The Life and Lies of Charles Dickens

A radical reassessment of the famed Victorian author, revealing the true story behind the creator of some of literature's best-known novels.

ISBN: 978-1639365333

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The Life and Lies of Charles Dickens

by Helena Kelly

This dynamic new study of Charles Dickens will make readers re-examine his life and work in a completely different light. First, partly due to the massive digitalization of papers and letters in recent years, Helena Kelly has unearthed new material about Dickens that simply wasn’t available to his earlier biographers. Second, in an astonishing piece of archival detective work, she has traced and then joined the dots on revelatory new details about his mental and physical health that, as the reader will discover, had a strong bearing on both his writing and his life and eventual death.

Together these have allowed her to come up with a striking hypothesis that the version of his life that Dickens chose to share with his public—both during his lifetime and from beyond the grave in the authorized biography published shortly after his death—was an elaborate exercise in reputation management. Many of the supposed formative events in his life—such as the twelve-year-old Dickens going to work in a blacking factory—may not have been quite as honestly-related as we have been led to believe.

And, in many respects, who can blame him? Dickens’s celebrity was on a scale almost unimaginable to any author writing today, with the possible exception of J. K. Rowling, and, like many people who become suddenly famous, he soon realized what a mixed blessing it was.