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His Friends Were Appalled

Deborah Friedell: Dickens, 5 January 2012

The Life of Charles Dickens 
by John Forster.
Cambridge, 1480 pp., £70, December 2011, 978 1 108 03934 5
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Becoming DickensThe Invention of a Novelist 
by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.
Harvard, 389 pp., £20, October 2011, 978 0 674 05003 7
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Charles DickensA Life 
by Claire Tomalin.
Viking, 527 pp., £30, October 2011, 978 0 670 91767 9
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... Only after Charles Dickens was dead did the people who thought they were closest to him realise how little they knew about him. His son Henry remembered once playing a memory game with him: My father, after many turns, had successfully gone through the long string of words, and finished up with his own contribution, ‘Warren’s Blacking, 30 Strand ...

What the Dickens

F.S. Schwarzbach, 5 April 1990

The Letters of Charles Dickens. Vol. VI: 1850-1852 
edited by Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson and Nina Burgis.
Oxford, 909 pp., £80, June 1988, 0 19 812617 4
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... On 25 May 1851 Dickens wrote no fewer than 11 letters – or perhaps it is better to say that 11 of those he wrote have survived. Several were only a line or two, declining an invitation to a public dinner at the Royal Literary Fund, thanking a theatre manager for the use of the stage for rehearsals of his amateur players, and the like ...

A Terrible Bad Cold

John Sutherland, 27 September 1990

Dickens 
by Peter Ackroyd.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 1195 pp., £19.95, September 1990, 1 85619 000 5
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... that even famous lives lack in the day-to-day business of living. Fred Kaplan’s 1988 life of Dickens began with the vivid scene of his incinerating ‘every letter he owned not on a business matter’ in a bonfire at his Gad’s Hill garden. What Kaplan ruefully implied by opening with the manuscript holocaust of 1860 was that there was a core of ...

Martin Chuzzlewig

John Sutherland, 15 October 1987

Dickens’s Working Notes for his Novels 
edited by Harry Stone.
Chicago, 393 pp., £47.95, July 1987, 0 226 14590 5
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... Dickens’s magical power over his readers has frequently expressed itself in cult objects. For Victorians, the most widely reproduced was probably Luke Fildes’s elegiac picture, The Empty Chair. This image of the vacant authorial throne conveys a sense that there can be no successor to Dickens ...

Love of His Life

Rosemarie Bodenheimer: Dickens, 8 July 2010

Charles Dickens 
by Michael Slater.
Yale, 696 pp., £25, September 2009, 978 0 300 11207 8
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... The bicentenary of Charles Dickens’s birth falls on 7 February 2012, and Dickensians across the globe are stirring. Dickens, who held strong opinions about virtually everything, had his own view of such occasions. Michael Slater notes his ‘embarrassment’ and ‘irritation’ at the Shakespeare tercentenary celebrations of 1864: always for Dickens the best way for a writer or any other artist to be remembered was not through biographies, unless they redounded as much to the honour of the art concerned as did Forster’s Goldsmith, nor through celebratory odes … still less through the erection of monuments, but through the continued circulation and enjoyment of their work ...

How does he come to be mine?

Tim Parks: Dickens’s Children, 8 August 2013

Great Expectations: The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens 
by Robert Gottlieb.
Farrar, Straus, 239 pp., £16.99, December 2012, 978 0 374 29880 7
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... In 1850 Dickens invented a little game for his seventh child, three-year-old Sydney, the tiniest boy in a family of short people. Initially, in fun, Dickens had asked Sydney to go to the railway station to meet a friend; innocent and enterprising, to everyone’s amusement the boy set off through the garden gate into the street; then someone had to rush out and bring him back ...

A Little Local Irritation

Stephen Wall: Dickens, 16 April 1998

The Letters of Charles Dickens. Vol. IX: 1859-61 
edited by Graham Storey.
Oxford, 610 pp., £70, July 1997, 0 19 812293 4
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... In October 1860 Dickens finally moved what remained of his family from Tavistock Square in Bloombury to Gad’s Hill Place in Kent. He’d bought it four years earlier (for £1750), steadily improved it, and it remained his home until he died there in 1870. On high ground between Rochester and Gravesend, it was the very spot, as his letters insist, where Falstaff ran away ...

