a fearful man


Fame came early to Charles Dickens, and friends and enemies alike recorded their memories and hoarded his letters, so that we now have one of the richest and most alluring of literary archives to mine. Most of his manuscripts and proofs survive, as do more than 15,000 letters, many of incomparable wit and vivacity. We know the games Dickens played as a boy, what he wore (bright colours, flashy waistcoats), what he liked to drink (the cellar-book survives), the cases he reported as a young lawyer’s clerk, the names of his father’s creditors and the books he read at the British Museum Reading Room. In later life, he couldn’t buy a pair of silk stockings in Hull without the fact being recorded for posterity and scholars deducing whose legs they were intended for.

more from John Bowen at the TLS here.