It is widely known that Charles Dickens gave public readings of his works, and that those readings were enormously popular. Far less well known are the stories themselves; these were not, as is the modern fashion, taken verbatim from the published novels. Instead, Dickens trimmed, reworded, and re-shaped material from the novels to create stories that would be self-contained artistic entities. These concise "performance fictions," shaped in every way to be accessible to a broad audience, are in many ways an ideal introduction to Dickens's work for the modern reader.
Four of the most successful of these short works have been selected for this volume, including "The Story of Little Dombey" (perhaps the most emotionally affecting of all the readings, and described by Dickens as his "greatest triumph everywhere") and the violent and suspenseful "Sikes and Nancy" (Dickens's overpowering performances of which were said to have contributed to his death). Provided in the contextual materials is a selection of reviews and contemporary descriptions that comment on Dickens's manner of performance and audience reception. A brief excerpt from Dombey and Son is also included, illustrating the extensive revision process that led to "The Story of Little Dombey."show more