Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist

Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist

by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst


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Becoming Dickens tells the story of how an ambitious young Londoner became England's greatest novelist. In following the twists and turns of Charles Dickens's early career, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst examines a remarkable double transformation: in reinventing himself Dickens reinvented the form of the novel. It was a high-stakes gamble, and Dickens never forgot how differently things could have turned out. Like the hero of Dombey and Son, he remained haunted by "what might have been, and what was not."

In his own lifetime, Dickens was without rivals. He styled himself simply "The Inimitable." But he was not always confident about his standing in the world. From his traumatized childhood to the suicide of his first collaborator and the sudden death of the woman who had a good claim to being the love of his life, Dickens faced powerful obstacles. Before settling on the profession of novelist, he tried his hand at the law and journalism, considered a career in acting, and even contemplated emigrating to the West Indies. Yet with The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and a groundbreaking series of plays, sketches, and articles, he succeeded in turning every potential breakdown into a breakthrough.

Douglas-Fairhurst's provocative new biography, focused on the 1830s, portrays a restless and uncertain Dickens who could not decide on the career path he should take and would never feel secure in his considerable achievements.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674072237
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 05/13/2013
Pages: 400
Sales rank: 1,083,105
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst is Professor of English Literature and a Fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford.

What People are Saying About This

Harold Bloom

Rightly rejecting familiar accounts of Dickens's life, Douglas-Fairhurst's biography shows us the forlorn and driven young Dickens, restless and uncertain, who could not yet choose what was to become his inevitable mode of composing fiction. I recommend it highly.

David Paroissien

Douglas-Fairhurst offers an original perspective on Dickens's early life and writing as Dickens works through the choices before him in pursuit of a voice and style he could confidently claim as his own…. a fresh and insightful study, moving and exceptionally well-written… a book to be valued by a range of readers, and one certain to stand the test of time.
David Paroissien, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

John Bowen

Becoming Dickens never takes Dickens for granted, but helps us to be surprised--shocked even--that he existed, worked and wrote in the way that he did. This counterfactual emphasis gives the book breathing space and a sense of play that is too often missing from more orthodoxly organized biographies.
John Bowen, University of York

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