Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

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This long-awaited biography, twenty years after the last major account, uncovers Dickens the man through the profession in which he excelled. Drawing on a lifetime's study of this prodigiously brilliant figure, Michael Slater explores the personal and emotional life, the high-profile public activities, the relentless travel, the charitable works, the amateur theatricals and the astonishing productivity. But the core focus is Dickens' career as a writer and professional author, covering not only his big novels but also his phenomenal output of other writing--letters, journalism, shorter fiction, plays, verses, essays, writings for children, travel books, speeches, and scripts for his public readings, and the relationships among them. Slater's account, rooted in deep research but written with affection, clarity, and economy, illuminates the context of each of the great novels while locating the life of the author within the imagination that created them. It highlights Dickens' boundless energy, his passion for order and fascination with disorder, his organizational genius, his deep concern for the poor and outrage at indifference towards them, his susceptibility towards young women, his love of Christmas and fairy tales, and his hatred of tyranny. Richly and precisely illustrated with many rare images, this masterly work on the complete Dickens, man and writer, becomes the indispensable guide and companion to one of the greatest novelists in the language.

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Product details

  • Hardback | 720 pages
  • 157.48 x 236.22 x 50.8mm | 1,202.01g
  • Yale University Press
  • New Haven, United States
  • English
  • 80 b&w illustrations and 61 line drawings
  • 0300112076
  • 9780300112078
  • 149,645

Review quote

"No living person is a greater authority on the life and works of Charles Dickens than Michael Slater."-Claire Tomalin -- Claire Tomalin "Insofar as any biography of a writer can be said to be a permanent contribution, Slater's is."--Alexandra Mullen, New Criterion -- Alexandra Mullen New Criterion "... Indispensable ... [Slater] assembles a million accumulated details, minutely examining the genesis of each work ... [This] is an incomparable portrait of the writing life of Dickens. Cumulatively, it is profoundly moving, chronicling the constant restless interaction between the life and work." - Simon Callow, The Guardian Guardian "[Dickens] remains in the forefront of our literary consciousness, as firmly fixed there as Chaucer and Shakespeare, his mentors in the creation of the unforgettable... Slater's imposing work has 'bicentennial' written all over it. It is academic biography at its weightiest, exhaustive, and meticulous ... [and] the rewards are considerable."--Edwin M. Yoder, Weekly Standard -- Edwin M. Yoder Weekly Standard A "captivating biography." Michael Slater "seems to have consulted every scrap ... that Dickens scribbled on in his 58 years, to produce exactly what the book's subtitle promises: "a life defined by writing." ... Mr. Slater's dogged scholarship is surprisingly readable, in part because he often lets his subject speak for himself."-David Propson, The Wall Street Journal -- David Propson Wall Street Journal "Michael Slater clearly admires his subject. He has spent his adult life reading and thinking about Dickens and lecturing about his books at London University and elsewhere. He is a gifted and careful scholar who is on close terms not only with Dickens' fiction, journalism, and correspondence, but also with the central events and attitudes of the Victorian age. The result is a book that is well written, clear headed, even keeled. Slater's biography will stand now as Edgar Johnson's once did-as the definitive narrative account of Dickens' crowded career."-Brian Murray, First Things -- Brian Murray First Things "Magnificent...For anybody who wants to know more about this dynamo of Victorian letters, Michael Slater's superb biography is the one to read." -Michael Dirda, Washington Post -- Michael Dirda Washington Post "The attention Mr. Slater gives to Dickens's less familiar writings-the short stories, journalism, and essays-is one of the things that distinguish his excellent biography... An authoritative and engaging biography." -The Economist Economist "With the appearance of Michael Slater's extraordinary biography, which exhuberantly tracks the mercurial energy of Dickens's publication history-as well as his editing and his public readings-it is possible to be accurate to Dickens's wild originality, the career of his career... This is a biography of a writer as writer. It is therefore quite unique."-Adam Thirlwell, The New Republic -- Adam Thirlwell New Republic "Turning to the other major nineteenth-century novelist critical industry: Michael Slater's Charles Dickens now takes its place as the definitive modern one-volume biography. It is an especially valuable book for scholars, since Slater focuses more intensively and consistently than any previous writer on Dickens's literary career. Profiting from the competition of the Pilgrim Edition of the letters (2002), Slater attends to the entirety of that career, interweaving the serial production of the great novels with the author's journalistic and theatrical enterprises. While the familiar landmark events of the life are all there, from the blacking warehouse to the Ellen Ternan affair, it is Slater's detailed yet clarifying command of Dickens's literary work that make his book uniquely compelling."-Ian Duncan, Studies in English Literature -- Ian Duncan Studies in English Literature "Michael Slater's wonderfully detailed biography of Charles Dickens has rightly been called magisterial. It presents a richly contextualized account of the author's life and work, illuminating the interconnectedness of Dickens's concurrent projects and providing new insights of a kind that would be unavailable to any less holistic account."-Holly Furneaux, Victorian Studies -- Holly Furneaux Victorian Studies "... [A] vast critical and biographical canon of Dickens...Strongly recommended for students as well as scholars...and to readers who wish to explore the man behind the canonical artist."-Rudolf Nyari, Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS) -- Rudolf Nyari Hungarian Journal of English and American Studies (HJEAS) "Michael Slater's brilliant Charles Dickens (2009) is set fair to become the standard Life."-Samantha Matthews, Times Literary Supplement -- Samantha Matthews Times Literary Supplement "Slater's account illuminates the context of each of the great novels while locating the life of the author within the imagination that created them." -Classic Feel Classic Feel "Michael Slater has written the definitive biography of Charles Dickens."-Valerie Kennedy, English Studies -- Valerie Kennedy English Studies A sexy story resting on a bed of comprehensive scholarship and pursued with Sherlock-ian imagination."-Kirkus (starred review) Kirkus "Anyone who cares about Dickens, or is interested in how literary reputations are made, will be fascinated by The Great Charles Dickens Scandal."-Adam Kirsch, The Barnes and Noble Review -- Adam Kirsch The Barnes and Noble Review "[Slater] avoids speculation and focuses on facts. Watching them pule up is one of his new book's pleasures."-Erie News-Times Erie News-Times

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About Michael Slater

Michael Slater is Emeritus Professor of Victorian Literature at Birkbeck, past President of the International Dickens Fellowship, and former editor of its journal, The Dickensian. He served for many years as a Trustee of the Charles Dickens Museum, including several periods as Chairman. He lives in London.

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