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A Sunday Times Book of the Year Shortlisted for The Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize 'This magnificent, highly readable double biography...brings these two driven, complicated women vividly to life' The Financial Times 'A gripping saga of a double-biography' Daily Mail 'A masterful portrait' The Times 'Vastly enjoyable' Literary Review 'Deeply absorbing and meticulously researched' The Oldie In 1815, the clever, courted and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet. Ada didn't. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron's little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild spirits. Educated by some of the most learned minds in England, she combined that scholarly discipline with a rebellious heart and a visionary imagination. As a child invalid, Ada dreamed of building a steam-driven flying horse. As an exuberant and boldly unconventional young woman, she amplified her explanations of Charles Babbage's unbuilt calculating engine to predict, as nobody would do for another century, the dawn today of our modern computer age. When Ada died - like her father, she was only 36 - great things seemed still to lie ahead for her as a passionate astronomer. Even while mired in debt from gambling and crippled by cancer, she was frenetically employing Faraday's experiments with light refraction to explore the analysis of distant stars. Drawing on fascinating new material, Seymour reveals the ways in which Byron, long after his death, continued to shape the lives and reputations both of his wife and his daughter. During her life, Lady Byron was praised as a paragon of virtue; within ten years of her death, she was vilified as a disgrace to her sex. Well over a hundred years later, Annabella Milbanke is still perceived as a prudish wife and cruelly controlling mother. But her hidden devotion to Byron and her tender ambitions for his mercurial, brilliant daughter reveal a deeply complex but unsuspectedly sympathetic personality. Miranda Seymour has written a masterful portrait of two remarkable women, revealing how two turbulent lives were often governed and always haunted by the dangerously enchanting, quicksilver spirit of that extraordinary father whom Ada never knew.
'The most dazzling biography of a female writer to have come my way for a decade...' - Financial Times 'To be savoured for its vivid and sympathetic recreation of the tragic life and brilliant times of the gifted Mary Shelley' - Times Literary Supplement 'Brilliant and enthralling' - Independent On Sunday 'Wonderfully vivid' - Spectator The definitive and richly woven biography of Mary Shelley, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein The creator of the world's most famous outsider became one herself . . . There is no more dramatic scene in literary history than the stormy night by Lake Geneva when Byron, Claire Clairmont, Polidori and the Shelleys met to talk of horror and the unexplained. From that emerged Frankenstein, a monster who has haunted imaginations for two hundred years. Miranda Seymour illustrates the rich and unexplored life of Mary Shelley. Everything from her childhood to her tempestuous relationship with Percy Shelley; Seymour brings to life the brilliant mind that created Frankenstein through unexplored and intriguing sources. The Mary Shelley we meet here is a woman we can engage with and understand. Her world, so rich in its settings and its cast of characters, seems drawn from a novel. She, at its centre, is flawed, brave, generous, and impetuous, a woman whose dark and brilliant imagination gave us a myth which seems ever more potent in our own era.
In 1850, the legendary Koh-i-noor diamond, gem of Eastern potentates, was transferred from the Punjab in India and, in an elaborate ceremony, placed into Queen Victoria's outstretched hands. This act inaugurated what author Adrienne Munich recognizes in her engaging new book as the empire of diamonds. Diamonds were a symbol of political power-only for the very rich and influential. But, in a development that also reflected the British Empire's prosperity, the idea of owning a diamond came to be marketed to the middle class. In all kinds of writings, diamonds began to take on an affordable romance. Considering many of the era's most iconic voices-from Dickens and Tennyson to Kipling and Stevenson-as well as grand entertainments such as The Moonstone, King Solomon's Mines, and the tales of Sherlock Holmes, Munich explores diamonds as fetishes that seem to contain a living spirit exerting powerful effects, and shows how they scintillated the literary and cultural imagination. Based on close textual attention and rare archival material, and drawing on ideas from material culture, fashion theory, economic criticism, and fetishism, Empire of Diamonds interprets the various meanings of diamonds, revealing a trajectory including Indian celebrity-named diamonds reserved for Asian princes, such as the Great Mogul and the Hope Diamond, their adoption by British royal and aristocratic families, and their discovery in South Africa, the mining of which devastated the area even as it opened the gem up to the middle classes. The story Munich tells eventually finds its way to America, as power and influence crosses the Atlantic, bringing diamonds to a wide consumer culture.
