This volume presents 1,251 letters, 447 previously unpublished, for the years 1853 to 1855; it also includes, as a substantial Appendix of Addenda, over 280 letters of the years 1831 to 1852 which came to light too late for earlier volumes. The period is one of activity remarkable even for Dickens. Besides the continuous editing of Household Words (where his Hard Times appears as a weekly serial), he is still at work on Bleak House until
August 1853 and in 1855 is writing the early numbers of Little Dorrit. He manages and acts in children's plays in his little Tavistock House theatre on Twelfth Night, and later takes the leading part in Wilkie Collins's drama
The Lighthouse with great effect. Work with Miss Coutts and the troublesome inmates of her `Home' increases, and readings for charity have begun. The Crimean war and the government's mismanagement receive much comment in letters and satirical articles, and lead to one exceptional venture into political life with a speech for the Administrative Reform Association. But his long and happy periods of residence in France with his family encourage a more detached view, and he also
revisits Switzerland and Italy on a two-month tour with Collins and the painter Augustus Egg. Friends and family still dominate his personal life, but for a few weeks long-past emotions are revived when he hears from
his old love Maria Beadnell, now a middle-aged Mrs Winter.
`This, the most recent volume of the altogether admirable Pilgrim Edition of Dickens' correspondence, is as fine as its predecessors: handsomely bound and printed, expertly edited, generously capacious, and scaffolded with impeccable critical apparatus ... This is a necessary volume for those discerning souls who recognize Dickens for what he was: the greatest novelist in the English language.'
Virginia Quarterly Review, Winter 1994
`As with the previous volumes in the Clarendon Press edition prepared by Graham Storey, Kathleen Tillotson and Angus Easson, nothing could be better than the presentation: you visit the past in a state of perfect enjoyment, safe in the surest of editorial hands ... Much as Dickens would have hated to have his letters collected and published, even he might have cheered the efficiency of this particular operation ... We are all again deeply indebted to the
editors.'R Times Literary Supplement
`No single letter prepares you for the sense of energy you get from the volume as a whole. ...The footnotes in particular teem with fascinating detail ... impeccably edited ... takes you deep into Victorian life.'
John Gross, Sunday Telegraph
`The magnificent Pilgrim Edition ... firmly established as one of the outstanding scholarly achievements of this century.'
British Book News
`The Pilgrim Edition of Charles Dickens's letters is one of the glories of British publishing. ... conforms to the very highest standard of literary scholarship. ... the letters are a glorious collection of the human and natural raw material from which he fashioned his stories. There are no dull pages, and Inimitable, indeed!'Paul Johnson, Evening Standard
`The 1,271 Dickens letters presented in this volume (with all the scrupulous edting and richly detailed annotation that is the hallmark of this great edition ... a reader with even the most sketchy knowlege of Dicken's biography will often feel like someone sensing an approaching hurricane. We await the next volume of this superb edition with keen anticipation.'
Michael Slater, Guardian
`The best new reading is almost 150 years old: The Letters of Charles Dickens. 1858-1855 ... the finest collection of letters ever produced in this country.'Derwent May, The Times
'The Pilgrim Edition of Charles Dickens's letters is one of the glories of British publishing. It is awesomely expensive but conforms to the very highest standards of literary scholarship. These volumes, in fact, are wide and clear windows into the early Victorian world as well as into the doings of the master ... the letters are a glorious collection of the human and natural raw material from which he fashioned his stories. There are no dull pages, and few
without a memorable image and a noble sentiment. Inimtable, indeed!'
Paul Johnson, London Evening Standard
'nearly all of them are interesting; faced with roughly 800 pages of correspondence the immediate impulse is to skim, yet one risks overlooking some sardonic glint or glancing bon mot, scintillas of pure Dickensian comedy...there is more than enough to delight in these bustling, vivid, funny pages.' The Independent
'by any standard a wonderful collection of letters'
Peter Ackroyd, The Times
'At their best, Dickens's letters are even more enjoyable than his novels.'
John Carey, Sunday Times
'Thanks to the herculean endeavours of the Pilgrim edition, Dickens' letters also offer a window on a world.'
Anthony Quinn, Independent
'So grandly conceived and yet so tactfully and thoroughly annotated, it is a model of all that is best in modern biograhical scholarship and a true monument to a great man and to the age which nurtured him.'
Robin Gilmour, Review, A Christmas Supplement to Education, 24/31 December 1993
'So grandly conceived and yet so tactfully and thoroughly annotated, it is a model of all that is best in modern biographical scholarship and a true monument to a great man and to the age which nurtured him.'
Robin Gilmour, Education
'a book of brilliant things, covering three years in a life that was comically crowded and insanely busy ... The editors have done a superb job, as ever.'
Anthony Quinn, The Independent
'One of the most important publications of the year, and one which is destined to occupy a secure place in English studies. The editors' voluminous footnotes have now ... become indispensable to any understanding of the man and his struggle to master his period.'
Times Literary Supplement
'Thanks to the copiousness of Dickens's writing - in an age of modern communication, but lacking as yet the telephone - and the expertness of the editors' research, the successive volumes of letters provide some of the best reading one can hope for on the novelist and his times.'
Alexander Welsh, Yale Review, Vol. 82, No. 2
`Six years have elapsed since the previous volume in the Pilgrim Edition of Dicken's letters was published. But the long wait has been worth its while. With the principle of intelligibility firmly at the back of their minds the editors have opted for notes which make the reading of these letters an enjoyable and effortless activity for which one does not need to hark back to the previous publications in the series...the editors of Volume 7 of the Pilgrim
edition had a reputation to live uo to and the certainly came up to the reader's great expectations. Her [Margaret Caldwell] expertise is once more shown to be indisputable...this new edition will provide
unbounded joy to all Dickens enthusiasts.'
`The Pilgrim Edition continues on its weighty and impressive way, and once again it is appropriate to congratulate all concerned, the learned editors, the scrupulous publishers, the typesetters and printers, and the British Academy which adopted the edition as an official research project.'
Review of English Studies Vol 46 no 183