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Charles Dickens: A Critical Study

3.96  ·  Rating Details ·  214 Ratings  ·  43 Reviews
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This is an OCR edition with typos.
Excerpt from book:
CHAPTER III THE YOUTH OF DICKENS There are popular phrases so picturesque that even when they are intentionally funny they are unintentionally poetical. I remember, to take one instance out of ma
Paperback, 308 pages
Published May 1st 2005 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1903)
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Not really a Critical Study, as originally subtitled, Chesterton’s Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men is instead a breezy, piquant, thoroughly personal account of the delights of Dickens. It’s the alluring kind of introduction one always needs, for that author towards whom one is well disposed, but not in a panting rush to read. (I could use a book like this for Balzac.) The book’s possible fault is that it leaves you as stimulated to search out more Chesterton as more Dickens. The style ...more
I love Charles Dickens, and this biography did inform me about his life, but it compared each of his works in a way that left me confused.

I have not read every work of Dickens and maybe that is why I struggled. He compared him to many people I had never heard of. All in all I just did not enjoy this study of Dickens. Chesterton is too brilliant for me to digest his comparisons. I have to learn more in order to appreciate Chesterton's take on Dickens.
Then I will reread this book and see if I un
Nov 13, 2014 Kris rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Random rambling ruminations.

Chesterton was badly in need of an editor when he wrote this one.

There's no cohesive organization, no logical timeline of the development of his works, no extensive analyzation of his personal character in relation to his protagonists. Chesterton seems to adore Dickens's place in the cannon, and admits some faults, but doesn't give plain reasons for Dickens's style choices. He just goes right on praising him anyway. I remain an unconverted loather of Dickens.

I learne
Johan Haneveld
May 26, 2014 Johan Haneveld rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My favorite author on my wife's favorite author. What's not to like?
Chesterton is always very readable, suffusing his text with metafors, illustrations, paradoxes, connections, and witticisms, but make a whole lotta sense, at least to me. He uses the life and works of Dickens as a springboard to discuss many different subjects, and it all makes sense. It's also very clear that Chesterton admires Dickens, is a fan (he has written more on him, even fanfiction!), but also has an eye for his shortco
Edward Waverley
Sep 29, 2011 Edward Waverley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What an inspiration. It became obvious after one chapter that I would need to read all of Dickens. There is nothing quite like the experience of having Chesterton point you to the wonders of other writers and areas of thought. His encomium to Dickens is exemplary in this regard. It is almost a hagiography of Dickens; or perhaps I should say a theology of the world Dickens created. It cannot be fairly categorized as literary criticism, not only because Chesterton’s verdict is almost entirely posi ...more
Apr 15, 2016 Dayla rated it really liked it
In 1910. when Chesterton wrote this "Critical Study" of Charles Dickens, Dickens was still contemporary with many of Chesterton's readers, and shocking as it seems today, Dickens's now-eternal reputation was not yet secure. Chesterton in his usual sentence-precise way, examines Dickens' intelligence.

Chesterton makes clear throughout the book, this is an exclusively Christian worldview. While Dickens was not a part of organized religion, his heart and mind were fired with the passion and light of
Pete daPixie
Jun 13, 2012 Pete daPixie rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biogs
I have paid, once again, for my bad habit of pulling books out of the library shelf without fully investigating their contents. G.K. Chesterton's 'Charles Dickens' is a literary biography and therefore provides scant details of the authors life.
As I never seem to abandon books, I have with perseverance ploughed through the intellectual gymnastics of Mr Chesterton, but, alas, ended up none the wiser.
Richard Epstein
Aug 21, 2014 Richard Epstein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chesterton is one of the most annoying writers ever, mostly because of his habit of mechanical paradox (he'd have written, "Chesterton is one of the most annoying authors ever, which makes him one of the least annoying authors ever"). He prefers the early novels like Nicholas Nickleby to Great Expectations and Bleak House because the comic character are more outrageous and Dickens isn't wasting his energy on things like plot. Despite all this, and the many King Charles's heads which plague Chest ...more
Ayu Palar
Sep 26, 2009 Ayu Palar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is obvious how Chesterton adores Dickens. Even though it's not as critical as, let's say, Orwell's essay, Charles Dickens is a deeper journey to the great author's life and works. Also, it's an amazing demonstration of Chesterton's wit.
Webster Bull
Oct 13, 2014 Webster Bull rated it it was amazing
UPDATE: If you've not read much Dickens, this book is likely to be a waste of your time. If you have read Dickens, and love him as I do, this book is a must.

