Read Dickens by Peter Ackroyd Free Online
Book Title: Dickens|
The author of the book: Peter Ackroyd
Edition: Sinclair-Stevenson Ltd
Date of issue: October 6th 1998
ISBN 13: 9781856190008
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 615 KB
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Reader ratings: 6.3
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In this remarkable new biography, Peter Ackroyd offers a different view of Dickens to that presented in his earlier study of the author. In that book, Ackroyd's attempts to mimic the voice of the great writer were highly controversial, though some saw the book as a radical re-invention of the biography form. There is no arguing with the brilliant achievement of the more straightforward Charles Dickens: Public Life and Private Passion, however; the picture of Dickens and his complicated private life that emerges is fastidiously detailed and powerfully evocative, while Ackroyd's customary skill at creating a panoply of the city of London is as dazzling as ever (London, is, in fact, the subject of another biography by the author, who is unquestionably the keenest chronicler of the city's colourful history). Here, Ackroyd attempts to peel away the mask of a man whose life was outwardly a picture of Victorian rectitude, but whose love life was as complicated (and unconventional) as any modern writer. Dickens had everything--fame, success and riches--but he died harbouring a deep sadness he had experienced all his life. He was a man of mercurial character, had enormous vitality and humour, but he also had a sense of loss and longing that would constantly appear in his work. Like many eminent Victorians, he led a double life: although he insisted that nothing in the newspapers he edited should upset his middle-class readers, he regularly indulged in dubious night-time escapades with fellow author Wilkie Collins, and, for the last 13 years of his life, kept a secret mistress.
While presenting a warm but astringent portrait of the man who (along with George Eliot) can be classed as the greatest writer of his age, Ackroyd also masterfully recreates the relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, a strong and intelligent woman (herself the subject of a biography by Claire Tomalin, The Inviisble Woman who, like her lover, outwardly observed the proprieties while living her real life behind closed doors. Ackroyd also vividly conjures the reality of Victorian life, the issues that sparked Dickens' fervent call for social reform, and the great landmarks of the time, which profoundly affected his life and work. --Barry Forshaw
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Read information about the authorPeter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.
Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age of 7.
Ackroyd was educated at St. Benedict's, Ealing and at Clare College, Cambridge, from which he graduated with a double first in English. In 1972, he was a Mellon Fellow at Yale University in the United States. The result of this fellowship was Ackroyd's Notes for a New Culture, written when he was only 22 and eventually published in 1976. The title, a playful echo of T. S. Eliot's Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948), was an early indication of Ackroyd's penchant for creatively exploring and reexamining the works of other London-based writers.
Ackroyd's literary career began with poetry, including such works as London Lickpenny (1973) and The Diversions of Purley (1987). He later moved into fiction and has become an acclaimed author, winning the 1998 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for the biography Thomas More and being shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1987.
Ackroyd worked at The Spectator magazine between 1973 and 1977 and became joint managing editor in 1978. In 1982 he published The Great Fire of London, his first novel. This novel deals with one of Ackroyd's great heroes, Charles Dickens, and is a reworking of Little Dorrit. The novel set the stage for the long sequence of novels Ackroyd has produced since, all of which deal in some way with the complex interaction of time and space, and what Ackroyd calls "the spirit of place". It is also the first in a sequence of novels of London, through which he traces the changing, but curiously consistent nature of the city. Often this theme is explored through the city's artists, and especially its writers.
Ackroyd has always shown a great interest in the city of London, and one of his best known works, London: The Biography, is an extensive and thorough discussion of London through the ages.
His fascination with London literary and artistic figures is also displayed in the sequence of biographies he has produced of Ezra Pound (1980), T. S. Eliot (1984), Charles Dickens (1990), William Blake (1995), Thomas More (1998), Chaucer (2004), William Shakespeare (2005), and J. M. W. Turner. The city itself stands astride all these works, as it does in the fiction.
From 2003 to 2005, Ackroyd wrote a six-book non-fiction series (Voyages Through Time), intended for readers as young as eight. This was his first work for children. The critically acclaimed series is an extensive narrative of key periods in world history.
Early in his career, Ackroyd was nominated a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 1984 and, as well as producing fiction, biography and other literary works, is also a regular radio and television broadcaster and book critic.
In the New Year's honours list of 2003, Ackroyd was awarded the CBE.
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