Dickens on Screen

Dickens on Screen

Dickens on Screen

Dickens on Screen


Television and movies, not libraries or scholarship, have made Charles Dickens the most important unread novelist in English. In addition to the millions of people already deploying the word "Dickensian" to describe their own and others' lives, many more who have never read Dickens are familiar with the term. They know of him because they have access to over a century of adaptations of his works for movies and television. Including an exhaustive filmography, this work will be an invaluable resource for students and scholars.


John Glavin

A great deal that follows in this book is likely to seem not just strange
but very strange to a reader who thinks that adaptation is supposed to
copy an original reliably, transferring it to a new medium intact, and with
respect. In this, the standard view, a good adaptation is good precisely
because it gets a better source right. And here, just to be even-handed,
is a strong argument for just that view, put with her usual eloquence and
force by the novelist Fay Weldon, replying to my request for a preface.

Dear John,

Thank you for asking me to write your preface -I am flattered - but my problem is though good on Austen I am bad on Dickens. (I don't know why this antithesis occurs so naturally - she was born in 1775 and he in 1812, separated by nearly four decades: but I suppose in our heads Dickens and Austen both are just vaguely way back around then.) They made me read Mr. Pickwick at school, and I simply could not laugh. The book was illustrated - line drawings of corpulent men with pot bellies in tight waistcoats, which seemed not just outlandish but revolting. (This was in New Zealand: the old men I knew were skinny, gnarled pioneers.) I do admire that energy, that rolling prose, that Rushdie-ish freedom with language, at least when it's read aloud, but I simply cannot bear to read it myself. Thackeray I love: that smart, male, sophisticated man-about-town overview. Dickens's heart bled without stringency all over the place - though I do get on with his Household Narrative, the sheer accepting penny dreadfulness to which our own newspapers are fast returning. Nor do I think for a moment that Dickensian London was as he described it - Victor Hugo, born 1802, if we're on to comparisons, an equal gusher about the lives of the poor, got Paris more subtly, and at least had some reforming political zeal to add to the relish.

If life copies art - and it does (look how much worse the pea-soupers got after Monet with his eye cataract started painting the Thames, as Oscar Wilde pointed out) -I suppose it's going too far to blame Dickens for our descent from Georgian elegance, free-thinking and aspiration into messy Victorian sentimentality, but I am inclined to. I bet he had awful taste in furniture. Hans Christian Andersen (born 1805, there we go again) came from Copenhagen to stay and was such a difficult and neurotic house guest Mrs. Dickens longed for him to go away, and he never would, but at least he had the gift of parable. Search her husband's work for subtext and search for ever. Dickens turned London into a theme park long . . .

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