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    By: Malcolm Andrews

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    "How does Dickens make his readers laugh? What is the distinctive character of Dickensian humour? These are the questions explored in this book on a topic that has been strangely neglected in critical studies over the last half century. Dickens's friend and biographer John Forster declared that: 'His leading quality was Humour.' At the end of Dickens's career he was acclaimed as 'the greatest English Humourist since Shakespeare's time.' In 1971 the critic Philip Collins surveyed recent decades of Dickenscriticism and asked 'from how many discussions of Dickens in the learned journals would one ever guess that (as Dickens himself thought) humour was his leading quality, his highest faculty?' Forty years later, that rhetorical question has lost none of its force. Why? Perhaps Dickens's genius as a humourist is simply taken for granted, and critics prefer to turn to his other achievements; or perhaps humour is too hard to analyse without spoiling the fun?"

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