A Sunday Times Book of the Year Winner of the 2019 Elma Dangerfield Prize Shortlisted for The Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize 'This magnificent, highly readable double biography...brings these two driven, complicated women vividly to life' The Financial Times 'A gripping saga of a double-biography' Daily Mail 'A masterful portrait' The Times 'Vastly enjoyable' Literary Review 'Deeply absorbing and meticulously researched' The Oldie In 1815, the clever, courted and cherished Annabella Milbanke married the notorious and brilliant Lord Byron. Just one year later, she fled, taking with her their baby daughter, the future Ada Lovelace. Byron himself escaped into exile and died as a revolutionary hero in 1824, aged 36. The one thing he had asked his wife to do was to make sure that their daughter never became a poet. Ada didn't. Brought up by a mother who became one of the most progressive reformers of Victorian England, Byron's little girl was introduced to mathematics as a means of calming her wild spirits. Educated by some of the most learned minds in England, she combined that scholarly discipline with a rebellious heart and a visionary imagination. As a child invalid, Ada dreamed of building a steam-driven flying horse. As an exuberant and boldly unconventional young woman, she amplified her explanations of Charles Babbage's unbuilt calculating engine to predict, as nobody would do for another century, the dawn today of our modern computer age. When Ada died - like her father, she was only 36 - great things seemed still to lie ahead for her as a passionate astronomer. Even while mired in debt from gambling and crippled by cancer, she was frenetically employing Faraday's experiments with light refraction to explore the analysis of distant stars. Drawing on fascinating new material, Seymour reveals the ways in which Byron, long after his death, continued to shape the lives and reputations both of his wife and his daughter. During her life, Lady Byron was praised as a paragon of virtue; within ten years of her death, she was vilified as a disgrace to her sex. Well over a hundred years later, Annabella Milbanke is still perceived as a prudish wife and cruelly controlling mother. But her hidden devotion to Byron and her tender ambitions for his mercurial, brilliant daughter reveal a deeply complex but unsuspectedly sympathetic personality. Miranda Seymour has written a masterful portrait of two remarkable women, revealing how two turbulent lives were often governed and always haunted by the dangerously enchanting, quicksilver spirit of that extraordinary father whom Ada never knew.
In their celebration of 'little matters' - the regular round of visiting, dining out, drinking tea, of reading and walking to the shops and sending to the post - Jane Austen's letters and novels have many similarities. The thirteen letters collected by Jane Austen's House Museum, in Chawton, Hampshire and reproduced in this book give us intimate glimpses into her life in Bath and Chawton and on visits to London, many of their details finding echoes in her fiction. 'Jane Austen: The Chawton Letters' traces a lively story beginning in 1801, when, aged twenty-five, Jane Austen left Steventon in Hampshire to move to Bath. Later letters relish the shops, theatres and sights of London, but are interspersed from 1809 with the quieter routines of village life in Chawton, Hampshire, which was to be her home for the remainder of her short life. We learn here of her anxieties for the reception of Pride and Prejudice, her care in planning Mansfield Park and the hilarious negotiations over the publication of Emma. These letters, each accompanied by reproductions from the original manuscripts in Jane Austen's hand, testify to Jane's deep emotional bond with her sister: the most moving letter of all is that written by Cassandra only days after Jane's death in Winchester in July 1817. Brought together in this little book, these artefacts make a delightful modern-day keepsake of correspondence from one of the world's best-loved writers.
In the spring of 1804 Coleridge sailed to the Mediterranean in the hope of restoring his health, recreating his poetic energies and solving his emotional problems. During the voyage he kept a very detailed diary. This title combines the pleasures of researched biography, and criticism and social history, with the narrative sweep of a novel.
Isaiah Berlin's classic essay on Tolstoy - an exciting new edition with new criticism and a foreword. 'The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.' This fragment of Archilochus, which gives this book its title, describes the central thesis of Isaiah Berlin's masterly essay on Tolstoy. There have been various interpretations of Archilochus' fragment; Isaiah Berlin has simply used it, without implying anything about the true meaning of the words, to outline a fundamental distinction that exists in mankind, between those who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things (foxes) and those who relate everything to a central all-embracing system (hedgehogs). When applied to Tolstoy, the image illuminates a paradox of his philosophy of history, and shows why he was frequently misunderstood by his contemporaries and critics. Tolstoy was by nature a fox, but he believed in being a hedgehog.
