This major new study of the publishing history of the Irish novelist Charles Lever gives in microcosm the history of a significant number of Victorian novelists, and of publishing itself in fast changing decades.
The work illustrates the rise to prominence of the new railway libraries, the changes in taste and reading habits, and in marketing strategies as the century progressed. It shows the intimate relationships which often existed between publisher and authors, and the often feckless business sense of several mid-Victorian novelists.
Charles Lever (1806-72) was one of the most prolific and best-selling authors of the 19th century. He was the best-known Irish novelist of the time, whose influence spread far and wide. The author of 37 books including Tom Burke of Ours, the best novel of the Napoleonic Wars, and many titles essential to a modern understanding of Irish life and society.
Lever led a picaresque life: in 1827 he went to the Canadian frontier, passing some time with Indians. In 1828 he went to Germany, visiting Goethe at Weimar. He lived for many years in Italy, where he died. He was the friend and rival to Dickens, mentor to the early Thackeray, and praised and remembered affectionately by Anthony Trollope.
He achieved great popular esteem in the 1840s and 50s, only to see his fame eclipsed by the vagaries of popular taste, by a radical change of style and subject matter, and by the constant antagonism of some of the Irish Nationalists. Truly his career was the rise and fall of a giant.
Like many of his fellow tale-tellers Lever was many things to many men, essentially an amateur practising in a world growing rapidly more professional. Doctor, Consul, Editor, Essayist, he made ends meet through a hand-to mouth scramble with serial publication, with deadlines, with other legitimate calls upon his time, and with often thwarted political ambition.
No Victorian creative writer more comprehensively illustrates the ups and downs of the nearly-but-not-quite-first rate. A comprehensive Bibliography is long overdue both as a tribute to the author himself and as exemplum of publishing in a crowded, rich and exciting period.
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