John Forster’s The Life of Charles Dickens is the fount, the foundation stone of all subsequent Dickens’ biographies. Forster’s three volume work is a vivid and fascinating account of Dickens’ prodigiously productive and fascinating life. Wilkie Collins, the novelist, collaborator and close friend of Dickens observed: "The assertion that no letters addressed by Dickens to other old friends revealed his character so frankly and completely as his letters to Forster, it is not necessary to contradict. Volume One describes Charles Dickens’ life from his birth in 1812 to 1842, through the trials and tribulations of his childhood to his first tour of the United States of America. Greg Wagland narrates for Magpie Audio.
John Forster was a close friend of Charles Dickens & his intimate knowledge of his subject is evident throughout this fascinating biography. Forster was the first to reveal the dark secret of Dickens's childhood, that his father had been imprisoned for debt & that young Charles had been taken away from school & sent out to work. Dickens never forgot this experience & never recovered from a deep sense of injustice. In this first volume, Forster explores this childhood, Dickens's days as a parliamentary reporter & the great successes of his early career from Pickwick to Chuzzlewit & his triumphal tour of America. His personal life is lightly sketched in - marriage to Catherine Hogarth & the birth of their children. Where Forster shines is in the quotation of letters received from Dickens, the frank letters of one friend to another, & the personal knowledge of the man that underlies every word. Later biographies may have discovered more about Dickens's life & may have exposed the less attractive sides of his character but Forster's biography is the starting place for them all.
The audiobook is beautifully read by Greg Wagland. I do hope that Magpie Audio produce Vols 2 & 3 of Forster's Life.