Is there room on the shelf for another book about Charles Dickens? The great novelist has been endlessly scrutinized by critics and biographers, bowdlerized on level and screen, and lionized by way of generations of readers considering that his death one hundred fifty years ago. A.N. Wilson, the celebrated British biographer of many eminent Victorians (inclusive of Queen Victoria herself), now lends his information and singular attitude in The Mystery of Charles Dickens.
Rather than supplying a straightforward, linear biography, Wilson explores Dickens’ lifestyles and work through the prism of seven “mysteries” that fashioned the elusive writer. “Dickens, as an actor and a novelist, and as a person, turned into a man of masks,” Wilson suggests, “who probably never discovered himself to anyone; pretty conceivably, he did not reveal himself to himself.” The rich narrative starts offevolved with Dickens’ closing public deception: Even within the throes of dying from a stroke in June 1870, he diligently saved the lifestyles of his lengthy-time period extramarital relationship with actress Nelly Ternan from the adoring eyes of the public. Next, Wilson seems on the mysteries of Dickens’ parents—his intricate courting with his father and his fraught feelings in the direction of his mother—and how the depiction of childhood in his fiction reflects an ideal rather than a reality. Similarly, his disastrous marriage changed into marked by using non-public cruelty that belied his magnanimous public persona. The writer’s substantial acts of charity, performed largely anonymously, were complicated as well. Wilson shows that Dickens likely partook within the services of prostitutes even as he supported organizations tasked with putting these women on the straight and narrow.
It has lengthy been stated how tons Dickens’ fiction drew on real lifestyles, both his own and the wider world he observed, but Wilson convinces readers that Dickens’ loved fictional vision, each comedian and condemning, was a creation of the writer’s imagination, no longer grounded in realism like Balzac. It is a romanticized photo of 19th-century reality. Wilson brings dazzling, far-accomplishing erudition to this study, drawing on unexpected, from time to time arcane resources to paint a portrait with brilliant intensity and nuance.