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After Martin Chuzzlewit was published in 1844, Dickens deliberately took a break from novels to travel in Italy for almost a year. Bored by many traditional tourist sites and repelled by the greed and empty rituals of the Catholic church, Dickens is far more attracted by urban desolation, the colourful life of the streets and visible signs of the nation's richly textured past. He is especially drawn to the costumes, cross-dressing and sheer exuberant energy of the Roman carnival. Although seldom overtly political, Pictures from Italy often touches on the corruption and cruelty of Italian history, the grinding poverty and a sense of continuing oppression lurking just below the surface. A thrilling travelogue which is also deeply revealing about its author's current anxieties and concerns, this neglected work deserves a secure place among the masterpieces of Dickens's maturity.
CHARLES DICKENS was born in 1812, the second of eight children. He received little formal education, but after a slow start, became a publishing phenomenon, and an instant success. Public grief at his death in 1870 was considerable: he was buried in the Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey.Kate Flint is Professor of English at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. She is author of The Woman Reader, 1837-1914 (1993) and The Victorians and the Visual Imagination (2000), and has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth century literary and cultural history. She iscurrently completing The Transatlantic Indian 1776-1930.