From The Telegraph:
‘The history of the Victorian age will never be written,” Lytton Strachey announced at the start of his waspish clutch of biographical sketches Eminent Victorians, not because of what has fallen between the cracks of the historical record, but because “we know too much about it”. The same is true of Dickens’s life, which has often been treated as the pivot around which the Victorian age revolved. From the spelling mistake on his birth certificate, to the neatly folded notes he left for his children if they used bad language, every document has been filleted for facts, every stray anecdote transformed into a revealing flash of personality. As with Shakespeare, his only serious rival for the title of the nation’s favourite author, the books, articles and blogs about him have multiplied to the extent that nobody can possibly read them all. Attempting then to write about him is like trying to cut up a blue whale with a penknife.
That doesn’t stop us trying. Next week sees the publication of my new biography Becoming Dickens, in which I investigate how in the space of five years an unknown reporter became the most famous novelist in the world. Within a few days it will be joined by Claire Tomalin’s cradle-to-grave Charles Dickens: a Life and Lucinda Hawksley’s more compact Charles Dickens, and later by Simon Callow’s book on Dickens’s love of the theatre. They will be followed by several documentaries, glossy BBC adaptations of Great Expectations and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and a film about his lengthy secret affair with the actress Ellen Ternan. In 2012, his bicentenary year, Dickens’s face will be everywhere, his presence inescapable.