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 writingletters, 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.
The most illuminating moment in Michael Slater's revelatory Charles Dickens comes in a marvelous quotation from Fyodor Dostoevsky, who met with Dickens in the offices of the latter's periodical All the Year Round, during an 1862 visit to London. The great English novelist unburdened himself in an almost confessional style: "All the good simple people in his novels, Little Nell, even the holy simpletons like Barnaby Rudge, are what he wanted to have been," his Russian visitor reported later, "and his villains were what he was (or rather, what he found in himself), his cruelty, his attacks of ceaseless enmity toward those who were helpless and looked to him for comfort... There were two people in him, he told me, one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite." Perhaps uniquely, Dostoevsky was up to the task of responding, asking impishly: "Only two people?"