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Landport 7 Feb. 1812 - Rochester 9 June 1870 • English novelist
|Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth on February 7, 1812, the first son of John and Elizabeth Dickens. His family moved often throughout his childhood, living variously in Chatham, Kent and Camden Town, London. In 1824, his father was sent to Marshalsea Debtors' Prison for three months, and the young Dickens was forced to work six months labeling bottles at Warren's Blacking warehouse.
Following the completion of his formal education in 1827, Dickens went to work for various London legal firms and became a solicitor's clerk. At eighteen, Dickens met Maria Beadnell whom he courted unsuccessfully until 1833. The episode left a deep impression on Dickens who subsequently based the character of Dora in David Copperfield and Estella in Great Expectations on Maria. In 1836, Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of a prominent theater and music critic. That same year he also met John Forster, his literary advisor and future biographer, and began serialization of his first novel The Pickwick Papers. Dickens was hired to edit 'Bentley's Miscellany' where his novel Oliver Twist was serialized over a period of two years (1837-9). This work as an editor and fiction writer continued throughout the rest of his life. Dickens achieved tangible success in the coming years by publishing Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop and Barnaby Rudge.
Dickens made his first visit to North America in 1842, a trip he later recorded in American Notes. In December of that year, Dickens published his immortal holiday tale, A Christmas
| Carol, completing the text in a space of two months. The story proved to be an enormous success with the general public, was dramatized and represented the first of many Christmas stories he would write over the years. At the close of the 1840's Dickens published Dombey and Son and began serialization of his novel, David Copperfield. These novels were followed by Bleak House (1853). From this time onwards, Dickens maintained a furious public reading schedule that proved to be a great popular and financial success.
In the spring of 1859, he initiated a new magazine 'All the Year Round', which began serialization of A Tale of Two Cities in weekly installments. In the fall of 1860, Dickens, now separated from his wife but with custody of all but one of his children, began work on Great Expectations. His last two novels were Our Mutual Friend (1865) and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished at his death. In the fall of 1867, Dickens visited the United States again where he gave readings and visited with Longfellow, Emerson, and President Andrew Johnson. The following fall he began, what would prove to be, his farewell reading tour of England. On June 9, 1870, Dickens died of a cerebral hemorrhage, leaving an estate of 93,000 pounds. His wish to be buried "in the small graveyard under Rochester Castle wall" and "in an inexpensive, unostentatious, and strictly private manner" went unheeded, as a tomb in Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey was prepared and the entire nation mourned.
|ON DICKENS' BOOKSHELF|
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, 1605 / 1615
A comic study of delusion and its consequences; Don Quixote, the old gentleman of La Mancha, takes to the road in search of adventure and remains undaunted in the face of repeated disaster.
Henry Fielding, 1749
The protagonist, Tom Jones, is introduced to the reader as a ward of a liberal Somerset squire, appearing a generous but slightly wild and reckless boy. Misfortune, followed by many spirited adventures as he travels to London to seek his fortune, teach Tom wisdom to go with his good-heartedness.
The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman
Laurence Sterne, 1759-1767
Part novel, part digression, this gloriously disordered narrative interweaves the birth and life of the unfortunate 'hero' Tristram Shandy, the eccentric philosophy of his father Walter, the amours and military obsessions of Uncle Toby, and a host of other characters.
Volpone: Or, The Fox
Ben Jonson, 1606
A rich Venetian pretends to be dying so that his despised friends will flock to his bedside with gifts in the hope of an inheritance.
Ben Jonson, 1610
Seventeenth-century comedy about three swindlers.
Arabian Nights: Book of The Thousand Nights and One Night
Anonymous, 14e eeuw
Originating from India, Persia and Arabia, these tales represent the lively expression of a lay and secular imagination in revolt against religious austerity and zeal in Oriental literature. They depict a fabulous and fanciful world of jinns and sorcerers, but their bawdiness, realism and variety of subject matter also firmly anchor them to everyday life.
Sir Walter Scott, 1823
Quentin Durward is a young Scotsman seeking fame and fortune in the France of Louis XI in the 14th century. Walter Scott represents his ignorance and naivete as useful to 'the most sagacious prince of Europe' who needs servants motivated solely by the desire for coin and credit.
Sir Walter Scott, 1817
This novel is set in the north of England and Scotland in the years before, during and after the first Jacobite rising in 1715. Rob Roy is a swashbuckling chieftain of the clan MacGregor who is forced to become an outlaw for his alleged espousal of the Jacobite cause.
