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Charles Dickens: the best of men, the worst of men

Royal Society of Literature Literary Festival event

Date: Friday 2 March 2012 
Time: 12.30-2pm
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speakers: John Carey, Claire Tomalin  
Chair: Maggie Fergusson

Claire Tomalin’s biography of Charles Dickens, published to mark the bicentenary of his birth this spring, has been acclaimed by critics. It is, as A.N. Wilson wrote in the New Statesman, ‘a book that goes to the heart of the mystery of Dickens as a writer’, and it conjures up a man with as many different selves as a Russian doll. ‘The inimitable’, as Dickens called himself, was a performer or rock-star charisma, who mesmerised audiences of thousands before the invention of the microphone; a social reformer way ahead of his time; a sentimental lover; a cruel husband. He could be vivacious, charming and selfless, but also imperious, vindictive and egotistical. Claire Tomalin discusses his life and work with literary critic and cultural commentator John Carey.

John Carey is Emeritus Merton Professor of English at Oxford University, a distinguished critic, reviewer and broadcaster, and the author of many books, including studies of Donne, Dickens and Thackeray. His celebrated polemic What Good are the Arts? provoked much debate and discussion in 2005. He has been a regular critic on BBC2's Newsnight Review, and is also the editor of the best-selling anthologies The Faber Book of Reportage, The Faber Book of Science and The Faber Book of Utopias.

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. She is a trustee of the National Portrait Gallery, London and the Wordsworth Trust, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Vice-President of English PEN.  She is the award-winning author of many books, including The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens, Samuel Pepys and Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man.

This event is organised in association with the Royal Society of Literature.

Other events in The Royal Society of Literature spring programme include:


Monday 20 February, 7pm
Lavinia Greenlaw, David Harsent, Emma Jones, Ahren Warner
Being a poet
Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House.


Monday 5 March, 7pm
Karen Armstrong
What is religion?
Hall One, Kings Place, 90 York Way, N1 9AG.
Tickets cost £9.50. Book via the King’s Place box office on 020 7520 1490
We are grateful to The Bloomsbury Hotel for sponsoring this event.


Monday 19 March, 7pm
Richard Davenport-Hines, Frances Wilson
Titanic voyagers
Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House.


Membership of the RSL is open to all. Visit www.rslit.org for further information, or call 0207 845 4677.


Suggested hashtag for this event for Twitter users: #lselitfest


A podcast of this event is available to download from Charles Dickens: the best of men, the worst of men.

Podcasts and videos of many LSE events can be found at the LSE Public Lectures and Events: podcasts and videos channel.

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This event has been certified for CPD purposes by the CPD Certification Service. Self-Assessment Record forms will be made available for delegates wishing to record further learning and knowledge enhancement for Continuing Personal and Professional Development (CPD) purposes. For delegates who wish to obtain a CPD Certificate of Attendance, it is the responsibility of delegates to register their details with a LSE steward at the end of the event and as of 1 September 2014 a certificate will be sent within 28 days of the date of the event attended by the CPD Certification Service.  If a delegate fails to register their details at the event, it will not prove possible to issue a certificate. (For queries relating to CPD Certificates of attendance after a request please phone 0208 840 4383 or email info@cpduk.co.uk).