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Charles Dickens: A Very Short Introduction
Very Short Introductions
Charles Dickens is credited with creating some of the world's best-known fictional characters, and is widely regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian age. Even before reading the works of Dickens many people have met him already in some form or another. His characters have such vitality that they have leapt from his pages to enjoy flourishing lives of their own: The Artful Dodger, Miss Havisham, Scrooge, Fagin, Mr Micawber, and many many more. His portrait
has been in our pockets, on our ten-pound notes; he is a national icon, indeed himself a generator of what Englishness signifies.
In this Very Short Introduction Jenny Hartley explores the key themes running through Dickens's corpus of works, and considers how they reflect his attitudes towards the harsh realities of nineteenth century society and its institutions, such as the workhouses and prisons. Running alonside this is Dickens's relish of the carnivalesque; if there is a prison in almost every novel, there is also a theatre. She considers Dickens's multiple lives and careers: as magazine editor for two
thirds of his working life, as travel writer and journalist, and his work on behalf of social causes including ragged schools and fallen women. She also shows how his public readings enthralled the readers he wanted to reach but also helped to kill him. Finally, Hartley considers what we mean when we use the term
'Dickensian' today, and how Dickens's enduring legacy marks him out as as a novelist different in kind from others.
ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.
* This book was previously published in hardback as Charles Dickens: An Introduction
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What Reviewers Are Saying
Jenny Hartley [...] has achieved a miracle of compression in this charmingly packaged book ... the success of this pocket guide, however, lies in her clever selection of themes and emphases, and in her ability to relate all things Dickensian to the way we live now. * Michael Wheeler, Church Times Summer Books Supplement * A fair, entertaining and careful chronicler of Dickens's life, and an illuminating and inspiring reader of his works. For those unfamiliar with his writing, Charles Dickens: An introduction offers the best brief guide now available. For those of us who know it well, it encourages us to return to Dickens with renewed enthusiasm and an enlarged heart. * Times Literary Supplement *