Charles Dickens

by Simon Callow

Biography / Autobiography

LoveReading View on Charles Dickens

Having played Dickens and given memorable accounts of the great “Readings”, Simon Callow is ideally placed to write this biography that focuses on Dickens theatrical side. We are reminded how easily Dickens the novelist was nearly lost to the professional theatre but that acting and  his later solo performances of his own work were packed into an already crowded life. Having read many biographies of the great man, I did start this thinking what else can Simon Callow tell me, but there are plenty of new – and overlooked references, new ways of looking at the established facts too, he is particularly good on the infamous letter Dickens wrote on the state of his marriage.

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Charles Dickens Synopsis

An exuberant and entertaining biography of Charles Dickens that captures the essence of the great novelist. Simon Callow's sparkling biography explores the central importance of the theatre to the life of the greatest storyteller in the English language. From his early years as a child entertainer in Portsmouth to his reluctant retirement from 'these garish lights' just before his death, Dickens was obsessed with the stage. Not only was he a dazzling mimic who wrote, acted in and stage-managed plays, all with fanatical perfectionism; as a writer he was a compulsive performer, whose very imagination was theatrical, both in terms of plot devices and construction of character. Like many actors, Dickens felt the need to be completed by contact with his audience. He was the original 'celebrity' author, who attracted thousands of adoring fans to his readings in Britain and across the Atlantic, in which he gave voice to his unforgettable cast of characters. In Charles Dickens, Callow brings his own unique insight to a life driven by performance and showmanship. He reveals an exuberant and irrepressible talent, whose 'inimitable' wit and personality crackle off the page.

Charles Dickens Press Reviews

'This is the book we have long been waiting for and only Simon Callow could have written it. The theatre was central to Dickens's life, and it needed a skilled biographer to do justice to the subject. Simon Callow rises superbly to the challenge and the result is a marvellous book that really deepens and enriches our understanding and enjoyment of Dickens.'
Michael Slater

'A comprehensive biography as enthralling as one of his own performances ... A great achievement.'
Catherine Peters, Literary Review

'Vivid and exuberant... This book, with its fresh angles and out-of-the-way sources, is the harvest of [Callow's] dedication [to impersonating Dickens on stage]... His book is a celebration, jubilant, vigorous, imaginative, and, as Dickens might have said, an all-round sizzler.'
John Carey, Sunday Times

'Callow ... writes with great authority and elegant insouciance, which makes this biography with a twist very entertaining.'
Independent on Sunday

'By his enthusiasm for his subject, Callow has ensured that his book is a worthy addition to the Dickens studies.'
Sunday Express

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9780007445318
Publication date: 30/08/2012
Publisher: HarperPress an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9780007445318
Publication date: 30th August 2012
Author: Simon Callow
Publisher: HarperPress an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 384 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography,
Categories: Biography: literary, Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900 ,

About Simon Callow

Simon Callow is an actor, director and writer. He has appeared in many films, including the hugely popular Four Weddings and a Funeral. Callow's books include Being an Actor, Shooting the Actor, a highly acclaimed biography of Charles Laughton, a biographical trilogy of Orson Welles (of which the first two parts have now been published) and Love is Where it Falls, an account of his friendship with the great play agent, Peggy Ramsay.

More About Simon Callow

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