Humphry House

(1908—1955) literary scholar

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The pioneer of modern literary-historical scholarship of Dickens, a popular teacher at both Oxford and Cambridge, and frequent presenter of talks on the BBC (see Criticism: Historical). His The Dickens World (1941), in spite of some limitations associated with being completed when House was on active wartime service, remains the indispensable introduction to an understanding of Dickens in his age and provided a model for the subsequent work of Philip Collins, K. J. Fielding, and Kathleen Tillotson, among others. Believing that ‘Dickens history is inseparable from Dickens reformism’, House portrayed Dickens as a much more thoughtful, tough-minded, and informed writer than the sentimental, anti-utilitarian promoter of a vague benevolence that he had frequently and condescendingly been presumed to be. House's sudden and untimely death at 46 came when he was well into work on the complete edition of Dickens's letters that has since been carried on (as the Pilgrim Edition) by his late widow, Madeline House, and Graham Storey, with the help of many others. His work on the letters is engagingly described in an essay in his All in Due Time (1955), alongside several other important pieces on Dickens as well as other Romantic and Victorian writers.

From Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century).

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