Hard Times

The ‘terrible mistake’ was the contemporary utilitarian philosophy, expounded in Hard Times (1854) as the Philosophy of Fact by the hard-headed disciplinarian Thomas Gradgrind. But the novel, Dickens’s shortest, is more than a polemical tract for the times; the tragic story of Louisa Gradgrind and her father is one of Dickens’s triumphs. When Louisa, trapped in a loveless marriage, falls prey to an idle seducer, the crisis forces her father to reconsider his cherished system. Yet even as the development of the story reflects Dickens’s growing pessimism about human nature and society, Hard Times marks his return to the theme which had made his early works so popular: the amusements of the people. Sleary’s circus represents Dickens’s most considered defence of the necessity of entertainment, and infuses the novel with the good humour which has ensured its appeal to generations of readers.

Author Biography

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was born in Landport, Portsmouth, England, the second of eight children in a family continually plagued by debt. A legacy brought release from the nightmare of debtors’ prison and child labor and afforded him a few years of formal schooling. He worked as an attorney’s clerk and newspaper reporter until his early writings brought him the amazing success that was to be his for the remainder of his life. He was the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era, and he remains popular, responsible for some of English literature’s most iconic characters.

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Reader Biography

Patrick Tull (1941–2006), born in the United Kingdom, was a multitalented actor of the stage, screen, and television, as well as an award-winning audiobook narrator. He acted in numerous American television shows from 1962 to 1996, including Crossroads, and he had roles in six Broadway plays between 1967 and 1992, including Amadeus. His film credits from 1969 to 1996 included roles as Cecil in Parting Glances and Jerry the bartender in Sleepers. He served as narrator for the television series Sea Tales. He narrated nearly forty audiobooks, and his readings of The Canterbury Tales, The Letter of Marque, Monk’s Hood, The Vicar of Wakefield, and How Green Was My Valley each earned him an AudioFile Earphones Award. His narration of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels was praised by novelist Stephen King as among his ten favorite audiobooks of 2006.

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