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Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin
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Charles Dickens: A Life (edition 2012)

by Claire Tomalin (Author)

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8343322,464 (4.2)66
When Charles Dickens died in 1870, The Times of London successfully campaigned for his burial in Westminster Abbey, the final resting place of England's kings and heroes. Thousands flocked to mourn the best recognized and loved man of nineteenth-century England. His books had made them laugh, shown them the squalor and greed of English life, and also the power of personal virtue and the strength of ordinary people. In his last years Dickens drew adoring crowds, had met presidents and princes, and had amassed a fortune. Yet like his heroes, Dickens trod a hard path to greatness. His young life was overturned when his profligate father was sent to debtors' prison and Dickens was forced into harsh factory work--but this led to his remarkable eye for all that was absurd, tragic, and redemptive in London life. This biography gives full measure to Dickens's stature--his virtues both as a writer and as a human being--while observing his failings in both respects with an unblinking eye.--From publisher description.… (more)
Member:Bugboytroy
Title:Charles Dickens: A Life
Authors:Claire Tomalin (Author)
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Charles Dickens: A Life by Claire Tomalin

  1. 10
    David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (hazzabamboo)
    hazzabamboo: David Copperfield is partly autobiographical, and it's fascinating to compare it to Tomalin's fascinating, shrewd biography.
  2. 00
    The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens by Claire Tomalin (Cecrow)
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» See also 66 mentions

English (32)  German (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
Bibliography: p. 489. Includes index.
  TorontoOratorySPN | Sep 1, 2022 |
76/59-Ιδανικό για μικρά παιδιά . Εύκολα κατανοούν τη ζωή του Χριστού. ( )
  Will_Trent | Jul 2, 2022 |
A brilliant and comprehensive biography. I think Ms Tomalin conveyed very fair picture of Dickens- his huge energy for work, business and fun ; his passion for walking miles through the streets of London, taking in the grimmest and poorest quarters; his good works, sponsorship of the needy; his many strong friendships. However, one must set this against the way he cast of his wife and became increasingly uninterested in his children (especially if they needed help.
Ms Tomalin provides much circumstantial evidence on his long-term affair with youthful actress Ellen Ternan....the desperate need for secrecy, given his fame...the short-lived illegitimate son, born in France...
A memorable and very human man. ( )
1 vote starbox | Oct 17, 2021 |
It is easier to forgive a genius for feet of clay than for a heart of stone, I find.

Tomalin's book is about as fair to him as it is possible to be. She delves into great (and sometimes excessive) detail about his life, his comings and goings, friendships, health issues, and passions, and you develop a very good insight into the man behind all of the famous novels. Unfortunately, it is impossible to respect him. He is a misogynist of the worst kind, who pretends to love women--but only if they behave in his very narrowly prescribed ways of Acceptable Womanhood. The temptation is to excuse this because of the time he lived in, but as Tomalin makes very clear, Dickens' treatment of women was bad even for the standards of Victorian England. For a modern reader it is pretty well horrifying.

He is a monster to his wife, and not much better to his children. The children he wanted could do no wrong, and he forgave them time and again for the very crimes and failings that the children he did not want were cast out for. His later sons were all packed off to the colonies as soon as it was reasonably decent to do so, and these never saw their family again, but it seems to have troubled Dickens not at all. I can't imagine the loneliness and pain of growing up the son of the great Charles Dickens, patron saint of Family Values, and knowing he did not love you. Even the children he loved did not think of him as a good man, a good husband, or a good father.

I have the audiobook version, and found it compelling, well written, very well researched, and very thorough. As well, the narrator clearly had a lot of fun with all of the quotations, developing different voices and accents for all of the different people in Dickens' life. If you like audiobooks, it's a good one.

You will finish this book feeling that you know Dickens very well, but you might wish you hadn't. ( )
1 vote andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
No one who reads any of Charles Dickens’ works can assume he had an easy childhood. From Oliver Twist to Great Expectations and David Copperfield, London is always lush and vivid with characters that leap off the page. Children are downtrodden waifs, reliant on people that don’t always have their best interests at heart.

Truth be told, I have only finished one of Dickens’ novels, Great Expectations. I also read A Christmas Carol, but that was a novella. This puts me at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding his work, but I know the gist of a great many of his novels. This is mainly because of Dickens’ standing as an author of merit. Some of his books were turned into plays and movies. Remember the one where Oliver Twist is a cat? I do have copies of a lot of his works, but I have not had the time to read them. I have also not heard of Claire Tomalin, but that is neither here nor there.

