Claire Tomalin talks about Charles Dickens and his career as a writer, how from his early age, he was forced to earn a living, how he filled the gaps in school education by observing Londoners on the streets, in theatres, prisons, public buildings, schools, courts, and parks. He was able to describe everything that he saw so vividly and accurately, that his very first novel The Pickwick Papers made Dickens famous at the tender age of twenty. Later, when Dickens's name was well-known far from the UK, young Leo Tolstoy became interested in his works – he even bought an English edition of David Copperfield.
Claire Tomalin talks about an amazing diversity in Dickens's works, from comedies and tragedies, from thrillers and to historical narratives, from personal research of the child psychology to the panoramic observation of London’s life, from surrealism and to poetry.
The lecture took place on 9 June 2016 at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow as part of the lecture programme "400 years of British history in portraits".
Biographer Claire Tomalin was born in London in 1933. After graduating from Newnham College, Cambridge, she worked in publishing for Heinemann, Hutchinson and Cape before switching to journalism, becoming literary editor of both the New Statesman magazine and the Sunday Times newspaper. In 1974 her book The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft won the Whitbread Book Award.
She has continued writing biographies, including highly acclaimed biographies of Katherine Mansfield and Jane Austen (the latter was translated into Russian by Alina Deriglazova in 2013) while her novel The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens published in 1990 won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize (for biography), the NCR Book Award for Non-Fiction and the Hawthornden Prize. Later the book was turned into a film starring Ralph Fiennes and Felicity Jones. Her biography of the seventeenth-century diarist Samuel Pepys published in 2002 won the Whitbread Book of the Year award.
Claire continues to explore the lives of great people with her new biography Charles Dickens: A Life that has received very positive reviews, including The Times newspaper. For more than ten years Tomalin has been a member of the Board of the National Portrait Gallery of London and an honorary doctor of many universities.