Young Explorers: Performing Dickens

Victorian audiences loved going to listen to Charles reading his books out loud to them in dramatic performances. Thousands of people attended his reading tours and Charles even travelled to the United States of America so that his fans could have the chance to see and hear him.

Charles Dickens posed as if performing reading. Digital image by Oliver Clyde, 2020. Original image by (George) Herbert Watkins, collodion print, 1858.
 © Charles Dickens Museum / Oliver Clyde

Listen here to us reading a section from Charles’s story A Christmas Carol. It is a description of a character called Scrooge. Close your eyes and let the description paint a picture of this character for you in your mind!

A large print transcript of the audio recording is available to download here.

What did you think? Is this someone you would like to meet at Christmas time?

No? Neither would we! But doesn’t hearing the words read out so dramatically really help to paint a picture in your mind of the kind of character Charles wanted Scrooge to be?

He wanted his characters to be as life-like as possible. Whilst he was writing, he would imagine what his characters looked and sounded like and often jumped up from his desk to use a mirror to practise their expressions and emotions. When he gave his dramatic readings, he was so convincing at playing his characters, that members of his audience would often laugh in joy, cry in sorrow and even faint in terror as he brought his stories to life for them.

Click here to have a go at this activity. Can you perform a dramatic reading of one of Charles’s stories, just like Charles used to? Let’s see!

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