The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens by Jenny Hartley

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This is no epistolary autobiography...But the life of a mind is preserved; at the start of this third century, his language continues to live.
-LA Times

Synopsis

What was it like to be Charles Dickens? His letters are the nearest we can get to a Dickens autobiography: vivid close-up snapshots of a life lived at maximum intensity. This is the first selection to be made from the magisterial twelve-volume British Academy Pilgrim Edition of his letters. From over fourteen thousand, four hundred and fifty have been cherry-picked to give readers the best essence of 'the Sparkler of Albion'.

Dickens was a man with ten times the energy of ordinary mortals. There seem to have been twice the number of hours in his day, and he threw himself into letter-writing as he did into everything else. This eagerly awaited selection takes us straight to the heart of his life, to show us Dickens at first hand. Here he is writing out of the heat of the moment: as a novelist, journalist, and magazine editor; as a social campaigner and traveller in Europe and America, and as friend, lover, husband,
and father.

Reading and writing letters punctuated the rhythms of Dickens's day. 'I walk about brimful of letters', he told a friend. He claimed to write 'at the least, a dozen a day'. Sometimes it was a chore but more often a pleasure: an outlet for high spirits, sparkling wit, and caustic commentary - always as seen through his highly individual and acutely observing eye.

Whether you dip in or read straight through, this selection of his letters creates afresh the brilliance of being Dickens, and the sheer pleasure of being in his company.
 

About Jenny Hartley

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Jenny Hartley is Professor of English Literature at Roehampton University. Her recent Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women was a Guardian Book of the Week and hailed as "brilliant" by Claire Tomalin.
 
Published February 2, 2012 by OUP Oxford. 495 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens
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Guardian

Good
Reviewed by Nicholas Lezard on Jul 14 2015

In short, the whole book bursts with the author’s energy, and you will love him and know him better after reading even a few of these letters.

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LA Times

Excellent
Reviewed by Nicholas Delbanco on Apr 08 2012

This is no epistolary autobiography...But the life of a mind is preserved; at the start of this third century, his language continues to live.

Read Full Review of The Selected Letters of Charl... | See more reviews from LA Times

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