SUMMER 2019 • THE MISSOURI REVIEW 45
to Mystery” when Scrooge sits
down to a melancholy dinner in
a melancholy tavern. He also canceled some illustrations. Dickens,
ever the performer, improvised in
front of audiences: on stage in Sunderland in 1858, he extemporaneously did “such a vast number of
new things” that his manager and
crew “stood in amazement at the
Wing, and roared and stamped
as if it were an entirely new book,
topping all the others.” 5
Dickens often paired his performance of Carol with readings from other books. In 1861,
he added six new works to his
repertoire, including David Copperfield and Nicholas Nickleby.
When revising these two books
for the stage, Dickens radically
condensed the narratives and
commissioned William Clowes
in London to print the new texts,
Dickens prepared extensively for readings. In August 1861, he reported to his friend (and later biographer) John Forster that “every day
for two or three hours, I practise my new readings, and (except in my
5. Charles Dickens, Letter to William Henry Wills, Newcastle, September 24, 1858, in Graham
Storey, ed., The British Academy/The Pilgrim Edition of The Letters of Charles Dickens, Vol. 8:
1856–1858 (published in print: 1997; published online: May 2016).
Charles Dickens’s reading copy. Detail of
p. 37. Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol
in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas
(London: Bradbury and Evans, 1849).
Berg Collection, N YPL.