Victorian England: a Jesuit priest writes of wrestling with God at night, limbs entangled; an Anglican sister begs Jesus, her divine lover, to end her aching anticipation of their union; a clergyman exhorts nuns to study the example of medieval women who suffered on the rack in order to become ""brides"" of Christ. Alongside the march of nineteenth-century progress ran a seemingly paradoxical fascination with a dark, erotically suggestive side of religious devotion: the figuration of the Christian God as a heavenly bridegroom who doles out punishment to his bride, the individual soul. Through innovative case studies of Victorian religious poetry, Amanda Paxton reveals that while the punitive model proved a convenient rhetorical tool with which to deflate burgeoning nineteenth-century campaigns for women's rights and challenges to Church authority, in the hands of several writers it also provided a means of resisting patriarchal institutions and interrogating distinctions between science and religion. Willful Submission is the first full-length volume to examine the interplay of sex, suffering, and religion as a touchstone in Victorian culture and verse.
Published to mark the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth, this book celebrates the greatest of English novelists by illustrating some of his abiding preoccupations. Prompted by quotations from the novels and other writings, each themed chapter explores contemporary images relating to salient topics of the Victorian age such as the public entertainments of London and the domestic pastimes of its inhabitants; the coming of the railways (which were to transform Victorian England in fiction and in fact); school life for children, and conditions in the workhouses and prisons which loom so large in many of the novels and which blighted Dickens's own childhood. Dickens was an incorrigible showman, and this book also explores his role as actor-manager of theatrical productions, as originator of the myriad stage adaptations of his books, and as supreme interpreter of them himself in the public readings which came to dominate his later years. Reproducing key extracts from the novels alongside a selection of the original covers as they appeared weekly and monthly in the bookshops, their crucial illustrations and all the paraphernalia of nineteenth-century advertising, is a unique approach which breathes life into the vibrant world of Dickens and his characters.
One of literature's most witty personalities, Oscar Wilde captivated London society. In this perceptive appraisal of Wilde and those around him - including Aubrey Beardsley, Sir Max Beerbohm and Wilde's lover, Lord Alfred Douglas (`Bosie') - Simon Callow captures the spirit of one of Britain's most feted, but ultimately tragic literary figures.
Jane Austen has resonated with readers across generations like no other writer. More than two hundred years after the publication of her most celebrated novel, Pride and Prejudice, people around the world continue to honor ""dear Jane."" In Performing Jane, Sarah Glosson explores this vibrant fandom, examining a long history of Austen fans engaging with her work, from wearing hand-A sewn bonnets and period-A appropriate corsets to creating spirited fanfiction and comical gifsets. Sophisticated and engaging, this study demonstrates that Austen fans of today have a great deal in common with those who loved the English novelist long before the term ""fan"" came into use. Performing Jane analyzes three ways fans engage with Austen and her work: collecting material related to the writer, whether in physical scrapbooks or on socialA -media platforms; creating and consuming imitative works, including fanfiction and modernized adaptations such as The Lizzie Bennet Diaries; and making pilgrimages to Steventon, Hampshire, Chawton Cottage, and even to annual meetings of Jane Austen societies. Key to Glosson's exploration of Austen fans is the notion that all of these activities, whether occurring in private or in public, are fundamentally performative. And in counterbalance to studies that center on fans with a tendency to transform and disrupt the original text, this study provides much-A needed understanding of a fandom that predominantly reaffirms Austen's works. Because Austen's writing has bridged the realms of both literary and popular culture, this fandom serves as an excellent case study to understand the ways in which we draw distinctions between fandom and other forms of intensive engagement and, more importantly, to appreciate how fluid those distinctions can be. Performing Jane embraces a holistic view of the long history of Austen fandom, relying on archival research, literary and visual analyses, and ethnographic study. This groundbreaking book not only demonstrates the ways in which fan practices, today and in the past, are performative, but also provides fresh perspectives into fandom and contributes to our understanding of the ways readers engage with literature.
