By Carol Hanbery MacKay
It is a crew of essays which discover how dramatic impulses underlie Dickens' perception of himself and his paintings - in addition to how they have been reworked into the dynamic international of his fiction. The paintings additionally considers Dickens' dating with girls (actresses an his personal characters) and the background of Victorian and glossy theatre. Carol Hanbery MacKay is writer of "Soliloquy in Nineteenth-Century Fiction".
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When narrative inventiveness temporarily fails him, he pulls a bugle from a handy pocket and plays a great many tunes, or the first part of them anyway. What is accomplished here? In the face of the sheer joy offered by Bill Simmons, such a question seems worthy of Malvolio. We who, like Dickens, thrive on cakes and ale will not think to ask. Almost always in Dickens, when a character in one place needs to get to another, and there is a coach to take him, we can count on a high old time of it.
He valued the involvement of the 'busy actor', but simultaneously desired a position outside that activity. Dickens's participation in the 185 7 productions of Wilkie Collins's play The Frozen Deep illuminates this use of theatre as self-concealment and as strategy for self-exhibition. 10 The play is based on the ill-fated expedition to the North Pole of Sir John Franklin that so fascinated Dickens and Victorian periodical readers in the 1850s. Franklin had set out on a third polar expedition and had subsequently disappeared in 1845.
Dickens used this narrative frame when he described his experience at the Blacking Warehouse, in which he suggests that no word has been uttered, that his own parents were 'stricken dumb' on the maHer until he momentarily 'raised the curtain' on the scene (Forster, vol. I, p. 32). He has David Copperfield ask 'permission' to step aside and let the performance of his past go on undisturbed by his intervention (or by his reaction or judgement). The theatrical context allows for a curious dual role, that of powerful director who oversees all things and sets the action in motion, and that of more humble stage-manager who arranges props and curtain calls, but cannot interfere with the characters' behaviour.