Charles James Lever Biography


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Irish novelist Charles James Lever (LEE-vur) was the son of English parents. He studied at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1822 to 1827; his classmates and escapades there provided material he would later use in his novels. He studied medicine at Göttingen, during which time he traveled widely in Europe and, as a ship’s doctor, to Canada, where according to legend he lived for a time with backwoods natives. He became a physician in 1831. The physicians’ licensing board had doubts about his serious intentions; however, as a cholera epidemic had increased the need for doctors, the board granted him a license. Lever practiced medicine first in County Derry, where he became acquainted with William Hamilton Maxwell. Maxwell’s hunting and soldiering novels, then in vogue, had a crucial influence on Lever’s own early fiction. The death of Lever’s parents allowed him to marry Kate Baker in 1833; they had opposed the marriage.

To eke out an income, Lever drew on his experiences for a string of anecdotes published serially in the newly founded Dublin University Magazine as The Confessions of Harry Lorrequer. The work appeared in book form in 1839. From 1840 to 1842, he was semiofficially connected with the British Embassy in Brussels, where retired British officers supplied him with details for the vivid battle scenes that characterize his novels.

Charles O’Malley, the Irish Dragoon, a good example of military...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Bareham, Tony, ed. Charles Lever: New Evaluations. Savage, Md.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1991. A collection of essays comprising the first critical reevaluations of Lever in half a century.

Haddesley, Stephen. Charles Lever: The Lost Victorian. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. An up-to-date critical study.

Morash, Christopher. “Reflecting Absent Interiors: The Big House Novels of Charles Lever.” In Ancestral Voices: The Big House in Anglo-Irish Literature, edited by Otto Rauchbauer. New York: G. Olms, 1992. This collection of essays illuminates the class relationships depicted throughout the history of the Irish novel.

Solomon, Albert J. “Charles Lever: A Source for Joyce,” James Joyce Quarterly 29, no. 4 (Summer, 1992). The literary relationship between the two Irish writers is illuminated.