In any case, Charles Dickens: A Life is a biography of Charles Dickens. It starts with an indelible experience for him being a juror for a poor woman accused of killing her own child. This illustrates his compassion and concern for the masses of poor and uneducated. After that, it dives right into his family history and childhood. Dickens had a difficult life, and experienced both sides of the tracks, so to speak. He had to deal with being the man of the house from the age of 12 and did not fully complete his education since his father was a profligate and a drunk. His mother tried to teach but was haunted by the reputation of her husband. Even with all of that, young Charles was overlooked because of his sister, Fanny. Fanny was a good musician and played for princes and so on, but never went on to international acclaim. Everything turns around when he becomes a famous writer though. However, he got some interesting habits from all of this. For some reason, he enjoyed moving furniture around. This extended to hotels he stayed in. I have stayed in hotels and some motels but would never have thought to do that.

Alongside the text of the book are tons of images and comprehensive maps of London. This is really helpful if you are like me and are confused by British addresses and place names. The book has an extensive index, glossary, and notes. The beginning of the book even has a cast of characters, so to speak, a dramatis personae. Since Dickens was famous in his time, there are many luminaries and others that were well known when he was alive. I don’t know if the author brings anything new to the table on Charles Dickens since I haven’t read any other biography on him, but this was a pretty good attempt I thought. Other than that I have nothing really to add to this. If I can find another biography by Tomalin perhaps I will give it a shot as well. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
While it neither offers much in the way of new insights nor replaces classic studies of Dickens, Tomalin's entertaining book deserves to be the go-to popular biography for readers new to Boz and his works.
added by Christa_Josh | editLibrary Journal, Morris A. Hounion (Oct 15, 2011)
 
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Epigraph
My sister and I first realised Mr Dickens himself... as a sort of brilliance in the room, mysteriously dominant and formless. I remember how everybody lighted up when he entered.

- Annie Thackery writing in 1913
I suppose that for at least five-and-twenty years of his life, there was not an English-speaking household in the world... where his name was not as familiar as that of any personal acquaintance, and where an allusion to characters of his creating could fail to be understood.

- George Gissing in 1898
The life of almost any man possessing great gifts, would be a sad book to himself.

- Charles Dickens in 1869
It will not do to draw round any part of such a man too hard a line.

-John Forster, friend of Dickens, in his biography
Dedication
I dedicate this book to the memory of two remarkable women :
my mother, the composer Muriel Emily Herbert, 1897-1984,
who shared with me her enjoyment of Dickens when I was a child ;
and my French grandmother, a schoolteacher, Franceline Jennaton
Delavenay, 1873-1906, who in about 1888, when she was at boarding
school in Grenoble, read David Copperfield in its entirety in English,
and loved Dickens ever afterwards.
First words
Prologue

14 January 1840, London. An inquest is being held at Marylebone Workhouse, a muddled complex of buildings spread over a large area between the Marylebone Road and Paddington Street.
Charles Dickens was born on Friday, 7 February 1812, just outside the old town of Portsmouth in the new suburb of Landport, built in the 1790s.
Quotations
“He [Dickens] told me that all the good simple people in his novels, Little Nell, even the holy simpletons like Barnaby Rudge, are what he wanted to have been, and his villains were what he was (or rather, what he found in himself), his cruelty, his attacks of causeless enmity towards those who were helpless and looked to him for comfort, his shrinking from those whom he ought to love, being used up in what he wrote. There were two people in him, he told me: one who feels as he ought to feel and one who feels the opposite. From the one who feels the opposite I make my evil characters, from the one who feels as a man ought to feel I try to live my life. Only two people? I asked.”
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Wikipedia in English (1)

When Charles Dickens died in 1870, The Times of London successfully campaigned for his burial in Westminster Abbey, the final resting place of England's kings and heroes. Thousands flocked to mourn the best recognized and loved man of nineteenth-century England. His books had made them laugh, shown them the squalor and greed of English life, and also the power of personal virtue and the strength of ordinary people. In his last years Dickens drew adoring crowds, had met presidents and princes, and had amassed a fortune. Yet like his heroes, Dickens trod a hard path to greatness. His young life was overturned when his profligate father was sent to debtors' prison and Dickens was forced into harsh factory work--but this led to his remarkable eye for all that was absurd, tragic, and redemptive in London life. This biography gives full measure to Dickens's stature--his virtues both as a writer and as a human being--while observing his failings in both respects with an unblinking eye.--From publisher description.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0670917672, 0141036931

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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