New illustrated version of the life of Charles Dickens marks birth bicentennial
Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 30 January 2012
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A University of Leicester academic has edited a new version of an important biography of Charles Dickens - ahead of the novelist's 200th birthday anniversary.
Dr Holly Furneaux of the School of English has edited a new illustrated version of The Life of Charles Dickens: The Illustrated Edition (Sterling Publishing, 2011), a biography written by the Victorian author's friend John Forster, which was completed in 1874.
Dr Furneaux, who is Reader in Victorian Literature, will be giving a presentation on the book at a private event to be held at the Charles Dickens Museum on Monday 6th February.
The new edition, which features original illustrations as well as portraits and photographs of Dickens, has already appeared in “best books on Dickens” lists compiled by The Independent and The Times.
Dr Furneaux was responsible for collating extracts of Dickens's own work, recent biographies and criticism to accompany an abridged version of Forster's text.
Dr Furneaux said: “Forster's biography of Dickens was really important to all the biographies that have come since. There were things Dickens told Forster that he never told anyone else.
“Forster was a good friend but also a literary agent for Dickens throughout his career. He saw how Dickens developed as a man but also as a writer. Forster’s version of Dickens’s life is shaped by an agenda to raise the professional standing of authors, and he is reticent about the more salacious aspects of Dickens’s private life – saying little about the breakdown of Dickens’s marriage and his relationship with Ellen Ternan. Nonetheless this is a highly revealing biography, which captures the power of the long friendship between author and subject.”
Dr Furneaux, who is author of Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinities (Oxford University Press, 2009), an exploration of same-sex desire and gender issues in Dickens' work, is involved with various other events to mark the bicentennial.
From February 2 to 8 she will be taking part in A Tale of Four Cities, a travelling conference which will go to four important places in Dickens' life.
The conference will be held in Paris, where Dickens finished Little Dorrit, Condette near Boulogne, Rochester and Chatham where he grew up, and will finish in London on his birthday itself.
A panel will discuss Dr Furneaux's book Queer Dickens during the Dickens Universe conference at the University of California, Santa Cruz, from July 27 to August 3.
The School will also mark Dickens Day at the University of London, Senate House, on October 13, which will focus on the theme of “Dickens and Popular Culture”.
She is also helping to organise a project to bring together members of the public in reading A Tale of Two Cities serially – as it first appeared.
Participants will read the novel in weekly parts over 10 months, and blog about their experiences. Dr Furneaux added: “I think the anniversary is important because we can see how profoundly moved people still are by Dickens. The reaction 200 years on really resonates with how the Victorian public responded to him. People have always connected with Dickens and his characters as if he were a personal friend.”
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The Life of Charles Dickens: The Illustrated Edition is available from all good book shops and www.amazon.com
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Report by Mark Cardwell