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

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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 twelve years of his life he toured Britain and America giving two-hour readings from his work to audiences of over two thousand. 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 a reading, 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 ever before, the sense of how those readings were performed and how they were received, how Dickens devised his stage set and tailored his 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 as tried to assess in depth the significance of what Dickens called this new expression of the meaning of my books'.

About the Author:
Malcolm Andrews is Professor of Victorian and Visual Studies, School of English, University of Kent

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A lively evocation of the overlapping artistic and commercial contexts of Dickens' performances."—Margaret Russett, Studies in English Literature

"A richly detailed and thought-provoking study"—John Bowen, Times Literary Supplement

"A subtle and probing study...Andrews writes with deep imaginative sympathy of the phenomenon that was Dickens"—Simon Callow, The Guardian

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199270699
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Malcom Andrews is Professor of Victorian and Visual Studies, School of English, Kent University

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Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements     vii
List of Illustrations     xiii
A Premiere: New York, December 1867     1
A Community of Readers: Serialization and the Bonded Reader; Anti-theatricality and Reading for Money; Debuts     9
Reading, Reciting, Acting: Communal Reading Practices; Public Recitalists; Dickens the Reader; The 'Limits of Reading'; The Reading Texts-Novels into Scripts     50
Impersonation: 'Composing out loud'; 'Most people are other people'; Charles Mathews     97
Celebrity on Tour: The Set-The Desk, Props, The Platform; The Tour Manager and Crew; Managing Celebrity; 'A convict in golden fetters'     126
Performance: Voice; Gesture; Characterization; Narrative and Character; Rapport     176
'Sikes and Nancy': A Reading     219
A 'New Expression of the Meaning of my Books': Authentication; Colour and Definition; Realism; 'This interpretation of myself'     226
Finale: London, March 1870     263
Appendix: Schedule of the Public Readings     267
Abbreviations     291
Notes     292
Index     327
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