Introduction: The Mystery of Charles Dickens (01:44)
The BBC presentation of the extraordinary one-man show is based on Peter Ackroyd's Dickens biography. The brilliant British actor Simon Callow portrays Dickens as he acts out his most memorable characters, from Bill Sikes to Oliver Twist to Nancy, and more. Callow also relives Dickens's own life story, with its gruesome, poverty-stricken childhood that came to infuse his work. In this opening segment, Simon Callow describes why he appreciates Charles Dickens. His work is inherently theatrical and his characters are either autobiographical, or come from his world.
Dickens' Love of the Stage (02:50)
Callow performs the scene from "Nicholas Nickleby" where Vincent Crummles attempts to persuade Nickleby to join his troupe. Dickens insists he was an actor from the time he was a baby.
Dickens' Life in London (04:37)
Callow describes how the city impacted Dickens' writing career. After working in a blacking warehouse for three days, John Dickens is imprisoned in the Marshalsea Prison. Callow performs a scene from "David Copperfield" to illustrate similarities between Mr. Micawber and his father.
Dickens told lies about his childhood to his friends at the blacking factory and read books at night. Callow performs a scene from "Great Expectation" where Miss Havisham confronts Estella about playing with the "boy."
"The Pickwick Papers" (06:15)
Callow describes how Dickens originated the name and performs an excerpt. The completed novel appears around the world. The novel is divided into monthly installments.
Dickens' Marriage (04:00)
Catherine Hogarth's father is a literary editor. Mary Hogarth moves in with Catherine and Dickens; she dies from a sudden illness. Callow performs a scene from "Oliver Twist."
"Nicholas Nickleby" (05:47)
Dickens wrote "Oliver Twist" and "The Pickwick Papers" simultaneously; his characters surrounded him and spoke to him. Mr. Vincent Crummles unveils the poster for Miss Petowker.
Social Influence (05:10)
Dickens satirized the poor law in "Oliver Twist." The death of Little Nell at the end of "The Old Curiosity Shop" astonished readers. The Dickens' toured America and visited the president.
Critical Reception (03:36)
Dickens wrote "Martin Chuzzlewit" after American newspapers criticized him. He became the editor for a large newspaper. "A Christmas Carol" was the first book in a series about Christmas.
"David Copperfield" (04:27)
Friends were concerned about Dickens' health. Catherine suffered from dizzy spells after having ten children. John died after a bladder operation.
"Bleak House" (07:48)
Dickens felt he was getting older and most thought David Copperfield would be his greatest achievement. His life changed when he met Ellen Ternan; Dickens and Catherine separated. Georgina Hogarth assumed responsibility for the household.
"Great Expectations" (04:02)
Miss Havisham had not seen the sun since Pip was born. Dickens' health began to improve; friends and family stayed silent on the relationship between Ternan and the writer.
British Isles Reading Tour (13:04)
Dickens undertook a series of public readings in England and Scotland. The first reading of "A Christmas Carol" was held in Edinburgh; the tour lasted eleven months.
"A Tale of Two Cities" (03:43)
While writing the novel, Dickens continued his reading tour and edited "All the Year Round." During the Staplehurst rail crash, he comforted the wounded and climbed into his carriage to retrieve the manuscript for a chapter of "Our Mutual Friend."
American Reading Tour (06:57)
Dickens could no longer write at his previous pace. Friends implored him to exclude Nancy's death in "Oliver Twist."
"Our Mutual Friend" (10:15)
Dickens wrote about the birthday of Georgiana Podsnap. After public readings, he would collapse. His last performance was excerpts from "The Pickwick Papers" and "A Christmas Carol." Dickens died at the age of 59 and was buried at Westminster Abbey.
Credits: The Mystery of Charles Dickens (00:49)
Credits: The Mystery of Charles Dickens
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