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Plays by Alan Richardson


The Inimitable Dickens sample

(Note: M1 - M4 are male readers. F1 - F4 are female readers)

F1  Even before the monthly editions of The Pickwick Papers ended, he had started serialising his next novel. Every Dickens novel first appeared in this form. The serialised editions cost one shilling at a time when a printed novel cost more than the weekly wage of the average working man. This brought Dickens a huge readership, hooked for the next instalment.  That next novel was the first English novel ever to feature as its principal character, an orphan boy – Oliver Twist.


F2  Oliver was led away from the wretched home where one kind word or look had never lighted the gloom of his infant years. And yet he burst into an agony of childish grief as the gate closed after him. Wretched as were the little companions in misery he was leaving behind, they were the only friends he had ever known; and a sense of his loneliness in the great wide world sank into the child’s heart for the first time.  

F1  Oliver Twist was another huge success. His readership included Queen Victoria, who described the novel as;

F4  “Excessively interesting.”

F1  But her Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, wasn’t impressed;

M2  “It’s all among workhouses and coffin-makers and pickpockets. I don’t like that low debasing style.”

M1  I saw no reason, when I wrote this book, why the very dregs of life, so long as their speech did not offend the ear, should not serve the purpose of a moral.

M3 & M4 rise and make a threatening move. F4 stands in their path, shielding an invisible Oliver

F4 (as Nancy) Let him be! I won't stand by and see it done, Fagin. You've got the boy, and what more would you have?--Let him be--or I shall put that mark on some of you, that will bring me to the gallows before my time.

M3(as Fagin) Why, Nancy! You,--you're more clever than ever to-night.

F4 Am I! Take care I don't overdo it. You will be the worse for it, Fagin, if I do; and so I tell you in good time to keep clear of me.

M4 (as Bill Sykes) What do you mean by this?  Do you know who you are, and what you are?

F4  Oh, yes, Bill, I know all about it.

M4  Then keep quiet, or I'll quiet you for a good long time to come. You're a nice one, to take up the humane and genteel side! A pretty subject for the child to make a friend of!

F4  God Almighty help me, I am! And I wish I had been struck dead in the street before I had lent a hand in bringing him here. He's a thief, a liar, a devil, all that's bad, from this night forth. Isn't that enough?

M3  Come, come, we must have civil words.

F4  Civil words! Civil words, you villain! Yes, you deserve 'em from me. I thieved for you when I was a child not half as old as Oliver. I have been in the same trade, and in the same service, for twelve years since. Don't you know it? Speak out!  

M3  Well, well, and, if you have, it's your living!

F4  Aye, it is! It is my living; and the cold, wet, dirty streets are my home; and you're
the wretch that drove me to them long ago, and that'll keep me there, day and night, till I die!

F2  Before the serialisation of Oliver Twist had ended, he had started the monthly editions of his third novel, Nicholas Nickleby. Meet Nicholas Nickleby’s mother, and his sister, Kate. Mrs. Nickleby loves to reminisce, but does have this habit of digressing.

F3  Kate, my dear, I don't know how it is, but a fine warm summer day like this, with the birds singing in every direction, always puts me in mind of roast pig.

F4  That's a curious association of ideas, is it not, mama?

F3   Upon my word, my dear, I don't know, Roast pig; let me see. On the day five weeks after you were christened, we had a roast--no, that couldn't have been a pig, because I recollect there were a pair of them to carve, and your poor papa and I could never have thought of sitting down to two pigs--they must have been partridges. Roast pig! I hardly think we ever could have had one, now I come to remember, for your papa could never bear the sight of them in the shops, and used to say that they always put him in mind of very little babies, only the pigs had much fairer complexions; and he had a horror of little babies too, because he couldn't very well afford any increase to his family. It's very odd now, what can have put that in my head! I recollect dining once at Mrs Bevan's, round the corner by the coachmaker's, where the tipsy man fell through the cellar-flap of an empty house nearly a week before the quarter-day, and wasn't found till the new tenant went in--and we had roast pig there. It must be that, I think, that reminds me of it, especially as there was a little bird in the room that would keep on singing all the time of dinner--at least, not a little bird, for it was a parrot, and he didn't sing exactly, for he talked and swore dreadfully: but I think it must be that. Indeed I am sure it must. Shouldn't you say so, my dear?

F4  I should say there was not a doubt about it, mama.