Dickens' rise to fame and his world-wide popularity were by no means inevitable. He started out with no clear career in mind, drifting in and out of the theatre, journalism and editing before finding unexpected success as a creative writer. Taking account of everything known about Dickens's apprentice years, Robert L. Patten narrates the fierce struggle Dickens then had to create an alter ego, Boz, and later to contain and extinguish him. His revision of Dickens' biography in the context of early Victorian social and political history and print culture opens up a more unstable, yet more fascinating, portrait of Dickens. The book tells the story of how Dickens created an authorial persona that highlighted certain attributes and concealed others about his life, talent and publications. This complicated narrative of struggle, determination, dead ends and new beginnings is as gripping as one of Dickens' own novels.