Charles Dickens and His Performing Selves: Dickens and the Public Readings

Paperback | January 16, 2008

byMalcolm Andrews

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Charles Dickens had three professional careers: novelist, journalist and public Reader. That third career has seldom been given the serious attention it deserved. For the last 12 years of his life he toured Britain and America giving 2-hour readings from his work to audiences of over twothousand. These readings were highly dramatic performances in which Dickens's great gift for mimicry enabled him to represent the looks and voices of his characters, to the point where audiences forgot they were watching Charles Dickens. His novels came alive on the platform: at the end of areading, it seemed to many that a whole society had broken up rather than that a solitary recitalist had concluded. This book tries to recreate, in greater detail than hitherto, the sense of how those readings were performed and how they were received, how Dickens devised his stage set and tailoredhis books to make them into performance scripts, how he conducted his reading tours all around the country and developed a quite extraordinary rapport with his listeners. No single study of this late career of Dickens has drawn to such an extent on contemporary witnesses to the readings as well astried to assess in some depth the significance of what Dickens called 'this new expression of the meaning of my books'. 'I shall tear myself to pieces', he said as he waited eagerly to go on stage for his performance, and that is ironically what he did, in ways he perhaps had not quite intended: hefractured into dozens of different characters up there on the platform, and as he thus tore himself to pieces his health collapsed irretrievably under the pressures he put upon himself to achieve these masterly illusions.

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Charles Dickens had three professional careers: novelist, journalist and public Reader. That third career has seldom been given the serious attention it deserved. For the last 12 years of his life he toured Britain and America giving 2-hour readings from his work to audiences of over twothousand. These readings were highly dramatic per...

Malcolm Andrews is a Professor of Victorian and Visual Studies, School oE English, University of Kent.

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.74 inPublished:January 16, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199236208

ISBN - 13:9780199236206

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Table of Contents

Premiere: New York, December 18671. A Community of Readers2. Reading, Reciting, Acting3. Impersonation4. Celebrity on Tour5. Performance'Sikes and Nancy': A Re-enactment6. A 'New Expression of the Meaning of my Books'Finale: London, March 1870Appendix: Schedule of the Reading Tours

Editorial Reviews

`[a] subtle and probing study...Andrews writes with deep imaginative sympathy of the phenomenon that was Dickens'Simon Callow, The Guardian