A Tale of Two Biographies

February 2012 marks the bicentennial of Charles Dickens' birth, an anniversary to be heralded around the world by fans of big fat Victorian novels. Leading the way are two new biographies: Claire Tomalin's Charles Dickens: A Life, a robust portrait of the artist from the best of times to the worst of times, and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst's Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist, which focuses on Dickens' rise in the 1830s. (Dickens' first novel, the comic romp The Pickwick Papers, was published serially in 1836 and '37.) A slew of exhibitions and performances marking the bicentennial are planned; with these books...

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