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Charles Dickens: The Life of the Author

Kenneth Benson

Section 1. The Young Dickens
Section 2. Boz Takes Off Like a Rocket: The Sketches and Pickwick
Section 3. On Top of the World: Oliver Twist to Household Words
Section 4. A Fearful Locomotive: The Man Who Never Slept
Section 5. Dickens Onstage: Up Into the Clouds Together
Section 6. The Great Magician Vanishes

checklist of images

NYPL, Berg Collection

When Charles Dickens first began to publish the amusing sketches and stories that would later be collected in his first book, the pseudonymously published Sketches by Boz (1836), he was a little-known newspaper reporter working in London. By the end of his amazing career, he had produced an enormous body of work as both author and editor, including such classic and perennially popular novels as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield and Great Expectations.

In this presentation, The New York Public Library's Kenneth Benson surveys the life and works of the most beloved author of the Victorian era. Readers will follow Dickens through his childhood, exploring how his writings were both influenced by and reflected his family history and the wider currents of Victorian society. Overcoming the hardships of his youth, he launched his literary career in the 1830s, and his rise was meteoric. This presentation traces the course of Dickens's ever-increasing fame, from the humorous hijinks of the early Pickwick Papers to the artistic mastery of the great novels of the 1850s and 60s.

Providing a lively introduction to the astonishing career of the "Inimitable Boz," as well as to the heart of a very private man, this presentation is richly illustrated with handwritten manuscript pages, portraits, prints and drawings, and other rare artifacts drawn from the special collections of The New York Public Library, including Dickens's personal custom-bound prompt copies of his works, which he used in his wildly successful public readings. Charles Dickens: The Life of the Author celebrates the writer who spoke of his bond with his immense reading public, with no exaggeration or false modesty, as "personally affectionate and like no other man's"--and it is a bond that endures.

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