Family Guy

Great Expectations
The Sons and Daughters of Charles Dickens

Robert Gottlieb

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25, 246 pp.

The Great Charles Dickens Scandal
Michael Slater

Yale University Press, $30, 215 pp.


Today’s celebrities may think they have it bad, what with hacks and photographers lying in wait, hoping to funnel gossip into People magazine. But will scholars still be stalking Justin Bieber and Katie Holmes a century and a half from now?

They’re still stalking Charles Dickens, who died back in 1870. True, scuttlebutt about the author of David Copperfield and Bleak House is more likely to come from archives than from a reporter with a telephoto lens. Still, two new nonfiction books about the nineteenth-century writer—whose professional success couldn’t eclipse his failings as a family man—seem almost as hungry for intimate revelation as any informant selling tips to TMZ.

Admittedly, it’s a very dignified and judicious hunger in the case of...

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About the Author

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.