Chesterton has written a critique of Dickens and his work that doubles as a short biography. After a chapter on Dickens's childhood most of the book follows his major works chronologically and shows how they reflect developments in Dickens's character and life. Chesterton's insights are extraordinary, transcending Dickens, but his reference
Oct 03, 2008 Martin rated it really liked it

Chesterton's Dickens and Swift's Drapier's Letters

It's sometimes interesting to consider books in tandem, even if the overlap between them is merely tangential. This is the only reference to Swift in Chesterton's remarkable study of Dickens (you'll have to wait for it a little, since what precedes it is crusial to Chesterton's argument and mine--nicely expressed too, which is always a bonus):

The optimist is a better reformer than the pessimist; and the man who
believes life to be excellent is t
Bryana Johnson
May 30, 2014 Bryana Johnson rated it it was amazing
Chesterton on Dickens? It hardly gets better than that. Chesterton is the perfect man to write about Dickens, because he understood and shared so many of Dickens’ central ideas: Love of the free and simple man’s home. A fierce defense of the traditional family structure. A thorough understanding of Romance. A humble and unpretentious regard for the poor. A respect for the great Christian carelessness that seeks its meat from God. A relish for comradeship and serious joy. A hunger for the inn at ...more
Apr 10, 2015 Bruce rated it really liked it
Chesterton writes of Dickens that he "did not stamp these places on his mind; he stamped his mind on these places." And similarly, this study of Dickens is stamped with the mind of Chesterton. Each of the chapters, "The Dickens Period, "The Boyhood of Dickens," etc., is also an essay expressing Chesterton's thoughts about life and literature. Dickens, we read, was in no way a realist, but rather exaggerated intriguing qualities of people through outlandish characters. And it is the early Dickens ...more
Oct 04, 2009 Jason rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, victorian
Too much Chesterton and not enough Dickens.

I have long been a fan of Dickens and recently somewhat of a fan of Chesterton as well, so I was excited to see one author's treatment of the other. The book is a literary biography and does not deal with Dickens's life in depth, which would not be a problem if Chesterton would stick to Dickens's work. But the book reads much like Chesterton's other polemical writings, only he references Dickens's works as support for his arguments. Not a bad read, but
João Camilo
May 11, 2012 João Camilo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books
Hard is to define Chesterton. He is brilliant, but he seems to be happy with dealing with works that are simple and far from masterpieces. His writing is bordeline perfect, he is a master of sentence construction. In this book he construction a number of memorable quotes. He is too perceptive but he does not seems to want to be the ultimate writer.
This biography is a great reading, does not matter what you feel reading Dickens, what matter is how you feel when someone build a past writer as Dick
Nov 05, 2015 Becky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I knew G.K. Chesterton was a good author, but had never read anything by him; I was not in the least bit disappointed. This biography was not at all dry and in some places even read more like a novel. In fact, he does not start the book by talking about Dickens, but instead by talking about how we define terms.

Throughout the biography, Chesterton did not separate Dickens from his characters. In fact, I learned that many of Dickens characters were based upon either people from his life or people
Todd Stockslager
Jun 02, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Review title: The best of all impossible worlds

Near the end of Chesterton's study of Dickens life and letters, Chesterton pulls this amazing phrase to defend Dickens from the spurious charge of "vulgar optimism". as if Dickens needed defending and as if Chesterton could ever write only biography or literary criticism. This is a meeting of two great artists in the studio of eternity, the best indeed of all impossible worlds.

But in 1910. when Chesterton wrote, Dickens was still contemporary with m
Reading this was a delight--a wild and ineffable joy. It brought a renewed appreciation for Dickens into my life, complete with all the Chestertonian style and flair. It had the loud and indecorous loveliness of church bells--the gorgeous, untamable joy of cymbals. In every sense, it was a celebration of the romance of life and the appreciation of said romance that made Dickens great.
May 18, 2012 Aneece rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Learned of this book in essays on Dickens by Edmund Wilson and T. S. Eliot. Was reminded of G. K. Chesterton by Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism. Was re-reminded of Chesterton when two characters quote him in I Capture the Castle. I love that my books keep track of each other for me. It's as if they gossip on the shelves when the room's empty.
Jan 28, 2016 Todd rated it liked it
In this work, Chesterton mixes a bit of biography with a bit of literary criticism regarding Charles Dickens, and mixes in liberal doses of his own philosophy as well. Speaking as someone who does not like much by Dickens (full disclosure!), I would say Chesterton definitely highlights the reasons one might like Dickens' works, especially his characters. Chesterton also holds Dickens up as a man to be respected, though not without his own flaws. He shows Dickens to have corrected at least some o ...more
Susan Wight
Literary criticism is seldom an easy read and, as this one is over a century old, I found it a slow read. However, it is well worth the effort for Dickens fans with interesting thoughts on Dickens and democracy, his popularity, optimism and the social reforms he sparked as well, of course, discussion of his characters and novels.

