A fine yet unpretentious biography of Dickens studies his personality as well as the events that formed his career and adds another title to the year's short list of perceptive biographies for young people (see Vance report below and also G. B. Stern's Robert Louis Stevens on p. 538). Following his life from boyhood on, it sets Dickens very definitely in early 19th century England and is rich in the background material that went into so much of his writing. Like David Copperfield, Charles was a factory hand at the age of 18. His father, a poor one at financing a large family, knew the threat of the debtors' prison. In his teens, he was acquainted with the slums of London and by the time he had started his career with a job as a House of Common reporter, he had a backlog of experiences that were to fill his later writing. Success, though it came early and brought him the financial support he needed for his own family after his marriage to Catherine Hogarth, did not bring spiritual case. Dickens was gay and affectionate but he felt driven by his work, afraid that his ideas would leave him. In later years his marriage failed but the energy that perceived and recreated the life around him is well portrayed here in the lasting effect it had on the world.