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Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  177 ratings  ·  37 reviews
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Hardcover, 252 pages
Published June 13th 2008 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
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
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
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
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
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.

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
Edward Waverley
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
Bryana Johnson
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
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
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
Todd Stockslager
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.
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.
Webster Bull
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
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
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!
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
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
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
Good. Chesterton is becoming a favorite with me, and his thoughts on one of the greatest novelists of all time are certainly worth hearing.
He covers Dickens' youth, some character study, as well as critically reviewing his works.
Chesterton’s Charles Dickens is mostly literary criticism and has little of biography but as far as the critical commentary goes it’s quite sweeping and probably deals with all sixteen of Dickens’ big books. I found out the number in this study. I have read four of them, two in early years which I forgot and Great Expectations and Bleak House recently and they are fresh in my mind however there was surprisingly little in the 380 pages that dealt with these two later books.

Chesterton mentions Di
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
João Camilo
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
Very short book on Charles Dickens. The first part is a perspective on the writings of Mr. Dickens by Mr. Chesterton; the second part is a short biography by Mr. Kitton. Not surprisingly, the first part is much better than the second part. The most salient and noteworthy characteristic of the book are the "numerous illustrations", as advertised on the title page.
Jul 30, 2011 Misssharice rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in the life and works of Charles Dickens.
Recommended to Misssharice by: I found it in Oxfam.
I bought this from Oxfam when I was studying Great Expectations at university and thought it might come in handy somewhere. While I enjoy the works of Charles Dickens I didn't enjoy this. I found it dry and couldn't wait to finish it. I'm sure it has some merit to someone, but not for me unfortunately.
I think that the authors 22 page bio of Dickens in the Encyclopedia Britannica was better than this 120 page work. It was like he took his original bio and made it into a book.It was also a very slow read. \I thought the author kept repeating the same ideas over and over again in different words.
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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.” 5 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.” 3 likes
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