Based upon an examination of original sources, this is a biography in which the figure of Charles Dickens and the moving spirit of his age are combined. Dickens the novelist, Dickens the radical and the actor, Dickens the prematurely exhausted middle-aged man whose own unquiet fictions seem to shape his life itself, Dickens the performer, Dickens the writer who stamped his image upon 19-century England. All these aspects are embodied in the book which is as much a study of a culture, and of a period, as it is of one extraordinary man. The author also wrote "The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde", "Hawksmoor", "Chatterton", "T.S.Eliot" and "First Light".
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In this remarkable new biography, Peter Ackroyd offers a different view of Dickens to that presented in his earlier study of the author. In that book, Ackroyd's attempts to mimic the voice of the great writer were highly controversial, though some saw the book as a radical re-invention of the biography form. There is no arguing with the brilliant achievement of the more straightforward Charles Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion, however; the picture of Dickens and his complicated private life that emerges is fastidiously detailed and powerfully evocative, while Ackroyd's customary skill at creating a panoply of the city of London is as dazzling as ever (London, is, in fact, the subject of another biography by the author, who is unquestionably the keenest chronicler of the city's colourful history). Here, Ackroyd attempts to peel away the mask of a man whose life was outwardly a picture of Victorian rectitude, but whose love life was as complicated (and unconventional) as any modern writer. Dickens had everything--fame, success and riches--but he died harbouring a deep sadness he had experienced all his life. He was a man of mercurial character, had enormous vitality and humour, but he also had a sense of loss and longing that would constantly appear in his work. Like many eminent Victorians, he led a double life: although he insisted that nothing in the newspapers he edited should upset his middle-class readers, he regularly indulged in dubious night-time escapades with fellow author Wilkie Collins, and, for the last 13 years of his life, kept a secret mistress.
While presenting a warm but astringent portrait of the man who (along with George Eliot) can be classed as the greatest writer of his age, Ackroyd also masterfully recreates the relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, a strong and intelligent woman (herself the subject of a biography by Claire Tomalin, The Inviisble Woman who, like her lover, outwardly observed the proprieties while living her real life behind closed doors. Ackroyd also vividly conjures the reality of Victorian life, the issues that sparked Dickens' fervent call for social reform, and the great landmarks of the time, which profoundly affected his life and work. --Barry ForshawReview:
"The best biography of Charles Dickens which I have ever read... a thoroughly professional job. Dickens comes from it as a fiery, instinctive, complicated, uneasy man... Ackroyd soars above his predecessors in Dickens-study"--Robert Nye, Scotsman
"As scholarly as it is imaginative...fully worthy of its subject"--John Gross, Sunday Telegraph
"Full of diversions and lit by flashes of brilliance"--John Mortimer, Books of the Year, The Spectator
"Daring and utterly successful... A great book"--Literary Review
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Book Description HarperCollins, 1991. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0060166029
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