The French Revolution
Thomas Carlyle, 1837
The classic history of the origins, events, and results of the French Revolution from 1774 to 1795.
|BOOKS BY CHARLES DICKENS:|
A savage, but often comic, indictment of a society that is rotten to the core, Bleak House is one of Dickens' s most ambitious novels, with a range that extends from the drawing rooms of the aristocracy to the poorest of London slums.
|WHAT TO READ AFTER BLEAK HOUSE?|
'NOVELS OF MANNERS' BY 19TH-CENTURY DICKENSIANS
The Wind in the Willows
Kenneth Grahame, 1908
The tales of Ratty, Mole, Badger and Toad. When Mole goes boating with the Water Rat instead of spring-cleaning, he discovers a new world. As well as the river and the Wild Wood, there is Toad's craze for fast travel which leads him and his friends on a whirl of trains, barges, gipsy caravans and motor cars and even into battle.
Jacob van Lennep, 1865-1866
Foundling grows up in Dutch class society.
Victor Hugo, 1862
France in the first quarter of the 19th century: Jean Valjean, a poor man, steals a loaf of bread and then spends years trying to escape his reputation as a criminal. In later years he rises to become a respectable member of society; but policeman Javert will not allow him to forget his past.
Fyodor M. Dostoyevsky, 1871-1872
A powerful political tract and a profound study of atheism, depicting the disarray which follows the appearance of a band of modish radicals in a small provincial town. (Also published as The Possessed and The Devils)
The overconfident violin-maker Vedder and his nephew Anijs, a country pharmacist, walk into a trap of their own making.
The Bonfire of the Vanities
Tom Wolfe, 1987
One night in the Bronx a millionaire, Sherman McCoy, and his mistress have an accident. The next day a young black man is in the hospital in a coma, as McCoy heads for disaster. His humiliation is at the centre of a satire on the decaying class, racial and political structure of New York in the 1980s.
The Road to Wellville
T.C. Boyle, 1981
An account of: Dr John Harvey Kellogg, inventor of the cornflake and peanut butter; his profligate, degenerate and opportunistic son; and the birth of America's first health fanatics.
The Cider House Rules
John Irving, 1985
Set in the rural town of Maine, this tale follows the bizarre story of Hormer Wells, from his apprenticeship in the orphanage surgery to his adult life running a cider-making factory and the strange relationship he has with his wife's best friend.
The Great Fire of London
Peter Ackroyd, 1982
Ackroyd's first novel, The Great Fire of London, is a reworking of Dickens' Little Dorrit.
Charles Palliser, 1989
A complicated tale of a codacil containing a crucial entail, the possible existence of a second will, and a multiplicity of characters - all mysteriously related - seeking to establish their claims to a vast and ancient estate.
Peter Carey, 1997
Jack Maggs, raised and deported as a criminal, has returned from Australia in secret and at great risk. What does he want after all these years, and why is he so interested in the comings and goings at a plush town-house in Great Queen Street?
As with most of Dickens' work, Oliver Twist directs the public's attention to various contemporary social evils, including the workhouse, child labour and the recruitment of children as criminals. Full of sarcasm and dark humour, it's greatest triumph was perhaps to reveal the hypocrisies of the time.
|The Old Curiosity Shop |
A frequently and deliberately sentimental story of pursuit and courage in adversity, of malevolent and vile villains and the plucky and downtrodden characters who oppose them and their evil actions.
The 'widow and orphan novels'.
Portrait of the artist as an outcast.
'Dark period novels'
Village boy has mysterious benefactor.
|Our Mutual Friend|
'Dark period novels'
A satiric masterpiece about the allure and peril of money, Our Mutual Friend revolves around the inheritance of a dust-heap where the rich throw their trash.
|A Christmas Carol|
Scrooge, the most miserly of all misers, is shown the true meaning of Christmas by four ghostly visitors -- his partner Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet To Come. By Christmas day, he has learnt his lesson and is willing to enter into the spirit of things.
|Cricket on the Hearth|
|The Haunted Man|
|The Pickwick Papers|
published in monthly installments March 1836 - Oct 1837
"The Pickwick Papers" began as a literary spoof centred around sketches by caricaturist Robert Seymour. Charles Dickens was recruited to compose the words to accompany the illustrations. This tale is a journey from innocence to experience by the portly middle aged hero and his guide and mentor.
|A Tale of Two Cities|
'A Tale of Two Cities has the best of Dickens and the worst of Dickens: a dark, driven opening, and a celestial but melodramatic ending; a terrifyingly demonic villainess and (even by Dickens’ standards) an impossibly angelic heroine.'
- Simon Schama
editor-in-chief: Stacey Knecht, firstname.lastname@example.org
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