John Forster (1812-76), an exact contemporary of Charles Dickens, was one of his closest friends, and acted for him (as for many other authors) as advisor, editor, proofreader, agent and marketing manager: according to Thackeray, 'whenever anyone is in a scrape we all fly to him for refuge. He is omniscient and works miracles.' Forster was Dickens' literary executor, and was left the manuscripts of many of the novels, which he in turn left (along with the rest of his magnificent library) to the South Kensington Museum (later the Victoria and Albert Museum). He was ideally placed to write a biography of Dickens, having known him since the 1830s, and having been involved in deeply private matters such as Dickens' separation from his wife. This three-volume account was first published between 1872 and 1874; the version of Volume 1 reissued here is the 'seventh edition' of 1872.