Books: A Tale of Two Dickenses

CHARLES DICKENS: HIS TRAGEDY AND TRIUMPH (1,158 pp.)—Edgar Johnson—Simon & Schuster ($10).

For all its 1,158 pages, Edgar Johnson's critical biography of Charles Dickens is the definitive treatment of Dickens only in the sense that a vacuum cleaner is the definitive treatment for a rug. Seven years of earnest scholarship together with access to much fresh Dickens material have enabled Biographer Johnson to pick up every fact worth knowing about his hero. As biography, his book is complete, conscientious and fleetingly dramatic. As criticism, it is a hothanded fan letter posing as a...

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