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Charles Dickens and His Performing Selves: Dickens and the Public Readings Hardcover – 26 Oct 2006

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 346 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (26 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199270694
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199270699
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 2.5 x 14 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,278,587 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


In achieving all its ambitions, Andrews's book does then add yet another chapter to the extraordinary volume of Dickens's life and work. (Grahame Smith, The Review of English Studies)

...makes a superb and indeed original contribution to our understanding of Dickens the novelist (David Paroissien, Dickens Quarterly)

[a] richly detailed and thought-provoking study (John Bowen, TLS)

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

This intriguing us a superb account which does much to help our understanding of the phenomenon that was Charles Dickens. (Contemporary Review)

About the Author

Malcolm Andrews is Professor of Victorian and Visual Arts at the University of Kent. He is the author of Dickens and the Grown-up Child and the Editor of The Dickensian, the journal of the international Dickens Fellowship. He has also written on landscape and art history in two books, The Search for the Picturesque: Toursim and Landscape Aesthetics in Britain, 1760-1800 and Landscape and Western Art (in the Oxford History of Art series). He has performed Readings from Dickens over a number of years.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Malcolm Andrew's book combines careful academic research with readability. The picture that emerges of Charles Dickens is of a man driven by the need to connect with his readership and for whom public recitation became a natural continuation of his life as a published author. For most of those who went to hear him recite - in the UK and the United States - the memory of this famous author conjuring up, though a combination of voice and gesture, a range of Dickensian characters will have stayed with them for the rest of their lives. This book, too, is memorable and one that readers will want to keep on their bookshelf.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0x92acef9c) out of 5 stars 1 review
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x92e05174) out of 5 stars How the Great Writer Was a Great Performer 13 Jan. 2007
By Rob Hardy - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There is an enormous expanse of Shakespeare studies going back centuries. Shakespeare was a hugely popular author in his time; 250 years later, the hugely popular author was Charles Dickens, and the academic world has begun its centuries of labor for the newcomer. To write a biography of Shakespeare takes a good deal of guesswork; Dickens, however, put an effort into being well known. He wrote lots of big novels, many of them with autobiographical parts. He publicly campaigned for good works. He wrote thousands of letters, which have been collected, of course, into multi-volume sets. And he toured on stage, reading from his works, when such an act was a complete novelty. This last endeavor, which cemented the bond between the author and his readers in a way that no other writer ever did, is the fascinating subject of _Charles Dickens and His Performing Selves: Dickens and the Public Readings_ (Oxford University Press) by Malcolm Andrews. A professor of Victorian and Visual Studies, Andrews is the editor of _The Dickensian_, the century-old journal of the international Dickens Fellowship, and brings to his subject obvious love and enthusiasm. The book is certainly not a biography of Dickens, but is the best of ways to get an idea of what sort of a public figure he was, and how adoring was his public.

Dickens loved acting, performing in amateur theatricals all his life, but being on the stage was certainly not the way a gentleman would make a living. He saw his readings as yet another way to cement a bond between an author and his readers; he had been performing on the page with great success especially as an author of serialized novels by which he had become part of the lives of millions. Dickens wished to convert that relationship in print into something more personal. He made a little fun of himself in a letter to a friend, "I must go to Bradford in Yorkshire, to read once more to a little fireside party of 4000," but there was sincere affection in both directions between the author and his audience. In his print fiction, he is, as Andrews says, the "virtuoso narrator... He plays to his readers in his fiction, carefully cultivating their sympathies and coaxing them into active responsiveness: cajoling, facetious, hectoring, buttonholing." When he took to the stage himself, he was ready to be the same beguiling narrator in person. He was forceful in playing roles, as he had been even before he wrote characters into his novels; he "composed his writing out loud", sometimes performing the roles before writing down the words in the text. In performance, he dressed in evening clothes and was concerned to avoid charges of exaggeration, but Andrews quotes many spectators who were dazzled as he changed before their eyes into Scrooge, Fagin, Mrs. Gamp, and the rest.

His most dramatic piece was the harrowing one of Sikes murdering Nancy, and the description of the performance here shows that it was physically exhausting. Perhaps it contributed to his final illness. On 15 March 1870, lame and partially stricken with paralysis, he gave his last reading, and after the applause had died down, he addressed the audience with thanks, and a farewell to performing on stage, although he reassured them he would keep writing: "Ladies and Gentlemen, in but two short weeks from this time, I hope that you may enter, in your own homes, on a new series of readings, at which my assistance will be indispensable; but from these garish lights I vanish now for evermore, with a heartfelt, grateful, respectful, and affectionate farewell." He didn't complete _Edwin Drood_, but was buried in Poets' Corner a mere twelve weeks later, to world-wide lamentation. To read Andrews's book is to come as close as we can get to seeing Dickens perform and to feeling the affection his audiences had for him, and at its end we feel their loss.
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