A well-researched biography explores how Charles Dickens used his stories to effect social change for London’s most destitute children.
Warren explores how Dickens’ personal experience with poverty and his astute observations of the poor informed his writing. He then used his stories to advocate for improvements in the lives of the most wretched of London’s street and institutionalized children. Dickens’ determination to overcome his family difficulties through perseverance and talent are on display. The author further develops the theme of artist as reformer/activist by including the stories of composer George Frederic Handel and painter William Hogarth and their support for the Foundling Hospital, a charity that years later would benefit from Dickens’ attention. Warren’s account is full of detail regarding the desperate plight of London’s children during the 19th century and makes clear how little help was available. She uses examples from Dickens’ work and the awareness created by his compelling storytelling as factors that opened the eyes of many and resulted in societal changes. In addition, she connects this history to current problems in many places in the world. “What Charles Dickens wrote 170 years ago remains true today: life is difficult for the poor—and is most difficult of all for poor children.”
A lively biography and an interesting lens through which to see a venerated author. (source notes, bibliography, author's note, index) (Nonfiction 10-14)