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Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men

3.94  ·  Rating Details ·  236 Ratings  ·  45 Reviews
Kessinger Publishing is the place to find hundreds of thousands of rare and hard-to-find books with something of interest for everyone
Hardcover, 252 pages
Published June 13th 2008 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1906)
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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
Edward Waverley
Sep 06, 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
Aug 19, 2014 Kris rated it it was ok
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 23, 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
Pete daPixie
May 30, 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.
Ayu Palar
Sep 05, 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.
Oct 03, 2008 Martin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Webster Bull
Sep 27, 2014 Webster Bull rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 15, 2015 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bryana Johnson
Nov 12, 2013 Bryana Johnson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 28, 2007 Jason rated it liked it
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
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
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
May 10, 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.
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.
Rick Davis
Sep 09, 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".
Jun 23, 2012 Matthew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Call me a sucker for Chesterton's style or just old fashioned, but I loved it. He has what many modern writers lack, depth.
Mar 15, 2011 K. added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K. by:
Holy Cow! Awesome from the first sentence--can't wait to read 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
Jan 08, 2016 Todd rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Todd Stockslager
Jun 02, 2015 Todd Stockslager rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 22, 2016 Walter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the works of GK Chesterton, there are relatively few works of literary criticism, and of these, there are even fewer that are positive. The criticisms of the works of Charles Dickens are a very notable exception to this general rule. Chesterton was obviously a huge fan of Dickens. When once asked what book he would want to have with him if he were marooned on a desert island, Chesterton said that he would want to have a book on shipbuilding. But after that, he would want to have Dickens' grea ...more
Apr 13, 2016 Dayla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 15, 2012 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
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
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
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
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
Renee M
This is NOT a biography. This is NOT even a study of the work of Charles Dickens in the usual sense. This collection should have been titled, A Critical Study of Charles Dickens Through His Works and Other Commentary by G. K. Chesterton.

It is mostly commentary, with a bit of what biography can be gleaned from the work. It is predominantly a collection of Chesterton's thoughts as he ruminates on Charles Dickens and his writing. It IS very interesting to be privy to the thoughts which burble from
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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.” 10 likes
“[A] finished tale may give a man immortality in the light and literary sense; but an unfinished tale suggests another immortality, more essential and more strange.” 8 likes
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