Younger subscribers to DICKNS-L will not recall the thrill
of admiration that lovers of Dickens, and particularly Americans among
them, experienced in 1953 when Edgar Johnson published his two-volume
life _Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph_. Here was a work
achieved by a busy, teaching academic scholar that had swept all other
biographical work on Dickens out of consideration and had done
nothing less than brought Forster's monumental work up to date while
meeting the highest standards of research and writing.
Critical acclaim came from every review and from every order of reader
both here and abroad. I recall long notices from Charles Robinson and
Lionel Trilling and the marvelously ungrudging admiration of Kathleen
Tillotson. Johnson had brought Dickens, both the man and the work, to
the stunned attention of the literary world.
Of Johnson himself, and of the breadth of his career, I am
incompetent to speak. I met him just once, at a post-MLA party at
the City University Graduate Center. He was famous and his manner
was both cordial and somewhat distant. Others crowded in with
questions and compliments.
Johnson's death, noticed in the _New York Times_ about a
week ago, made me think that some of you who knew him and his
achievements might be willing to make your thoughts and
memories available to us all? I am sure many of us would be
glad to have them.
Patrick M., UC Santa Barbara