“Out with it,” as the subeditor said to the novel: Wellerisms and the humor of newspaper excerpts

Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2017


Pavlis Honors College


A “Wellerism” is a type of joke that developed out of the practices of actual and mock quotation from Charles Dickens’s Pickwick Papers and contemporaneous newspapers. Subeditors practicing “scissors-and-paste” journalism were enamored with the character of Sam Weller, whose characteristic practice of mock quotation itself mimics the process of newspaper excerption. By tracing the development of the Wellerism as an outgrowth of newspaper excerption during the serialization of Pickwick, we can better understand the practice of scissorsandpaste journalism, particularly the contexts readers brought to deracinated quotations. To fully appreciate the humor of a Wellerism, readers must employ intertextual knowledge, which creates a special sense of belonging.

Publisher's Statement

Copyright © 2017 The Research Society for Victorian Periodicals. Publisher’s version of record: https://doi.org/10.1353/vpr.2017.0011

Publication Title

Victorian Periodicals Review