Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist

Deborah Friedell writes:

William James believed that the careers we might have chosen don’t matter very much: ‘Little by little, the habits, the knowledges, of the other career, which once lay so near, cease to be reckoned even among his possibilities. At first, he may sometimes doubt whether the self he murdered in that decisive hour might not have been the better of the two; but with the years such questions themselves expire, and the old alternative ego, once so vivid, fades into something less substantial than a dream.’ The alternatives almost disappear, Douglas-Fairhurst argues, but not entirely, and the most pathetic of Dickens’s orphans and sweepers should be seen as fragments of autobiography, alternative selves that he couldn’t quite shake off.

(LRB 5 January 2012)

Other Titles of Interest