The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dickens
by Brian Murray


The Bedside Dickens provides a lively look at this great novelist’s life and career. It sheds light on his role as a polemicist and journalist and explores the way his work was long informed by his Christian faith. It also reveals his most persistent literary themes and provides a vivid sense of how, among his contemporaries, Dickens’ vast success—and his “radical” politics—provoked both admiration and scorn. Dickens, this study reminds us, saw life as a battle, but as both a novelist and journalist he sought to provide a more hopeful worldview. He repeatedly satirized vice and folly, even as he urged his readers and the leaders of his day to be less selfish and narrow and to “do good always.”

Chapters and topics include: Dickens and Animals ~ Christmas Stories ~ The Magnetizer ~ Dickens vs. Thackeray ~ A Christian Writer ~ Dickens Down Under ~ What Dickens Read ~ Dickens and Spontaneous Combustion ~ Dickens and Journalism ~ Dickens on the Couch.

“Keeping a figure of such imposing stature in perspective and focus is no easy task, yet [this book] manages the feat, bringing remarkably clear vision and wonderfully sharp insight to chapter after chapter of The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dickens. It guides you through the writer’s life and works with an energy and authority that Dickens himself would have admired. It shows the giant, and the long shadow the giant casts, in ways that will both engage the Dickens novice and intrigue the hard-core Dickensian.”

~ Mark Dawidziak, critic, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and author of
The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dracula

“The Inimitable’s strivers, wretched souls, hypocrites, jokers, eccentrics, and weirdos are here in splendid profusion; so also are the haunting settings, moral and intellectual energies, prodigiously lived times, tormented and hilarious states of mind to be found in the life and writing. This volume is a deeply satisfying way to visit and revisit the Dickens World, a place that stands in our language with the worlds of Shakespeare and Joyce.”

~ David Castronovo, author of Beyond the Grey Flannel Suit and Blokes



Book cover


MagnetizerCopperfieldYankeesOliver Twist

From “A Conductor of Words”

“ … Dickens wanted no interference with his magazine’s operation—and no distractions from the written word. Household Words was not illustrated. In a crowded field of daily newspapers and monthly journals, Household Words and All the Year Round took the high road. Dickens was not, as J.B. Priestley put it, “cynically cajoling money out of a lot of half-wits.” Probably most of his readers were, he knew, educated members of the aspiring middle-class. They were civil servants, clerics, schoolteachers, office managers and the like—the sort of people who bought books and sometimes attended concerts and plays; who travelled a bit, or at least wanted to; who thought about politics and kept an interest in public affairs. In many ways, Household Words was the Victorian New Yorker—an intelligent but accessible mix of fiction, feature writing, commentary and quality prose.”



From “Dickens on the Couch”

“ … Dickens’ life, the subject of an increasing number of sometimes sensational memoirs and biographies published during the 1920s and ‘30s, now drew the scrutiny of biologists and psychologists as well as literary critics and scholars. In 1936, for example, P.C,. Squires, writing in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, declared that Dickens was of the hyperthyroid type, with well-developed adrenals—the source of his “great driving power.” But Dickens’ parathyroid’s were probably subnormal, giving rise to the spasms he endured in childhood and throughout much of his lfe. Dickens’ vanity and “foppishness,” Squires reckoned, owed particularly to “an excess of post pituitary secretion.” To complicate matters, Catherine Dickens, exhausted by childbearing, presented the fairly obvious case of “a somewhat myxedematous woman, giving in easily to exertion of any kind.” The two, unfortunately, “were radically different in glandular organization and consequent behavior.”


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From “The Top of the Tree: Dickens vs. Thackeray”

“… Thackeray’s life turned Dickensian when, in 1833, he found himself quite broke, and with no means of familial support. By the time they reached their late twenties, Dickens was famous and Thackeray was trying desperately to make his name as an illustrator or a writer— and scribbling away to pay his bills. Quietly, Dickens may have despised the way Thackeray squandered his youthful opportunities. He clearly didn’t like the way in which Thackeray (despite his own keen nose for snobbism in all of its forms) seemed always to court the company of so many second-rate barons and earls. And Thackeray, it seems, rather resented Dickens’ vast success. He made much of their supposed rivalry, noting in one letter that, thanks to the popularity of Vanity Fair, he was “all but at the top of the tree,” and “having a great fight up there with Dickens.” For Thackeray, too many things about Dickens—his public moral earnestness, his undignified theatrical barnstorming—were not becoming in a true gentleman of letters.


squares"Murray is a reliable guide," ~ Household Words


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