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This final volume presents 1,151 letters, many previously unpublished or published only in part, for the years 1868 to Dickens's death from a stroke on 9 June 1870; also included is an Addenda of 235 letters belonging to earlier volumes, discovered since the publication of the first such collection in Volume 7, and a Cumulative Index of Correspondents for the entire edition.
The volume begins with the final four months of Dickens's American tour of 75 readings, which had been conspicuously successful throughout, despite the appalling weather and his sufferings from "American" catarrh. The tour culminated on 18 April 1868 when the American Press held a dinner in his honour in New York. In July he rented Windsor Lodge, Peckham for Ellen Ternan, where she remained until after his death; he was to give two more English reading tours before his collapse at Preston on 22 April 1869.
In early January 1869 he was elected President of the Birmingham and Midland Institute; and a dinner in his honour was given in St George's Hall, Liverpool. Between January and March 1870 he gave a series of Farewell readings in London, and on 31 March Edwin Drood, No. 1 was published, illustrated by Luke Fildes; it continued monthly until 31 August.
Of the friends who died during this period, much the closest were the painter Daniel Maclise, to whom Dickens paid especial tribute at the Royal Academy Banquet of 30 April 1870; Mark Lemon, who died only 18 days before Dickens himself, and with whom he had a brief reconciliation after their bitter quarrel in 1858; and Chauncy Hare Townshend, who left him £2,000 to publish, as his Literary Executor, Religious Opinions of the Late Chauncy Hare Townshend, which appeared in November 1870.
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Storey's achievement is outstanding, and every reader of Dickens has cause to be grateful to him.' (Claire Tomalin, Times Literary Supplement)
What distinguishes the Pilgrim edition is that it is enormous fun to read. Its bulging footnotes expose the whole cavalcade of Victorian life, the scandals and personalities, the circuses, theatres, fashions, politics and crimes, the social sweep from slum to palace. But most captivating of all is Dickens's personality, which fizzes and sparkles on every page. (John Carey, The Sunday Times)
This volume brings to a close one of the grandest and most important scholarly projects to have been mounted since the war. I have not one word of criticism for the work of the editors, Graham Storey, Margaret Brown and Kathleen Tillotson. In terms of scrupulous editing and analysis of a writer's private papers, it is on a par with such legendary feats of labour as the Yale editions of Boswell's journals and the 45 volumes of Horace Walpole's letters. Sadly, the great Kathleen Tillotson died before the appearance of this last volume - she was 95, and when she officially retired to a consultancy role in 1977 volume five had been reached, which gives you some idea of the years of investigation and intense consideration which have gone into these 12 volumes ... an absolute triumph. (Philip Hensher, The Spectator)
'one of the great feats of modern literary scholarship' (Jonathan Sumption, The Spectator,)
Review from previous edition: The dynamism the letters convey is breathtaking ... Like its predecessors, this new volume of the Pilgrim edition is a model of imaginative scholarship ... it brings Dickens so close you can almost smell the cigar smoke. The magnificent footnotes (an absorbing read, even without the letters) unroll the whole cavalcade of contemporary life (John Carey, Sunday Times)
teems with ... lovely squiggles of detail. At times we seem to breathe the very air of mid-Victorian London ... It confirms what the Pilgrim editors should never tire of hearing, that this is one of the great undertakings of modern scholarship (Anthony Quinn, Observer)
The editing of the volume is as scrupulous and informative as readers of the Pilgrim edition have by now come to expect. Many quiet triumphs of detection are recorded in the footnotes. (Dan Jacobson, Sunday Telegraph)
this towering and meticulously edited series, which every learned library, every literary historian, must find indispensable. (Alethea Hayter, Times Literary Supplement)
Each volume of this edition wins acclaim as it appears, and it is right that it should do so. Kathleen Tillotson, Graham Storey and their team are deserving of every word of praise accorded to them for their meticulous and wide-ranging research. (Claire Tomalin, London Review of Books)
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