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September 11, 1998
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v2.1 Reference


A Biography

From a bitter childhood mired in poverty and hard work to a career as the most acclaimed and best-loved writer in the English-speaking world, Charles Dickens had a life as tumultuous as any he created in his teeming novels of life in Victorian England. And no one has captured the rich texture of this life as colorfully and persuasively as Fred Kaplan in this acclaimed biography. Drawing on unpublished and long-forgotten sources, Kaplan presents a full-scale portrait of Dickens and his world. From the autobiographical basis of his novels and his extraordinary circle of friends to the course of his unhappy marriage and complicated family relations, Kaplan reveals the restless compulsions, private passions, and professional concerns that drove Dickens to unprecedented literary success. Kaplan details Dickens's often stormy dealings with his publishers and his carefully cultivated relationship with readers, heightened through amateur theatricals and numerous public readings in Britain and North America. Brilliantly written and thoroughly researched, Dickens provides an absorbing and perceptive account of its subject as a singularly complex man and a consummate artist, offering readers new insights into Dickens's—and literature's—greatest works, works such as Bleak House, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist.

About the Author

Fred Kaplan is the author of Miracles of Rare Devices, Dickens and Mesmerism, Thomas Carlyle, A Biography (nominated for the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), Sacred Tears, and Henry James: A Biography, and is the editor of Charles Dickens' Book of Memoranda. A past recipient of Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships, he has also served as editor of the Dickens Studies Annual.


Dickens by Fred Kaplan may do for our greatest writer after Shakespeare what Ellman did for Oscar Wilde... A brilliantly readable work and one essential for all of us who care about the man who, for all his faults, remained 'The Inimitable' and 'The Sparkler' to the end.

- John Mortimer - Spectator

Fred Kaplan's Dickens ... would be valuable if only because it takes into account the reams of research that have been published in the intervening years; but it is also well proportioned, persuasive in its judgments and consistently, grippingly readable.

- John Gross - New York Times

Kaplan has spent ten years preparing and writing this book; his achievement is as rare, as wonderful, as the Dickens he brings to life. We are all the beneficiaries of this exceptional biography.

- A. D. Hutter - Los Angeles Times

A winning mix of insight, narrative skill and shrewd judgement. Kaplan shows how powerfully both as a man and artist Dickens was shaped by the experience of his youth: on the one hand the humiliations showered on him by his penurious and feckless parents, on the other his mental escape into the bright world of the 18th-century novel which gave him his models for good and bad character.

- Publishers Weekly

Kaplan is particularly good... on the shape and perspective of Dickens's career, his relation with his younger siblings, all of whom he outlived, and with his own children and their developing private lives. To be fully understood as a writer he needs to be put in this sort of family frame.

- John Bayley - New York Review of Books

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Mr. Kaplan's biography is its picture of Dickens's professional life and friendships: one senses anew the extraordinary competitive vigor of the Victorian imperial personality. Mr. Kaplan's objective presentation of the facts about the colossus of the age gives us a far better sense of its shape and scale than any facile charm might conjure up. His clarity is the highest form of respect and affection for his astonishing subject.

- Richard Locke - Wall Street Journal
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801860188 : dickens-kaplan
Paperback / softback
640 Pages
$31.00 USD

Other Titles by Fred Kaplan

Lincoln and Liberty

edited by Lucas E. Morel, introduction by Clarence Thomas, with contributions byFred Kaplan, John Channing Briggs, Michael Burlingame, Diana J. Schaub, Thomas L. Krannawitter, Lucas E. Morel, Steven Kautz, Allen C. Guelzo, Matthew Pinsk...
Jan 2015 - University Press of Kentucky
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Henry James

Fred Kaplan
Oct 1999 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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