Paul Johnson

A Thunderous Recipe for Salad Dressing

The Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol 2, 1868-70


Oxford University Press 856pp £80 order from our bookshop

Charles Dickens


Weidenfeld & Nicolson 320pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

This is the final volume (of twelve) in the Oxford University Press’s heroic effort to bring order and printed form to what Charles Dickens himself called ‘the hurry and confusion of an enormous correspondence’. It contains 1,151 letters, 427 published for the first time, plus a further 235 belonging to earlier volumes which have since come to light, making a grand total of 14,252 letters in the series.

The present volume covers Dickens’s wildly successful American reading tour, or rather its last four months; his equally successful readings in Britain in 1869/70, which ill health forced him to abandon; the genesis of Edwin Drood; and his last weeks of frailty, which ended in sudden death. It deals with an immense range of subjects, including Niagara Falls, English seaside resorts (he found Blackpool ‘charming’), the marital difficulties of the Dean of Bristol Cathedral (Dickens made a prolonged but unsuccessful attempt to reconcile him with his wife), the rescue of some French musicians and their two performing bears from English roughs, a thunderous recipe for salad dressing, and various attempts to raise money for the widows of improvident artists and writers.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'Although he travels through time and space to find the best produce, his choices, delightfully, are not obvious.'… ,
    • RT : I regularly make purchases based on - it’s excellent.,
    • RT : I wrote about Yoko Ogawa's dreamlike, allegorical novel The Memory Police, newly published in English in a translat… ,
    • 'At this frankly apocalyptic moment for indigenous rights in Brazil, John Hemming’s "People of the Rainforest" is a… ,
    • 'I was dumbfounded by the view of the Berlin Wall from the eastern side. It seemed inconceivable that in under thre… ,
    • RT : Danger for ‘local’ staff, access in exchange for silence (and logos) - all sounds familiar in this fascinating look… ,
    • 'He has long been eclipsed by Vermeer, though his interiors are arguably more ambitious.' David Gelber on the Dutc… ,