The fictional nautical story was extremely popular in the period stretching from the mid 1820s to about 1850. The best known writer in this field was undoubtedly Frederick Marryat, but the stories of Matthew Henry Barker (17901846), The Old Sailor, rivalled those of his contemporary in popularity. Both authors are in the first rank of writers of nautical fiction, but it is generally acknowledged that Barkers descriptions of the man-of-wars man, the forecastle Jack Tar, are without equal. Although several biographies of Marryat have been published, very little relating to Barkers life and works is readily available. A Nautical Story Writer sets out the life and works of Barker, a journalist, novelist and Whig. Part One provides a detailed biography of his life, sea service, adventures and engagement with friends and politicians. Part Two details his published works, alerting to material erroneously credited to the author. Paul Marshalls book is based, in part, on information collected from institutions in the UK and USA. An additional primary source has been a substantial archive of material related to the Barker family, which consists of correspondence between Barker and his friends and business associates (eg: William Jerdan, Frederic Shoberl, Effingham Wilson, Edward Duncan), along with a variety of family documents. Although Barker is an author from the classic period, his written observations will be of interest to readers of the Horatio Hornblower novels of C S Forester, and the Aubrey-Maturin series of Patrick OBrian. The extensive bibliographic information provided makes this work an essential acquisition for university libraries and antiquarian booksellers.
Henry James left London in 1897 to spend the last two decades of his life in East Sussex where his neighbours included H. G. Wells, Stephen Crane, Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad. In this widely admired study Miranda Seymour aims to cut through 'the mass of evasions ...and misrepresentations' about their relationships with James. She finds that James was cruelly patronizing to protege Wells and to Conrad; that he was annoyed by Ford, an incorrigible romancer; that he envied his rich friend Edith Wharton for her wide readership; that he snubbed Cora Taylor, Crane's lover, after she fled America when her railway-conductor husband was found guilty of murder. Seymour, a descendant of James's close friend, the novelist Howard Sturgis, records how James's critiques of fellow writers often amounted to annihilation and she chronicles his infatuations with handsome young men, including sculptor Hendrik Andersen and poet Rupert Brooke. In this erudite and insightful book that draws on letters and published works, Miranda Seymour vividly recreates the uneasy alliance of writers and personalities in this 'Rye Mafia'.
With the rise of women's suffrage, challenges to marriage and divorce laws, and expanding opportunities for education and employment for women, the early years of the twentieth century were a time of social revolution. Examining British novels written in 1890-1914, Jane Eldridge Miller demonstrates how these social, legal, and economic changes rendered the traditional narratives of romantic desire and marital closure inadequate, forcing Edwardian novelists to counter the limitations and ideological implications of those narratives with innovative strategies. The original and provocative novels that resulted depict the experiences of modern women with unprecedented variety, specificity, and frankness. Rebel Women is a major re-evaluation of Edwardian fiction and a significant contribution to literary history and criticism. Miller's is the best account we have, not only of Edwardian women novelists, but of early 20th-century women novelists; the measure of her achievement is that the distinction no longer seems workable. --David Trotter, The London Review of Books
The poetry of William Butler Yeats presents unusual problems for the general reader. Yeats drew heavily upon mystical and theosophical systems of a more or less arcane nature. Moreover, he often referred to events in his own life and in the history of modern Ireland which require elucidition for the non-specialist. A Reader's Guide to William Butler Yeats not only provides the background needed for an understanding of the works but also reveals the structure of images and meanings of the various lyrics.
Bestselling novelist with an enormous critical reputation takes on one of the most popular and enduring English novelists of all. The prizewinning novelist Carol Shields, whose novels have themselves been compared to the works of Jane Austen, gives us a beautifully written, perceptive look at the life of one of the finest and most popular English novelists of all time. Jane Austen spent the first 25 years of her life in Steventon and the last eight in nearby Chawton, and did most of her writing in these two places. She never married although many of her novels are about marriage, and always lived with her parents and sister Cassandra. Whilst not unaware of the larger political and social goings-on at the time, she chose a small canvas for her novels, preferring to focus on the family as a microcosm through which to explore human nature. Carol Shields has written a wonderfully observant and revealing biography of this remarkable writer whose characters are as alive today as they were two hundred years ago, when Jane Austen first gave them breath. 'An excellent biography' Mail on Sunday
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Biography
"Thoroughly absorbing, lively . . . Fuller, so misunderstood in
life, richly deserves the nuanced, compassionate portrait Marshall
paints." --" Boston Globe"
Pulitzer Prize finalist Megan Marshall recounts the trailblazing life of Margaret Fuller: Thoreau's first editor, Emerson's close friend, daring war correspondent, tragic heroine. After her untimely death in a shipwreck off Fire Island, the sense and passion of her life's work were eclipsed by scandal. Marshall's inspired narrative brings her back to indelible life.
