Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing by Michael Slater - review by Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson

The Frozen Deep

Charles Dickens: A Life Defined by Writing

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In 2012 we shall celebrate the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth. His reputation has held up well compared with his contemporaries – Thackeray, Balzac, Emerson, Turgenev and Carlyle, for example. A great deal of effort has been expended in recent years to make his writings available in scholarly editions. The Dent Uniform Edition of his journalism was completed in four volumes in 2000. The Pilgrim Edition of his letters was published in twelve volumes in 2002. Two series, the Oxford Clarendon Dickens and the Norton Critical Editions, have been turning out valuable annotated texts of his stories. Michael Slater is probably our most learned Dickens scholar, and his new biography is the result of a lifetime of hard work on Dickens. It is an excellent book and everyone who loves Dickens will welcome it. It is enlivened by a large number of illustrations selected by the author from the Charles Dickens Museum.

It is important to remember that Dickens was still only fifty-eight when he died, from persistent overwork. (Poor Thackeray was only fifty-two, Balzac fifty-one, Mrs Gaskell fifty-five, Flaubert fifty-eight. George Eliot, who died at sixty-one, and Wilkie Collins, sixty-five, could count themselves survivors.) In terms of reputation, his

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