The Life of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. As the 200th anniversary of his the author’s birth approaches, Sterling Publishing has lovingly produced an abridged and illustrated one-volume edition of John Forster’s monumental biography of Dickens. The original biography was published as a 3-volume set by Chapman and Hall: the first volume was completed in 1872, two years after Dickens’ death; the second in 1873, and the third in 1874. The book was reprinted with corrections from Forster before his death in 1876. The last version of this biography was printed in London by J.M. Dent in 1969. Since then, the book has been out of print; however a digital version of an American edition (Estes and Lauriat Publishers, Boston, 1872) can be found on Google Books.

Dickens and Forster met in 1837 and were eager to meet one another. They quickly forged an enduring friendship and Forster became Dickens most trusted advisor with respect to his writing career. Just about everything that Dickens ever wrote had been read, reviewed and corrected by Forster. For over 30 years, this biographer studied and recorded the life of his subject to write the first and most comprehensive biography of Dickens, forming the basis of all subsequent biographies of Dickens, most notably Peter Ackroyd’s monumental Dickens published in 1990 by Harper Collins.

The book features a foreword by Jane Smiley who recently wrote a brief biography of Dickens for Penguin in 2002 as part of the short-lived Penguin Lives series. There is an introduction by editor Holly Furneaux that illuminates the special Dickens-Forster friendship. Adorning many of the pages are photos of first editions of Dickens’ works as well as carefully selected images from the Charles Dickens Museum.

The Life of Charles Dickens by John Forster, Sterling Publishing (2011).