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This exhaustive two-volume tome set the standard for twentieth century biography, and belongs on the shelf of every well-read Dickens fan or public library. Great for researching, critical analysis, or enjoyment of this monumental life.
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It's the time of year when people start watching plays and broadcasts of Charles Dickens evergreen story "A Christmas Carol" - if you haven't read the short novel since childhood try looking it up for an unsurpassed piece of prose writing - and so here's a gentle reminder about the great Dicken's biography of Edgar Johnson. Though not the last word in Dickens scholarship - Edgar Johnson's final book on Dickens was published over three decades ago - this venerable abridged one volume biography (from the much larger 1952 two volume version) certainly remains a fine introduction to both the life and works of the larger than life English novelist.
Among this biography's most noticeable charms is the author's clarity, a quality most prized by another 19th century titan, Richard Wagner. Despite a true biographical embarrassment of riches in Dickens, Johnson restrains his subject from roaring off in a thousand different directions like one of Dicken's more peripatetic characters, and the biography focuses on framing events around a strictly chronological flow. Johnson balances the events of Dickens' life against the backdrop of the times while giving fair play to the constant outpourings of literature. Yet there is never the sense that you are reading a simplified summary or heavily edited or truncated version of a larger more developed work. Johnson has achieved a fine synthesis of his big book, and the whole moves nicely along without signs of excessive forcing or gaps. Dickens' concerns about his family and his touching concerns about his sons' careers are tied together with Dickens' own memories with their deeply embedded and near manic fears and doubts caused by his father's financial troubles.Read more ›