Dickens was a masterful writer but his novels could descend into sickly sweet sentimentality and one of my favourite lines from Chesterton is therefore:

"Around Little N
Rick Davis
Sep 15, 2011 Rick Davis rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criticism
Not really a biography, but more of a literary criticism. This is Chesterton at his best. Now I've got to go read "The Pickwick Papers".
Aug 12, 2012 Matthew rated it it was amazing

Call me a sucker for Chesterton's style or just old fashioned, but I loved it. He has what many modern writers lack, depth.
Jun 10, 2013 K. added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K. by:
Holy Cow! Awesome from the first sentence--can't wait to read more!
Jun 22, 2014 Trish rated it really liked it
As Chesterton goes into great detail regarding the good and bad characters Dickens created, and why he was so popular with the common people, that I will have to go back and re-read all of Dickens to really understand this book. Chesterton was undoubtedly very familiar with all his writings and endeavored to explain Dickens philosophy and thinking of each book. It would have been better to have read a biography of Dickens first as well. I found this book quite by accident in a used bookstore and ...more
Ilze Folkmane
'Higher optimists, of whom Dickens was one, do not approve of the universe; they do not even admire the universe; they fall in love with it.'

It is quite easy to perceive that the author of this book adored Dickens and his writings. It is barely 'a critical study' as the title suggests, because, even though Chesterton mentions Dickens' failings, he is quick to justify them and turn them into qualities. Besides, it seems that Chesterton suffers from the inability to focus - some passages seem utte
Apr 18, 2015 Christa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
Chesterton was definitely a Dickens fan. I learned a lot about Dickens, how his writing and work evolved, and the way perceived in his lifetime. I highlighted so many things it is hard to pick just the top thing that struck me most about Dickens. Two of my favorite quotes are: "In everybody there is a certain thing that loves babies, that fears death, that likes sunlight; that thing enjoys Dickens." "Dickens had all his life the faults of the little boy who is kept up too late at night. ... In a ...more
Mariano Hortal
Publicado en

Qué mejor forma de empezar mi homenaje particular a Dickens, a los doscientos años de su nacimiento en 1812, que leyendo la biografía que el novelista británico Gilbert Keith Chesterton, gran admirador suyo, le dedicó en 1906. Qué mejor forma de profundizar en su literatura y en su persona que a través de quién le mejor le supo comprender.

Repasando el otro día mi biblioteca, resulta que Chesterton es el segundo escritor del que más libros teng
Julie Davis
Apr 06, 2015 Julie Davis rated it really liked it
As always with G.K. Chesterton's "biographies" if you don't already know a fair amount about the subject then you'll be lost. Luckily I did know a good amount about Dickens' life already. I was interested in Chesterton's take on the life as reflected in the books and this book did an excellent job for that. I did skip a few bits where books I haven't read yet came up. Avoiding spoilers even in such old books ...
Erika Schanzenbach
I mostly enjoyed this biography. I would likely have enjoyed it more if I had more of Dickens' novels under my belt. Chesterton makes constant reference to many of Dickens' heroes and villains and compares them to each other, to the characters of other novelists of Dickens' day, as well as to Dickens himself. This is perhaps a book to go back to after reading more of the vast bibliography of this character-driven author. Chesterton was obviously very well read, and thought critically about the l ...more
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Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was born in London, educated at St. Paul’s, and went to art school at University College London. In 1900, he was asked to contribute a few magazine articles on art criticism, and went on to become one of the most prolific writers of all time. He wrote a hundred books, contributions to 200 more, hundreds of poems, including the epic Ballad of the White Horse, fi ...more
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“There is a great man who makes every man feel small. But the real great man is the man who makes every man feel great.” 9 likes
“Much of our modern difficulty, in religion and other things, arises merely from this: that we confuse the word "indefinable" with the word "vague." If some one speaks of a spiritual fact as "indefinable" we promptly picture something misty, a cloud with indeterminate edges. But this is an error even in commonplace logic. The thing that cannot be defined is the first thing; the primary fact. It is our arms and legs, our pots and pans, that are indefinable. The indefinable is the indisputable. The man next door is indefinable, because he is too actual to be defined. And there are some to whom spiritual things have the same fierce and practical proximity; some to whom God is too actual to be defined.” 4 likes
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