Charles Dickens

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This can refer to the name of the famous Victorian English author Charles Dickens (1812-1870)[1], or to plays and performances about him.

Charles Dickens the man

Born in Portsmouth on 7 February 1812, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication.

His numerous novels (or episodes from them) have been frequently adapted to stage, radio and screen, with A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist and Great Expectations being particularly popular. (Over 200 film and TV adaptations have been recorded to date, for example.) He was perhaps the most famous celebrity in his time and a fine public speaker, so - in addition to his writing - he undertook a series of public reading tours in the later part of his career, doing highly popular dramatic readings of the various characters from the plays.

He married to Catherine Thomson Hogarth (1816–1879), the daughter of George Hogarth, editor of the Evening Chronicle, on 2 April 1836. The couple had ten children.

Dickens died at his residence, Higham, near Rochester, Kent, 9 June 1870, aged 58 years.

An interesting note: In November 2018 a previously lost portrait of a 31-year-old Dickens, by Margaret Gillies, was found in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa.

Plays about Dickens, or about his works and characters, seen in South Africa

Charles Dickens by Emlyn Williams

The original text

This is a one man play, replicating the British novelist, playwright and performer Charles Dickens’s famous public readings, originally written and performed by the Welsh actor-playwright Emlyn Williams.

Also known as Emlyn Williams as Charles Dickens.

Performance history in South Africa

1954: Emlyn Williams was brought to South Africa by Brian Brooke to perform Charles Dickens at the Wits University Great Hall in September 1954.

1981: Williams visited South Africa again, marking the 30th anniversary of Emlyn Williams as Charles Dickens, this time presented by The Company at the Market Theatre and the Baxter Theatre.

Dickens' Women by Miriam Margolyes

The original text

Based on the writings of Charles Dickens, Dickens' Women, is a one-woman piece with scenes depicting 23 characters from the novels, co-written by Miriam Margolyes (1941-) and Sonia Fraser (1937–2013)[], and performed by Miriam Margolyes (1941-).

This shows opening season in 1989–91 played at the Edinburgh Festival, the Hampstead Theatre and the Duke of York's Theatre, London and has been toured widely over the subsequent years, countries visited including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the USA and India.

The text was published by Hesperus Press in .

Performance history in South Africa

A tour of a number of University campuses in South Africa was undertaken in 19**.


Theatre programme, 1981.

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