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Published by: HOA on Apr 27, 2008
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Charles Dickens(1812-1870)
Biographical note
ovelist, born at Landport, near Portsmouth, where his father was a clerk in the Navy Pay–Office. The hardships andmortifications of his early life, his want of regular schooling, and his miserable time in the blacking factory, which form thebasis of the early chapters of 
David Copperfield 
, are largely accounted for by the fact that his father was to aconsiderable extent the prototype of the immortal Mr. Micawber; but partly by his being a delicate and sensitive child,unusually susceptible to suffering both in body and mind. He had, however, much time for reading, and had access to theolder novelists, Fielding, Smollett, and others. A kindly relation also took him frequently to the theatre, where he acquiredhis life-long interest in, and love of, the stage.After a few years’ residence in Chatham, the family removed to London, and soon thereafter his father became an inmateof the Marshalsea, in which by-and-by the whole family joined him, a passage in his life which furnishes the material for parts of 
Little Dorrit 
. This period of family obscuration happily lasted but a short time: the elder Dickens managed tosatisfy his creditors, and soon after retired from his official duties on a pension. About the same time Dickens had twoyears of continuous schooling, and shortly afterwards he entered a law office. His leisure he devoted to reading andlearning shorthand, in which he became very expert. He then acted as parliamentary reporter, first for 
The True Sun
, andfrom 1835 for the
Morning Chronicle
. Meanwhile he had been contributing to the
Monthly Magazine
and the
Evening Chronicle
the papers which, in 1836, appeared in a collected form as
Sketches by Boz 
; and he had also produced one or two comic burlettas.In the same year he married Miss Ann Hogarth; and in the following year occurred the opportunity of his life. He wasasked by Chapman and Hall to write the letterpress for a series of sporting plates to be done by Robert Seymour who,
however, died shortly after, and was succeeded by Hablot Browne (Phiz), who became the illustrator of most of Dickens’snovels. In the hands of Dickens the original plan was entirely altered, and became the
Pickwick Papers
which, appearingin monthly parts during 1837–39, took the country by storm. Simultaneously
Oliver Twist 
was coming out in
. Thenceforward Dickens’s literary career was a continued success, and the almost yearly publication of hisworks constituted the main events of his life.
Nicholas Nickleby 
appeared in serial form 1838–39. Next year he projected
Master Humphrey’s Clock 
, intended to be a series of miscellaneous stories and sketches. It was, however, soonabandoned,
The Old Curiosity Shop
Barnaby Rudge
taking its place. The latter, dealing with the Gordon Riots, is,with the partial exception of the
Tale of Two Cities
, the author’s only excursion into the historical novel.In 1841 Dickens went to America, and was received with great enthusiasm, which, however, the publication of 
considerably damped, and the appearance of 
Martin Chuzzlewit 
in 1843, with its caustic criticisms of certainfeatures of American life, converted into extreme, though temporary, unpopularity. The first of the Christmas books — the
Christmas Carol 
— appeared in 1843, and in the following year Dickens went to Italy, where at Genoa he wrote
, followed by
The Cricket on the Hearth
The Battle of Life
, and
The Haunted Man
.In January, 1846, he was appointed first ed. of 
The Daily News
, but resigned in a few weeks. The same year he went toSwitzerland, and while there wrote
Dombey and Son
, which was published in 1848, and was immediately followed by hismasterpiece,
David Copperfield 
(1849–50). Shortly before this he had become manager of a theatrical company, whichperformed in the provinces, and he had in 1849 started his magazine,
Household Words
Bleak House
appeared in1852–53,
Hard Times
in 1854, and
Little Dorrit 
1856–57. In 1856 he bought Gadshill Place, which, in 1860, became hispermanent home.In 1858 he began his public readings from his works, which, while eminently successful from a financial point of view,from the nervous strain which they entailed, gradually broke down his constitution, and hastened his death. In the sameyear he separated from his wife, and consequent upon the controversy which arose thereupon he brought
Household Words
to an end, and started
 All the Year Round 
, in which appeared
 A Tale of Two Cities
(1859), and
Great Expectations
Our Mutual Friend 
came out in numbers (1864–65). Dickens was now in the full tide of his readings, anddecided to give a course of them in America. Thither accordingly he went in the end of 1867, returning in the followingMay. He had a magnificent reception, and his profits amounted to £20,000; but the effect on his health was such that hewas obliged, on medical advice, finally to abandon all appearances of the kind. In 1869 he began his last work,
TheMystery of Edwin Drood 
, which was interrupted by his death from an apoplectic seizure on June 8, 1870.One of Dickens’s most marked characteristics is the extraordinary wealth of his invention as exhibited in the number andvariety of the characters introduced into his novels. Another, especially, of course, in his entire works, is his boundlessflow of animal spirits. Others are his marvellous keenness of observation and his descriptive power. And the English racemay well, with Thackeray, be “grateful for the innocent laughter, and the sweet and unsullied pages which the author of 
David Copperfield 
gives to [its] children.On the other hand, his faults are obvious, a tendency to caricature, amannerism that often tires, and almost disgusts, fun often forced, and pathos not seldom degenerating into mawkishness.But at his best how rich and genial is the humour, how tender often the pathos. And when all deductions are made, hehad the laughter and tears of the English-speaking world at command for a full generation while he lived, and that hisspell still works is proved by a continuous succession of new editions.
I do not find it easy to get sufficiently far away from this Book, in the first sensations of having finishedit, to refer to it with the composure which this formal heading would seem to require. My interest in it, isso recent and strong; and my mind is so divided between pleasure and regret — pleasure in theachievement of a long design, regret in the separation from many companions — that I am in danger of wearying the reader whom I love, with personal confidences, and private emotions.Besides which, all that I could say of the Story, to any purpose, I have endeavoured to say in it.It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know, how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of atwo–years’ imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of himself intothe shadowy world, when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him for ever. Yet, I havenothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which might be of less moment still) that no one canever believe this Narrative, in the reading, more than I have believed it in the writing.Instead of looking back, therefore, I will look forward. I cannot close this Volume more agreeably tomyself, than with a hopeful glance towards the time when I shall again put forth my two green leavesonce a month, and with a faithful remembrance of the genial sun and showers that have fallen on theseleaves of David Copperfield, and made me happy.London, October, 1850.
I REMARKED in the original Preface to this Book that I did not find it easy to get sufficiently far awayfrom it, in the first sensations of having finished it, to refer to it with the composure which this formalheading would seem to require. My interest in it was so recent and strong, and my mind was so divided between pleasure and regret — pleasure in the achievement of a long design, regret in the separation frommany companions — that I was in danger of wearying the reader with personal confidences and privateemotions.Besides which, all that I could have said of the Story to any purpose, I had endeavored to say in it.It would concern the reader little, perhaps, to know how sorrowfully the pen is laid down at the close of atwo–years’ imaginative task; or how an Author feels as if he were dismissing some portion of himself intothe shadowy world, when a crowd of the creatures of his brain are going from him for ever. Yet, I hadnothing else to tell; unless, indeed, I were to confess (which might be of less moment still), that no onecan ever believe this Narrative, in the reading, more than I believed it in the writing.So true are these avowals at the present day, that I can now only take the reader into one confidence more.Of all my books, I like this the best. It will be easily believed that I am a fond parent to every child of myfancy, and that no one can ever love that family as dearly as I love them. But, like many fond parents, Ihave in my heart of hearts a favourite child. And his name is DAVID COPPERFIELD.1869HCARLES DICKENS3

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