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About the book
  • Published: 31 July 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446483930
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288


The Man Who Drew Dickens

Formats & editions

The first full biography of Dickens's most famous illustrator. Full of his irresistible drawings, it also provides a vivid and colourful picture of the Victorian age.

'Phiz' - Hablot Knight Browne - was the great illustrator of Dickens' fiction. For over twenty-three years they worked together, and Phiz's drawings brought to life a galaxy of much-loved characters, from Mr Pickwick, Nicholas Nickleby and Mr Micawber, to Little Nell and David Copperfield. But, from the mystery of his birth onwards, Phiz himself led a life as rich as any novel. He came from an old Huguenot Spitalfields family, ostensibly the fourteenth child of debt-ridden parents. But the Brownes' oldest daughter Kate was engaged to a Captain Hablot of Napoleon's Imperial Guard who disappeared in June 1815, presumed dead at Waterloo; Phiz was born the following month. Seven years later his official father, too, vanished without trace.

In this vivid, lively memoir - the first full biography, long-awaited by Victorian scholars - his great-great-granddaughter Valerie Browne Lester tracks the struggles of the abandoned Browne family and follows Phiz's path to marriage and fame, his travels around England and Ireland and work with Dickens, Lever, Trollope and others, and his colourful private life. Although he was hopeless with money and had too many children he remained an eternal optimist until his death in 1882. In his inimitable way, Phiz was a great artist. His story bustles with character and adventure, celebrations and arguments, laughter and tears.

Based on a mass of unpublished material, this enchanting book, packed with surprising and delicious illustrations, is a perfect present for all who love Dickens and enjoy the hidden byways of Victorian life.

  • Pub date: 31 July 2011
  • ISBN: 9781446483930
  • Imprint: Vintage Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 288

About the Author

Valerie Lester

Valerie Browne Lester, the great-great-granddaughter of Phiz, was born in England but spent her childhood in the West Indies. Educated at Harvard, George Washington University, and Georgetown University, she is the author of Fasten Your Seat Belts! History and Heroism in the Pan Am Cabin (1995), Giambattista Bodoni: His Life and his World (2015), Marvels: The Life of Clarence Bicknell, Botanist, Archaeologist, Artist (2018), and The West Indian (2019). She died in June 2019.

Praise for Phiz

“'Quirkily written and full of engaging detail, this book is a beguiling contribution to mid-Victorian studies.'”

D. J. Taylor, Sunday Times

“'A labour of love: Lester is the subject's great-great-granddaughter, and her affection spills out on every page.'”

Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Daily Telegraph

“'Everything in this biography made me want to know Phiz better.'”

Caroline Moore, Sunday Telegraph

“'A fresh and readable account of a world long vanished. The bustling life of the early 19th century has disappeared, but it is infinitely recoverable in the etchings and drawings of Phiz himself.'”

Peter Ackroyd, The Times

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