Book Review: Dickens: A Biography by Fred Kaplan (Three Stars)


Book Review: Dickens: A Biography by Fred Kaplan

(Three Stars)

“He took special pleasure in disappointing expectations.”

A monumental work, in both the positive and negative senses. Like many modern biographers, Kaplan includes all manner of trivia and tangential material to pad the overall product. The result is boring to read, but fascinating to reflect on.

William Gladstone reported Dickens remarked that while his “faith in the people governing, is, on the whole, infinitesimal; my faith in The People governed is on the whole illimitable.”

“All crisis was a spur to creativity, all fiction a mirror of imaginative distortion in which the model of his own life became a portrait of his culture and his world.”

Charles Dickens was that rare man who was lionized by his contemporaries, private and public. He had a hard life, chronicled in his many semi-autobiographical novels; he had great popularity and success. Many friends adored him; most of his family disappointed him. Kaplan reports he led a double or triple life, keeping his personal thoughts and activities private while publicizing a self-made image and life which was at least partly fictitious.

“Generous when unchallenged, his notion of compromise was total victory.”

He could bear a grunge, and he lived long enough to rewrite the history of himself and many around him.

“These are the ways of Providence, of which ways all art is but a little imitation.” Charles Dickens

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Dickens: A Biography by Fred Kaplan (Three Stars)

  1. I suppose the boring parts gave it the three stars. I’m guessing the word count was low and much wasn’t revealed about his second and third lives. Thanks.

  2. The word-count was astronomical, much of it only tangential to Dickens.

    Lots is revealed about his alternate lives, and lots not. At least Kaplan was honest enough to say, “We can’t be sure,” but ….

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