Thanks to the Dickens-ellers who joined in on the
question of what a new kid on the block might best read for a
Dickens biography. Now Rod Stenlake and, plaintively, Leon
Litvack lament that both the Edgar Johnson (original and paper-back)
and the Fred Kaplan are out of print. Oh, tempora; Oh, mores; as
Cicero--an avid admirer of Dickens--surely would have lamented.
But laments aside for the moment, whatever happened to
the useful question asked of the list by William Claspy? What
reading would we "recommend for someone just getting his feet
wet in Dickens scholarship who wants to see where things stand
I suspect that the phrase "these days" stopped some
would-be respondents in their tracks. Did Claspy need to know about
classical works of 20th-century Dickens scholarship like John Butt's
and Kathleen Tillotson's DICKENS AT WORK or George Ford's
DICKENS AND HIS READERS? Did he know that the Pilgrim Edition
of the Dickens's letters--now about to produce its eighth
volume--is splendid in every meaningful scholarly regard (not to
mention unmeaningful regards)? Every book I have read on Dickens for
twenty years has drawn information from its text and superlative notes.
Apt mention has been made of Kathryn Chittick's 1990 DICKENS
AND THE 1880s (1990), an admirable work, I quite agree, and a lively
read as well. But this is to mention only one work in a tried and
true traditional vein. And mentioning just one of several might
seem to neglect other fine books--some of them written by subscribers
to our list, whom, Heaven forfend, we would not want to OFfend! And
yet others of us may not want to join in recommending lest they
miff people they know. Count me among all the above!
All understandable. Also, of course, many books are
written with a special rather than a general focus, and some
are written to explore a literary or political theory as it
applies to Dickens. And so recommendations were withheld.
But let me phrase Claspy's question differently.
What work on Dickens published in the last decade have you
thoroughly enjoyed reading and would recommend to a student
or friend? I'll begin with three, published two years apart:
Badri Raina's DICKENS AND THE DIALECTIC OF GROWTH (1986), Janet
Larson's DICKENS AND THE BROKEN SCRIPTURE (1988, and Paul
Davis's THE LIVES AND TIMES OF EBENEEZER SCROOGE (1990).
Your tyrannical editor,