November 17, 2003 Vol. VIII, No. 7

Scholar's Fascination with Dickens Traced to Boyhood

Family's Early Influence Inspires Harry Stone's Lifelong Pursuit of 'All Things Dickens'

Harry Stone, English professor emeritus at California State University, Northridge, not only is an internationally renowned scholar on English novelist Charles Dickens, but also has devoted some 60 years of his life to amassing one of the world's largest and finest Dickens collections that he now has pledged to the university where he taught for 32 years, from 1960 to 1992.

Stone's fascination with Dickens, and with a wide range of other literary and artistic pursuits, began as a youngster growing up in Mt. Vernon, New York, and continued when his family moved to Los Angeles. By age 14, Stone had read all of Dickens' novels, and upon reaching college age, the future professor began a lifelong personal pursuit of collecting all things Dickens. The resulting Harry Stone Dickens Collection encompasses thousands of pieces, including first editions of Dickens novels in bound and monthly series formats, books and articles by and about the author, his letters and personal books, photographs, music, figurines and much more.

During a prolific career spanning nearly four decades, Stone has authored or edited nine books on Dickens, contributed sections to more than a dozen other books, and written scores of articles on the famous novelist. Stone came to Los Angeles in 1938 at age 12, attending John Burroughs Junior High School, Fairfax High School, and the University of California at Los Angeles. At UCLA, he earned his bachelor's degree in 1946 in physics, naval science and political science, and then went on to advanced studies in English literature, earning his master's degree in 1950 and his doctoral degree in 1955.

After leaving Los Angeles to launch his teaching career at Northwestern University in Illinois from 1955 to 1960, Stone returned in 1960 to accept a position as assistant professor of English at Cal State Northridge, which then was known as San Fernando Valley State College. Stone arrived as one of the early faculty members at the then two-year-old institution, helping build its English Department during an ensuing Northridge teaching career that spanned 32 years. Stone became an associate professor in 1963 and then a full professor in 1966, before retiring in 1992.

During his Cal State Northridge years, Stone taught English literature, specializing in Victorian literature and Charles Dickens. He won a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and a California State University Fellowship. Those awards and several sabbaticals enabled Stone to spend several years living abroad, mostly in London doing research, and to lecture in countries around the world. He also helped build the English literature collection in the university's Oviatt Library by overseeing thousands of acquisitions.

Stone credits his father Bernard Stone, a voracious reader who graduated from Oxford University after winning a prestigious national scholarship, with fostering his love of books and Dickens. The entire family, including his mother Annie Stone and older sister Vera, read to Stone as a youngster in a home filled with books. Stone's father, a prominent Zionist, also devoted his life to promoting the creation of a Jewish nation, working closely with Chaim Weitzman, who later became the first president of Israel.

@csun | November 17, 2003 issue
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