Correspondence: An Adventure in Letters

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1st Edition

David R. Godine Publishers, hardback, 220 x 150 mm. 256pp
In stock in Australia, for immediate despatch

Suppose that a retired bank clerk from New Jersey has inherited a mass of valuable letters to his great-great-grandfather. Let's imagine this ancestor was a bookseller in Victorian London, who had corresponded at length with the leading writers of his generation, that include Dickens and Thackeray, Eliot and Trollope, Butler and Hardy, to whom he put the questions: Why do you write? How do you write? From what sources do you get your characters and ideas? What do you see as the purpose or usefulness of illustrations to your novels? What do you think of the books of your peers and competitors?

An intriguing conceit, no? But Hall brings it off convincingly in this series of contemporary letters (mostly emails) between Larry Dickerson, the bank worker, bent on getting as much money as he can from this stash, and Stephen Nicholls, the patient, helpful, and scholarly head of Christie's manuscript department in London. While Nicholls leads Dickerson through the intricacies of the auction process, he also helps him enter into the Victorian mind, a domain Dickerson eventually embraces with enthusiasm.

The result is a book that is part suspense novel, as we wonder if Dickerson will finally decide to sell the letters or keep them for himself; part literary tour de force, because the old letters lead us into the thoughts of the foremost novelists of the period; and part picaresque tale, because of Dickerson's distinctly American personality. He is a character such as the department heads at Christie have seldom encountered, and we watch with wonder as this unschooled, bluff, retiree emerges as a self-educated Victorianist.

This is a book for lovers of Victorian literature, but it is also a bracing antidote for those less enthusiastic readers who may have found Dickens a little too melodramatic, Thackeray too allusive, Trollope too protean, and Hardy too pessimistic. For both kinds of readers, Hall's book offers the hope of redemption, a thoroughly engrossing ramble through the literature of the enduring Victorian galaxy.

N. John Hall is Distinguished Professor at Bronx Community College and the Graduate Center, CUNY. Twice a Guggenheim Fellow and the author of many books, he is considered one of the world's leading authorities on Anthony Trollope and Max Beerbohm.


SKU 9781567924121
Barcode # 9781567924121
Brand Godine
Artist / Author N. John HALL

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