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Fictional Characters

Bon Summers

In 1963 William Freeman, an Englishman, created the first Dictionary of Fictional
Characters. It made 458 pages and was published by J.M. Dent Ltd. in London.
The author was 83 years old when he finished this 2-year research project.
Using 2,000 books with 20,000 characters, this nucleus came about by consulting
the work of 500 English and American authors. Novels, short stories, poems and a
few plays were selected and the result became a blessing to booksellers, collectors,
and readers alike ever since.

As an example, it's easy to find `Pride and Prejudice' for names of the three
younger silly sisters. Go to Bennet as the last name, the answer is; Jane, m.
Charles Bingley, Elizabeth, m. Fitzwilliam Darcy, Catherine, Mary and Lydia m.
George Wickham. Jane Austen, 1813. And what a delight it was for me to find that
Fitzwilliam was Mr. Darcy’s first name. I had not known that.

Like many works of reference, there will always be a critic and Freeman had his
own albatross to content with. Freeman may have died before 1974 but in that
Fred Urguhart came to revise the work and was very critical of Freeman. Good old
Fred thought William’s work was too Victorian, but then we have to remember
William broke the ground for the first dictionary of its kind, and there are always

Since there is no end to such a book as the minute it comes off the press this type
of book is obsolete. So be it.

In 1992 Martin Seymoor-Smith attempted to revise and enlarge this dictionary.
Published by USA’s The Writer, Boston, MA. This edition includes 598 pages of
which 59 are a glossary of authors and titles, leaving only 81 added pages. Size is
6 x 9 x 1.75”. It can be purchased in paperback/trade edition. ISBN is 087116-
166-4 and L.C. # is 92-5025. Copies are still available for 1963 and 1992 editions
from antiquarian booksellers after 45 years.

The original title is Dictionary of Fictional Characters. It has also been referred to
as Dent’s Dictionary of . . . so let us not forget we are men (and women) and we
often err, so expect a little confusion on the title.

I must repeat a part of William Freeman’s page of acknowledgements. We are
always happy to know that these writers and editors thank people. Besides the
usual help from the librarians there is a last minute entry: “And finally, of course,
the typist-secretary-collaborator-sternest critic. (But she has had three books
dedicated to her already). W. F.” Doesn't this type of sweetness mess up your
head? Now we have to go out and research the other three books. I love it!

Bon Summers, Ancient City Booksellers, St. Augustine, Florida USA

The article is published in Sheppard's Confidential (Insights), and is presented here by permission of Bon Summers and Sheppard's Confidential. Thank you very much.

Published since 17 Dec 2009