Dickens’s art is like life because, like life, it is irresponsible, because, like life, it is incredible.
—G. K. Chesterton

The biographies of most writers tend to be fascinating up to the time their writing begins in earnest. Perhaps poets of short verse have the time to get up to drunken shenanigans and commit adultery in ways that might prove interesting to read about later, but novelists—especially novelists whose books number pages in the high hundreds—are usually too busy sitting at their desks to do more than go out to dinner occasionally. The more prolific the author, the duller the life. Charles Dickens, in this as in so many things, is an exception. Despite writing fifteen long novels and producing reams of journalism and short stories, he still had time to father ten children; edit magazines; gad about the continent; tour and perform in America; ...