The Selected Letters of Charles Dickens

Oxford Univ. Mar. 2012. c.584p. ed. by Jenny Hartley. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780199591411. $34.95. LIT
As Hartley (English literature, Roehampton Univ.) reminds us in her introduction, Dickens was not one for saving letters, but he was an active correspondent—and, naturally, others saved most of what he wrote. While selections of Dickens's letters have been previously published, this is the first to derive from the British Academy's 12-volume Pilgrim Edition (PE), which scrupulously presents 14,000 letters. Hartley has chosen 450 by which to demonstrate Dickens's "range as a letter writer" as well as the progress of his work and the variety of his pursuits. She has reduced the PE's commentary surrounding the letters, making them slightly less accessible to those new to Dickens.
VERDICT Especially for readers who want to get close to Dickens and look over his shoulder without a biographer's mediation, this is a thrilling perspective. All libraries should buy this as the definitive choice and as an incomparable presentation of the writer in all his spirit. And speaking of spirits, try making his potent recipe for punch!
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