Who's Who in Dickens

Who's Who in Dickens

Who's Who in Dickens

Who's Who in Dickens

Synopsis

Who's Who in Dickens is an accessible guide to the many characters in Charles Dickens' fiction. Dickens' characters are strikingly portrayed and have become a vital part of our cultural heritage - Scrooge has become a by-word for stinginess, Uriah Heep for unctuousness. From the much loved Oliver Twist to the fact-grubbing Mr Gradgrind, the obstinate Martin Chuzzlewit to the embittered Miss Havisham, this book covers the famous and lesser known characters in Dickens. Who's Who in Dickens provides: * an easy-to-use A-Z layout * physical and psychological profiles of the characters * a critical look at his characters by past and present influential commentators * a list of characters and works in which they have appeared * over forty illustrations of major characters drawn by Dickens' contemporaries

Excerpt

For many years, there has been a demand for books guiding readers through Charles Dickens’s works. Dickens died in 1870 and 1878 saw the first publication to list and briefly describe the characters found in his books. Many such publications have followed. Dickens students and collectors know, to their frustration and to their cost, how quickly such works are snapped up when they become available, new or secondhand, and how well they hold their value, or indeed increase it. Paradoxically, a number of rare Dickens reference books of the past now cost the buyer more than first editions of some of the novels, a sign of just how useful readers find such works.

Dr Hawes’s book will recommend itself to students because it is available, portable and affordable. But that is not all there is to recommend it. The predecessor, long out of print, to which it can most directly be compared is John Greaves’s 1972 volume, also called Who’s Who in Dickens. There is no denying the usefulness of the Greaves book, but Dr Hawes’s book covers more of the fiction: the Christmas Stories, for instance, tales like ‘George Silverman’s Explanation’ and ‘Hunted Down’, the children’s stories which comprise ‘A Holiday Romance’, and ‘The Mudfog Papers’. It covers material we might hesitate to classify as fiction, such as ‘The Pantomime of Life’ and The Uncommercial Traveller. It covers Dickens’s plays and collaborative works such as some of the Christmas Stories and Mr Nightingale’s Diary.

Dr Hawes’s Who’s Who in Dickens has the additional value of offering the reader scholarly background information, and critical judgements. School students and undergraduates with writing assignments can study entries, and use them as springboards for essays. General readers can discover the experiences that lie behind some of Dickens’s creations, and how others have responded to them. Specialist scholars can quickly and conveniently remind themselves of such details. All will benefit from the way entries for characters from the longer works list each chapter in which the character appears or is mentioned. More than forty illustrations show how characters were understood by contemporaries and near contemporaries of Dickens.

One expert has identified more than 13,000 characters in Dickens’s works. To include all of them in a book of this size would be to provide little more than a bare list. Through judicious selection, through the provision of background information and stimulating judgements, Dr Hawes has produced a book of great practical usefulness. Who’s Who in Dickens is a valuable addition to the corpus of reference works on Dickens. Students and lovers of Dickens’s works will find that it meets a clear need.

David Parker

Curator of the Dickens House Museum

London

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