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'Phiz' - Hablot Knight Browne - was the great illustrator of Dickens' fiction. For over twenty-three years they worked together, and Phiz's drawings brought to life a galaxy of much-loved characters, from Mr Pickwick, Nicholas Nickelby and Mr Micawber, to Little Nell and David Copperfield. But, from the mystery of his birth onwards, Phiz himself led a life as rich as any novel. He came from an old Huguenot Spitalfields family, ostensibly the fourteenth child of debt-ridden parents: but his eldest sister Kate had been engaged to a Captain of Napoleon's Imperial Guard, who disappeared, presumed dead, at Waterloo- In late 1815, Phiz arrived. Soon his official father too vanished without trace. The Browne children struggled on. In this vivid, lively memoir - the first full biography, long-awaited by Victorian scholars - his great- great-granddaughter Valerie Browne Lester tracks Phiz's path to marriage and fame, his travels around England and Ireland and work with Dickens, Trollope and the Irish best-selling novelist Charles Lever, and his packed private life. He was hopeless with money and had far too many children yet remained an eternal, sunny optimist until his death in 1882 - marked by a poetic obituary in Punch. In his inimitable way, Phiz was a memorable artist and his story bustles with character and adventure, celebrations and arguments, laughter and tears. Hunting for her ancestor, the author pursued a quest that took her around the world, unearthing a hoard of unpublished material. Her enchanting book, packed with surprising and delicious illustrations, is a perfect present for all who love Dickens, art and the hidden byways of Victorian life, rich as a round plum pudding.


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