Charles Dickens needs no formal introduction, having been the most popular English writer of the 19th century and still one of the most popular writers in history today. Dickens' upbringing was a mixture of happy times and sad: When he recalled his father being sent to debtor's prison in his memoirs, his tears actually left marks on the page. These qualities eventually helped forge him into a man many regard as the greatest Victorian-era novelist, perhaps in the world, and the author of some of the most remarkable fictional characters who retain tremendous staying power to this day, including Fagin, Peepy, David Copperfield, and Oliver Twist, to name just a few.
Unlike other great writers and artists, during his own lifetime Dickens' works enjoyed remarkable popularity and renown, to such an extent that even Queen Victoria and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli felicitated and feted Dickens. In the 20th century, well after Dickens' passing, his literary genius was truly and completely appreciated by ordinary readers as well as critics and scholars alike. Dickens' novels, novellas, and short stories retain powerful and enduring popularity with the public largely because Dickens, apart from the usual attributes of good fiction writing, connected his thoughts with the universal by using history and the present as bridges.
By the time he died at the relatively young age of 58 from a stroke, he was already Europe's most famous writer, and obituaries noted that Dickens was a "sympathiser with the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed". Dickens was interred in Westminster Abbey, a rare honor bestowed only upon the greatest and most accomplished Britons.
Many of Dickens' novels were written with the concept of social reform in mind, and Dickens' work was often praised for its realism, comic genius, and unique personalities. At the same time, however, Dickens' ability as a writer was nearly unrivaled, with his ability to write in prose unquestioned and unmatched. British Legends: The Life and Legacy of Charles Dickens details the writer's life and career while humanizing the man who overcame a turbulent childhood to become one of the West's greatest writers.
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