Whether detailing her front-page "New-York Tribune" editorials
against poor conditions in the city's prisons and mental hospitals,
or illuminating her late-in-life hunger for passionate
experience--including a secret affair with a young officer in the
Roman Guard--Marshall's biography gives the most thorough and
compassionate view of an extraordinary woman. No biography of
Fuller has made her ideas so alive or her life so moving.
"Megan Marshall's brilliant "Margaret Fuller" brings us as close as we are ever likely to get to this astonishing creature. She rushes out at us from her nineteenth century, always several steps ahead, inspiring, heartbreaking, magnificent." -- Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of "Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity"
"Shaping her narrative like a novel, Marshall brings the reader as close as possible to Fuller's inner life and conveys the inspirational power she has achieved for several generations of women." --" New Republic"
Hailed as 'the indispensable critic' by The New York Review of Books, Harold Bloom has for decades been sharing with readers and students his genius and passion for understanding literature and explaining why it matters. In The Daemon Knows, he turns his attention to the writers of his own national literature in a book that is one of his most incisive and profoundly personal to date. Pairing Walt Whitman with Herman Melville, Ralph Waldo Emerson with Emily Dickinson, Nathaniel Hawthorne with Henry James, Mark Twain with Robert Frost, Wallace Stevens with T. S. Eliot, and William Faulkner with Hart Crane, Bloom places these writers' works in conversation with one another, exploring their relationship to the 'daemon'-the spark of genius or Orphic muse-in their creation, and helping us understand their writing with new immediacy and relevance. It is above all the intensity of their preoccupation with the sublime, Bloom suggests, that distinguishes these American writers from their European predecessors. A product of five years of writing and a lifetime of reading and scholarship, The Daemon Knows may be Bloom's most masterly book yet.
A fantastic reissue of Richard Holmes' epic biography of this most enigmatic and intriguing of the Romantic poets. This is simply one of the greatest biographical achievements of recent years. Shelley, the most neglected of all the great Romantic poets, was born in Sussex in 1792 and died in Tuscany in 1822, a brief life packed with love affairs, alarums and excursions. Holmes's book offers a serious and critical reappraisal of Shelley as a man and a writer; all his prose and poetry is carefully re-examined, his sense of spiritual and geographical isolation brilliantly described and a detailed portrait of his macabre imaginative life slowly assembled. Shelley's intense friendships with some of the most remarkable figures of his age fill Holmes's pages with a vivid parorama of revolutionary idealism and recklessness. To this is added the private story of Shelley's tortuous romantic liaisons, complications which affected both the peculiar tenor of his daily life and the remotest conceptions of his poetry. This is a stunning, entrancing biography of a fascinating subject, and a timely reissue of an absolutely seminal work.
The public debate on abortion stretches back much further than Roe v. Wade, to long before the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life" were ever invented. Yet the ways Americans discussed abortion in the early decades of the twentieth century had little in common with our now-entrenched debates about personal responsibility and individual autonomy. Abortion in the American Imagination returns to the moment when American writers first dared to broach the controversial subject of abortion. What was once a topic avoided by polite society, only discussed in vague euphemisms behind closed doors, suddenly became open to vigorous public debate as it was represented everywhere from sensationalistic melodramas to treatises on social reform. Literary scholar and cultural historian Karen Weingarten shows how these discussions were remarkably fluid and far-ranging, touching upon issues of eugenics, economics, race, and gender roles. Weingarten traces the discourses on abortion across a wide array of media, putting fiction by canonical writers like William Faulkner, Edith Wharton, and Langston Hughes into conversation with the era's films, newspaper articles, and activist rhetoric. By doing so, she exposes not only the ways that public perceptions of abortion changed over the course of the twentieth century, but also the ways in which these abortion debates shaped our very sense of what it means to be an American.
