HE READ through 15,000 thousands letters three times each.

He spent 15 years researching the life and legacy of Charles Dickens.

Now, former judge and long-time barrister Derwin Hope can finally share his book with the world.

Charles Dickens: My Life is an autobiography of sorts – it tells the story exactly how Dickens would if he were alive.

Mr Hope, who lives in St Cross, has condensed the thousands of letters by the literary great into a narrative.

"I've been reading about Dickens for around 25 years and I first started working on this book before I was retired – 15 years ago now," said Mr Hope. "It all started when I went to Portsmouth to work."

"Standing in his bedroom really made me wonder how he made it from that very spot to a world of fame.

"Reading the letters, it was just like he was talking to me. I wanted other people to experience that."

The book delves deep into some of the lesser known facts about Dickens.

It looks at his venture with an 18-year-old girl after years in a loveless marriage, and how the name Fagin came to be in Oliver Twist.

Mr Hope has devoted a chunk of his life to this book, travelling as far as New York to complete research.

He said: "It has absolutely been worth it. The feedback so far has been fantastic and I'm finding that a lot of younger people are interested.

"I didn't know much about him at all before this book, and although I've been retired for the last six years, it hasn't felt like a job – it's been something I've thoroughly enjoyed."

To pass the time now, Mr Hope is building a Jensen Healey sports car with a V8 engine.

He joked that could be the subject of his next book, "now that I have the free time".

To buy a copy of Charles Dickens: My Life, visit: shorturl.at/QRZ37.

About the Author

Derwin Hope has lived in St Cross, Winchester, for the last 30 years.

He was born in Somerset in 1944 and held some prestigious titles throughout his legal career.

In 1993 he became a Recorder – a part-time judge alongside his work as a Barrister – and in 2002 became a full-time Circuit Judge.

For two years he sat in Bolton, Greater Manchester, before being transferred to Portsmouth, the birthplace of Charles Dickens.

After two years he transferred to Southampton, where he sat as the Resident Judge (the most senior) for 8 years and was appointed the Honorary Recorder of Southampton by the City.

He retired from the law in 2014 and from the Honorary Recordership in 2020.

He is married to Heidi, and they have one son, Matthew, and one daughter, Zoe.