It’s nice to have friends

Dear Charles,

friends are awesome!

I’ve discovered something that we have in common – amazing friends! I’ve just found out that you were wont to hang with one John Forster, who took it upon himself to write your biography shortly after you passed away. And my friend Sue, who is wont to hang with me, gave me a beautiful illustrated copy of this biography as a late birthday present! I can’t wait to dip into it and learn more about you, and I’m glad you had the kind of long-standing friend who you trusted to commission with your biography. Just reading the introduction makes me itch to read more.

I discover from the introduction that Mr. Forster was a friend for over thirty years and read all your drafts, and even if your friendship with him was not all sunshine and rainbows, that he was the only person you trusted enough to tell about your difficult childhood. I also read in the introduction that he downplayed some of the aspects of your life that he didn’t agree with, such as your treatment of your first wife. Biographies are interesting in that way, aren’t they? On the one hand, your best friend knows more about you than anyone, but because he’s your friend, he has to balance what he knows against what he thinks other people should know. Quite the conundrum, writing a faithful account while remaining faithful to you as a friend. I’m sure he wanted to portray you in the best possible light, even if he tried to tell himself he was impartial. I wonder what you would have thought of it?

Well, this is just a short letter, because as much as I’d love to keep writing, or to dive right into your biography, I’m nowhere near finished reading about the Nicklebys and their new friends, the Cheeryble brothers.

I remain your friend,


P.S. Jane Smiley, in her forward, calls you “an odd man” who wrote “odd books.”  Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying them so much. 🙂

This entry was posted in Random.

One comment on “It’s nice to have friends

  1. Blair says:


    This reminds me of something. I read a Hemingway biography a few years ago, and I have only read 2 or 3 of his novels. It was a hefty read, the bio, and afterwards I thought, “Why should I read all *about* this writer instead of reading his works?” Now, I tend to be a bit of a biography nut, so there’s that. And this project of yours clearly obviates any concerns you might have about reading the beautiful Dickens biography. But it’s an interesting thing about the literary biography… should one read about the author or simply READ THE AUTHOR? Just thinking out loud here.

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