prevented him--the bridge it wasn't built, sir," and also that when they wanted to arrest him "they straightway sent to Bow Street for that brave old runner Townshend.  That is they would have sent for him, for he was no starter at, but Townsend wasn't living theen, he wasn't born till artere that." To each verse there was a chorus of the good old-fashioned sort, with an "oh, ah. o, ri fol de riddy oddy, bow wow wow" refrain, and a great part of the point of the joke lay in the delivery of the introductory monosyllables; the first "oh" being given, as it were, with incredulity, or a tone of inquiry; the second "ah" strongly affirmatively, and the last "oh" with an air  as of one who has found conviction  not without difficulty....."-pp 525-526

(to go to the song in our database click here) 


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From: Our Mutual Friend, by Charles Dickens Harper's new monthly magazine. / Volume 29, Issue 172 Harper & Bros. September, 1864 New York p. 534  

. . Turkish slippers, rose-coloured Turkish trousers (got cheap from somebody who had cheated some other somebody out of them), and a gown and cap to correspond. In that costume he would have left nothing to be desired, if he had been further fitted out with a bottomless chair, a lantern, and a bunch of matches [ traditional Guy Fawkes costume]…

…'If the real man feels as guilty as I do,' said Eugene, 'he is

remarkably uncomfortable.'

'Influence of secrecy,' suggested Lightwood.

'I am not at all obliged to it for making me Guy Fawkes in the

vault and a Sneak in the area both at once,' said Eugene. 'Give me

some more of that stuff.',,,

. . . Brewer strikes out an idea which is the great hit of the day. He consults his watch, and says (like Guy Fawkes),he'll now go down to the House of Commons and see how things look.

"'I'll keep about the lobby for an hour or so,' says Brewer, with a deeply mysterious countenance, 'and if things look well, I won't come back, but will order my cab for nine in the morning.'

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Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens: 
Harper's new monthly magazine. / Volume 12, Issue 70
 Harper & Bros. March 1856 New York  pp. 526-546   


"The Circumlocution Office was (as every body knows without being told) the most important Department under government. No public busi- ness of any kind could possibly be done at any time, without the acquiescence of the Circumlocution Office. Its finger was in the largest public pie, and in the smallest public tart. It was equally impossible to do the plainest right and to undo the plainest wrong, without the cx- tress authority of the Circumlocution Office. If another Gunpowder Plot had been discovered half an hour before the lighting of the match, nobody would have been justified in saving the liarliament until there had been half a score of boards, half a bushel of minutes, several sacks of official memoranda, and a family-vault-full of ungrammatical correspondence, on the part of the Circumlocution Office. This glorious establishment had been early in the field, when the one sublime principle involv- ing the difficult art of governing a country was first distinctly revealed to statesmen. It had been foremost to study that bright revelation, and to carry its shining influence through the whole of the official proceedings. Whatever was required to be done, the Circumlocution Office was beforehand with all the public del)artments in the art of perceiving—HOW NOT TO DO IT."

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Mudfog & Other Sketches


(for the text of the pantomime this describesclick here)

'I know who you mean,' says some dirty-faced patron of Mr. Osbaldistone's,

laying down the Miscellany when he has got thus far, and bestowing upon

vacancy a most knowing glance; 'you mean C. J. Smith as did Guy Fawkes,

and George Barnwell at the Garden.' The dirty-faced gentleman has hardly

uttered the words, when he is interrupted by a young gentleman in no

shirt-collar and a Petersham coat. 'No, no,' says the young gentleman; 'he

means Brown, King, and Gibson, at the 'Delphi.' Now, with great deference

both to the first-named gentleman with the dirty face, and the last-named

gentleman in the non-existing shirt-collar, we do NOT mean either the

performer who so grotesquely burlesqued the Popish conspirator, or the three

unchangeables who have been dancing the same dance under different

imposing titles, and doing the same thing under various high-sounding names

for some five or six years last past. We have no sooner made this avowal, than

the public, who have hitherto been silent witnesses of the dispute, inquire what

on earth it is we DO mean; and, with becoming respect, we proceed to tell



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