There can be no higher praise for Edgar Johnson's 1158-page 1952 biography than to say that this 583-page version--designed...

READ REVIEW

CHARLES DICKENS: His Tragedy and Triumph

There can be no higher praise for Edgar Johnson's 1158-page 1952 biography than to say that this 583-page version--designed to be ""more accessible to today's readers'--cannot help but be a disappointment. True, over 200 pages have been eliminated by removing twelve self-contained chapters of criticism--valuable essays, but complementary rather than essential to the portrait of the man. The other 200-300 pages worth of missing words, however, represent paragraph-by-paragraph deletions and compressions, each of them substracting a warming color or a darkening nuance, a telling detail or a clarifying insight, a reminder or a foreshadowing. These are in fact the very touches that transformed the two-volume original from a solid scholarly achievement into the Dickens biography, a reading experience that draws irresistibly, deeply on the heart and mind; without them, this remains a stylish work of obvious great value (especially since the two-volume set is unforgivably, unaccountably out of print) but neither the indispensable scholar's tool (the 100 pages of endnotes are gone, of course) nor the literary and empathic tour de force that it was. Johnson supplies no preface to explain his approach to the abridgement (how do you cut a fat-free text?). Nor does he explain some small changes of fact--mostly relating to dates. This Tragedy and Triumph is surely better than no Tragedy and Triumph, but masterpieces are masterpieces precisely because every piece fits and no piece is expendable.

Pub Date: Dec. 27, 1977

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1977