CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)
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CHARLES DICKENS (1812-1870)
THE VICTORIAN NOVEL
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CHARLES DICKENS' LIFE

 

Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic who is generally considered to be the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. He was the creator of a panoply of memorable characters. During his lifetime Dickens' works enjoyed unprecedented popularity and fame, and they remain popular today. It was in the twentieth century, however, that his literary genius was fully recognized by critics and scholars.

Starting with the Pickwick Papers, Dickens wrote his novels for publication in instalments, and played a pioneering role in popularizing the serial literature which was to become the Victorian mode for publishing fiction. The instalment format meant that feedback from his audience could often affect the the development of the plot and his characters. Though carefully designing his plots, Dickens would often weave into them elements harvested from topical events being reported while he was working on his manuscripts. The practice of monthly instalments won a new reading class as masses of the poor who chip in pennies to have each new episode read to them. His novels and short stories have enjoyed an enduring popularity among the general reading public.

Dickens was regarded as the 'literary colossus' of his age. His creative genius has been praised by fellow writers, from Leo Tolstoy to G. K. Chesterton and George Orwell for its realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. Others have been dismissive: Henry James thought his novels betrayed a 'cavalier organisation', that his characters lacked psychological depth, and denied him a premier position as an artist, calling him 'the greatest of superficial novelists.' Virginia Woolf had a love-hate relationship with his works, finding his novels 'mesmerizing' while reproving him for his sentimentalism and a commonplace style.

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