Tic in the Brain

Deborah Friedell: Mrs Dickens, 11 September 2008

Girl in a Blue Dress 
by Gaynor Arnold.
Tindall Street, 438 pp., £9.99, August 2008, 978 0 9556476 1 1
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... from her deathbed summons the girl David really loves and gives her blessing to the succession. Charles Dickens’s wife was not nearly so obliging. In 1858, between Little Dorrit and A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens sent out a press release: ‘Mrs Dickens and I have lived unhappily ...
... was a reasonable expectation that she would find her place in Poets’ Corner, near the grave of Charles Dickens and the bust of Thackeray. Why has it taken a century to bring this about? In giving notice of her death her husband, John Walter Cross, who had married her in St George’s, Hanover Square, scarcely eight months before, alluded to her wish ...

To be continued

Brigid Brophy, 6 November 1980

The Mystery of Edwin Drood 
by Charles Dickens and Leon Garfield.
Deutsch, 327 pp., £7.95, September 1980, 0 233 97257 9
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... up a single modern-dress production.In this respect, the arts have swopped places. During most of Dickens’s mature lifetime it was architecture that versed itself in pastiche and would scarcely venture out except under the veil and justification of some ‘historical’ style. The novelists, by contrast, had the nerve of the devil. On the strength of ...
From Author to Reader: A Social Study of Books 
by Peter Mann.
Routledge, 189 pp., £8.95, October 1982, 0 7100 9089 7
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David Copperfield 
by Charles Dickens, edited by Nina Burgis.
Oxford, 781 pp., £40, March 1981, 0 19 812492 9
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Martin Chuzzlewit 
by Charles Dickens, edited by Margaret Cardwell.
Oxford, 923 pp., £45, December 1982, 0 19 812488 0
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Books and their Readers in 18th-Century England 
edited by Isabel Rivers.
Leicester University Press, 267 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 7185 1189 1
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Mumby’s Publishing and Bookselling in the 20th Century 
by Ian Norrie.
Bell and Hyman, 253 pp., £12.95, October 1982, 0 7135 1341 1
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Reading Relations 
by Bernard Sharratt.
Harvester, 350 pp., £18.95, February 1982, 0 7108 0059 2
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... process he thrashes in methodological agony over what constitutes a ‘great writer’. Charles Dickens would certainly qualify – but what about Fanny Craddock and Harold Robbins? The less fastidious literary critic customarily cuts through this problem by a brutal triage. Commonest is some variant of Raymond Escarpit’s notion of separate ...

Short Cuts

Thomas Jones: Caesar’s Birthday, 22 February 2007

... full of useful and unsubstantiated facts, including the information that I shared a birthday with Charles Dickens, the Appalachian banjo-player Dock Boggs, and Julius Caesar. All other authorities seem to agree, however – and it’s only just occurred to me to check this – that Julius Caesar was born in the middle of July. Unhelpfully, few of them ...

Short Cuts

Andrew O’Hagan: Meeting the Royals, 19 February 2015

... It was​ in Charles Dickens’s upstairs sitting room that I met the future king of England. The Duchess of Cornwall was wearing a red paisley silk coat and dress by Anna Valentine. I know that because I was peeping out of the window and heard a lady from the Daily Mail say so into her mobile phone while she stalked the pavement outside ...

New Women

Patricia Beer, 17 July 1980

The Odd Women 
by George Gissing.
Virago, 336 pp., £2.50, May 1980, 0 86068 140 8
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The Beth Book 
by Sarah Grand.
Virago, 527 pp., £3.50, January 1980, 0 86068 088 6
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... George Gissing was convinced that the year 1900 would make all the difference. Writing his study of Charles Dickens in the late 1890s, he refers to his own generation as those ‘upon whom the new centurys breaking’. And one of the things the new century would bring was the New Woman. To an extent, of course, as Gissing realised, she had already arrived ...

Tons of Sums

Michael Mason, 16 September 1982

Charles Babbage: Pioneer of the Computer 
by Anthony Hyman.
Oxford, 287 pp., £12.50, July 1982, 9780198581703
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... Most people know that Charles Babbage was a pioneer of the computer. This absorbing, though hagiographical, new life makes very clear how many other things he was as well: pure mathematician, economist, inventor, reformer of scientific institutions, craftsman, even salon host. But Anthony Hyman does not seek to displace the computers from centre-stage in Babbage’s life, and this seems correct ...

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