The Woodlanders (1887) was Thomas Hardy's elventh published novel and the one he claimed to like 'as a story, the best of all'. It is a story of wide appeal, having much to say on themes such as marriage and social class, and with a background revealing its author's profound knowledge and appreciation of many matters, particularly nature and country life. As part of The Cambridge Edition of the Novels and Stories of Thomas Hardy, this edition of the novel provides an authoritative and accurate text which aims to reflect Hardy's original artistic intention and represent the novel as it would have been read by his Victorian readers. The novel is supported by a comprehensive introduction, chronology and accompanying textual apparatus which allows the modern reader to trace the novel's evolution from composition to first publication and through several stages of revision in succeeding editions in the quarter of a century following its first publication.
Showcasing the genius of Russian literature, art, music, and dance over a century of turmoil, within the dynamic cultural ecosystem that shaped it, The Firebird and the Fox explores the shared traditions, mutual influences and enduring themes that recur in these art forms. The book uses two emblematic characters from Russian culture - the firebird, symbol of the transcendent power of art in defiance of circumstance and the efforts of censors to contain creativity; and the fox, usually female and representing wit, cleverness and the agency of artists and everyone who triumphs over adversity - to explore how Russian cultural life changed between 1850 and 1950. Jeffrey Brooks reveals how high culture drew on folk and popular genres, then in turn influenced an expanding commercial culture. Richly illustrated, The Firebird and the Fox assuredly and imaginatively navigates the complex terrain of this eventful century.
'Magnificent. Beautifully written, immaculately researched and thoroughly absorbing from start to finish. A tour de force that explains how Europe's cultural life transformed during the course of the 19th century - and so much more' Peter Frankopan From the bestselling author of Natasha's Dance, The Europeans is richly enthralling, panoramic cultural history of nineteenth-century Europe, told through the intertwined lives of three remarkable people: a great singer, Pauline Viardot, a great writer, Ivan Turgenev, and a great connoisseur, Pauline's husband Louis. Their passionate, ambitious lives were bound up with an astonishing array of writers, composers and painters all trying to make their way through the exciting, prosperous and genuinely pan-European culture that came about as a result of huge economic and technological change. This culture - through trains, telegraphs and printing - allowed artists of all kinds to exchange ideas and make a living, shuttling back and forth across the whole continent from the British Isles to Imperial Russia, as they exploited a new cosmopolitan age. The Europeans is Orlando Figes' masterpiece. Surprising, beautifully written, it describes huge changes through intimate details, little-known stories and through the lens of Turgenev and the Viardots' touching, strange love triangle. Events which we now see as central to European high culture are made completely fresh, allowing the reader to revel in the sheer precariousness with which the great salons, premieres and bestsellers came into existence.
Tracing the history of the Catholic-authored novel in nineteenth-century Ireland, Emer Nolan offers a unique tour of Ireland's literary landscape from its early origins during the Catholic political resurgence of the 1820s to the transformative zenith brought on by James Joyce's Ulysses in 1922. Nolan observes that contemporary Irish literature is steeped in the ambitions and internal conflicts of a previously captive Irish Catholic culture that came into its own with the narrative art form. She offers a major reassessment of such figures as Thomas Moore, George Moore, and Charles Kickham and of sentimental fiction in nineteenth-century Ireland. With keen insight and deft arguments, Nolan presents a highly original exploration of James Joyce and his relationship to his nineteenth-century Irish Catholic predecessors. At once provocative and enlightening, Catholic Emancipations is an invaluable addition to the fields of Irish studies, Joyce studies, and the nineteenth-century novel.
An exuberant and entertaining biography of Charles Dickens that captures the essence of the great novelist. Simon Callow`s sparkling biography explores the central importance of the theatre to the life of the greatest storyteller in the English language. From his early years as a child entertainer in Portsmouth to his reluctant retirement from `these garish lights' just before his death, Dickens was obsessed with the stage. Not only was he a dazzling mimic who wrote, acted in and stage-managed plays, all with fanatical perfectionism; as a writer he was a compulsive performer, whose very imagination was theatrical, both in terms of plot devices and construction of character. Like many actors, Dickens felt the need to be completed by contact with his audience. He was the original `celebrity' author, who attracted thousands of adoring fans to his readings in Britain and across the Atlantic, in which he gave voice to his unforgettable cast of characters. In Charles Dickens, Callow brings his own unique insight to a life driven by performance and showmanship. He reveals an exuberant and irrepressible talent, whose `inimitable' wit and personality crackle off the page.
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