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Charles Dickens: A Very Short Introduction [#594]
Charles Dickens: A Very Short Introduction [#594]
  • Covers the life and work of Charles Dickens, with examples taken from all his major works and writing
  • Considers the key themes in Dickens's novels, and the way in which he used his writing to critique the great dehumanising structures, ideologies, and bureaucracies of nineteenth-century Britain
  • Examines the potent and multiple after-lives of Dickens's novels, and their ongoing impact today
  • Explores Dickens's own career and life, and the influence this had on his writing
  • Discusses Dickens's treatment by critics through the ages
  • Originally published in hardback as Charles Dickens: An Introduction

Charles Dickens is credited with creating some of the world's best-known fictional characters, and is widely regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian age. Even before reading the works of Dickens many people have met him already in some form or another. His characters have such vitality that they have leapt from his pages to enjoy flourishing lives of their own: The Artful Dodger, Miss Havisham, Scrooge, Fagin, Mr Micawber, and many many more. His portrait has been in our pockets, on our ten-pound notes; he is a national icon, indeed himself a generator of what Englishness signifies. 

In this Very Short Introduction Jenny Hartley explores the key themes running through Dickens's corpus of works, and considers how they reflect his attitudes towards the harsh realities of nineteenth century society and its institutions, such as the workhouses and prisons. Running alongside this is Dickens's relish of the carnivalesque; if there is a prison in almost every novel, there is also a theatre. She considers Dickens's multiple lives and careers: as magazine editor for two thirds of his working life, as travel writer and journalist, and his work on behalf of social causes including ragged schools and fallen women. She also shows how his public readings enthralled the readers he wanted to reach but also helped to kill him. Finally, Hartley considers what we mean when we use the term 'Dickensian' today, and how Dickens's enduring legacy marks him out as as a novelist different in kind from others. 


List of illustrations
Note on editions used
1: More
2: Public and private
3: Character and plot
4: City laureate
5: Radical Dickens
6: Dickensian
Further reading

About the author: 

Jenny Hartley, Emeritus Professor at the University of Roehampton
Jenny Hartley is Emeritus Professor at the University of Roehampton. She is the author of two books on British women's writing from the Second World War, and The Reading Groups Book (2001, 2002 OUP), a pioneering survey of reading groups. Her work on Dickens includes Charles Dickens and the House of Fallen Women (Methuen 2008) and editing The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens (OUP 2012). She is a founder member of the Prison Reading Groups project, and was President of the International Dickens Fellowship 2013-2015.

"a fair, entertaining and careful chronicler of Dickens's life, and an illuminating and inspiring reader of his works. For those unfamiliar with his writing, Charles Dickens: An introduction offers the best brief guide now available. For those of us who know it well, it encourages us to return to Dickens with renewed enthusiasm and an enlarged heart" - Times Literary Supplement

"Jenny Hartley [...] has achieved a miracle of compression in this charmingly packaged book ... the success of this pocket guide, however, lies in her clever selection of themes and emphases, and in her ability to relate all things Dickensian to the way we live now." - Michael Wheeler, Church Times Summer Books Supplement

Product details

ISBN : 9780198714996

Jenny Hartley
144 Pages
111 x 174 mm
Pub date
Feb 2019
Very Short Introductions
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Charles Dickens: A Very Short Introduction [#594]

Charles Dickens: A Very Short Introduction [#594]

Charles Dickens: A Very Short Introduction [#594]