Cover image for Dickens
Ackroyd, Peter, 1949-
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : HarperCollins, [1990]

Physical Description:
xvi, 1195 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations, portraits ; 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PR4581 .A6 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PR4581 .A6 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PR4581 .A6 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating
PR4581 .A6 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
PR4581 .A6 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Biography
PR4581 .A6 1990 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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From one of England's literary masters, a monumental biography of Dickens worthy of standing beside Painter's Marcel Proust and Ellman's James Joyce. Ackroyd constructs a stunning life and times work of Dickens, depicting 19th century London as one of Dickens' own novels. 32 pages of illustrations.

Author Notes

Peter Ackroyd was born in London in 1949. He graduated from Cambridge University and was a Fellow at Yale (1971-1973). A critically acclaimed and versatile writer, Ackroyd began his career while at Yale, publishing two volumes of poetry. He continued writing poetry until he began delving into historical fiction with The Great Fire of London (1982).

A constant theme in Ackroyd's work is the blending of past, present, and future, often paralleling the two in his biographies and novels. Much of Ackroyd's work explores the lives of celebrated authors such as Dickens, Milton, Eliot, Blake, and More. Ackroyd's approach is unusual, injecting imagined material into traditional biographies. In The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde (1983), his work takes on an autobiographical form in his account of Wilde's final years. He was widely praised for his believable imitation of Wilde's style. He was awarded the British Whitbread Award for biography in 1984 of T.S. Eliot, and the Whitbread Award for fiction in 1985 for his novel Hawksmoor.

Ackroyd currently lives in London and publishes one or two books a year. He still considers poetry to be his first love, seeing his novels as an extension of earlier poetic work.

(Bowker Author Biography) Peter Ackroyd is the award-winning author of four biographies, most recently the national bestseller "The Life of Thomas More", as well as ten novels, including "Chatterton" & "Hawksmoor". He lives in London, where he is at work on his next book, "London: The Biography.

(Publisher Provided) Peter Ackroyd is a bestselling writer of both fiction and nonfiction. He lives in London.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Ackroyd ( The Last Testament of Oscar Wilde ) is a master biographer with a seductive prose style, and this massive volume is likely to stand as the Dickens biography for decades to come. Ackroyd moves around with authority in the world of the ebullient, ambitious, insecure, haunted, theatrical genius, which is also the world of early and mid-Victorian England assimilated and transformed to a stupefying degree. We read about Dickens's penurious and painful childhood; the triumphant reception of his first novel, The Pickwick Papers ; the prodigious flow of subsequent novels which, though increasingly somber in tone, continued to reflect a mind whose primary reaction to experience was anarchic laughter; the two trips to America, for the most part wildly successful; the scandal surrounding Dickens's desertion of his wife. And Ackroyd pinpoints Dickens's two great innovations: he was the first to introduce the language of the romantic poets into the novel; and his dramatic public readings from his novels constituted a new art form. Illustrations. Major ad/promo; BOMC main selection. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

``Dickens saw reality as a reflection of his own fiction,'' contends Ackroyd, novelist and biographer of T.S. Eliot ( T.S. Eliot: A Life , LJ 11/15/84) and Ezra Pound ( Ezra Pound , Thames & Hudson, 1987). This massive life and times attempts to re-create Dickens's internal and external realities. Ackroyd makes better use of the autobiographical memoranda first published in John Forster's Life (1872-74) than did Edgar Johnson in his Charles Dickens (S. & S., 1952), and the interweaving of critical comments with his presentation of Dickens's personal and social preoccupations often yields more insights than does Johnson's technique of interlarded essays. The same vast mental and physical energies that led Dickens to triumph drove him to an obsessive need for total control of all aspects of his personal and professional life. Furthermore, his sensibility was formed in a pre-Victorian England that was often squalid and brutal, and which frequently relied on role-playing as a guide to conduct. Ackroyd's great strength is his ability to draw the reader into a sensory apprehension of this world. A lack of footnotes will keep scholars turning to Johnson and Fred Kaplan's shorter and far less evocative Dickens: A Life ( LJ 9/1/88), but this engrossing work is enthusiastically recommended for academic and large public libraries.-- Barbara J. Dunlap, City Coll., CUNY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Peter Ackroyd's biography promises a great deal, for the author states in an interview inserted into the text that he read everything Dickens wrote, including all of the letters, as well as most of the critical material. This book is disappointing, however, in a number of ways. The author almost invariably refuses to take a stand on the controversies of Dickens's life, such as the question of the relations between the novelist and Ellen Ternan; instead, he summarizes the arguments and evidence on each side, leaving the final decision up to the reader. Also, unlike scholarly biographies, such as Edgar Johnson's Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph (2v., 1952), which are carefully documented, this book uses no footnotes, but merely provides a bibliographical essay for each chapter with general references to the sources. The volume does bring together many views, particularly the contribution of Dickens's mother to the development of the writer. In spite of its many weaknesses, the book is an excellent introduction for readers new to Dickens's life and work and will be of interest to scholars. -J. D. Vann, University of North Texas