Books: Boz Will Be Boz

THE WORLD OF CHARLES DICKENS by Angus Wilson. 302 pages. Viking Press. $12.95.

When Fyodor Dostoevsky was sentenced to four years in a Siberian labor camp, he requested only one kind of reading matter: books by Dickens. In mid-19th century New York, ships arriving with the latest installment of Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop were met by anxious cries from the dock: "Is Little Nell dead?"

For a writer, such fame was unprecedented then, and has been unimaginable since. Not just fame, either, but ardor and devotion. In The World of Charles Dickens,...

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