Three professors, two university presses, three more books to add to the tottering pile. It is time to be scholarly about Dickens. Yet ‘people mutht be amuthed’, as Mr Sleary reiterates in Hard Times. Dickens vehemently believed that readers learn nothing from instruction if they are not first engaged through feeling and humour. So I was relieved to find that John Sutherland’s first entry in The Dickens Dictionary is on ‘Amuthement’ and that his short book is lighthearted, entertaining and, to my mind, the most stimulating of the three under review.
Sutherland is the least pompous of literary critics, as the many readers who have enjoyed his collections of nineteenth-century literary puzzles, beginning with Is Heathcliff a Murderer?, know well. He is on form with The Dickens Dictionary. Far from being yet another reference book on Dickens and all his works,