Charles Dickens was perhaps the most popular English novelist of the nineteenth century. Born in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England in 1812, he had a happy early childhood, which was interrupted when his father was sent to debtors' prison. Young Dickens came to know not only hunger and privation but also the evils of child labor when he had to go to work in a factory at age twelve. After a turn of fortune in the shape of a legacy, Dickens was able to work as an attorney's clerk and newspaper reporter until his first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1837), brought him instant success at age twenty-five. Subsequent works were published serially in periodicals and cemented his reputation as a master of colorful characterization and a harsh critic of social evils and corrupt institutions. His many classic books include Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol, and Bleak House. Dickens married Catherine Hogarth in 1836, and the couple had nine children before separating in 1858, when he began a long affair with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. Despite the scandal, Dickens remained a public figure, appearing often to read his fiction. He died in 1870, leaving his final novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, unfinished.
Distinguished writer, teacher, and critic Frederick Busch is the author of more than twenty works of fiction, including North, Girls, and The Mutual Friend, a novel about Charles Dickens.
Edward Le Comte (1916-2004) was professor of English at the State University of New York at Albany, and he also taught at Columbia, his alma mater, and the University of California at Berkley. He was the author of more than twenty books, including novels, a biography of John Donne, and two memoirs. His specialty, both in teaching and in numerous influential articles and books, was Milton.