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Seven months after the death of Charles Dickens in 1870, a stage critic for the Saturday Review asked, "What will become of the English stage when the public has grown weary. . . of dramatic versions of the stories of the late Mr. Dickens?" For over 30 years, English theater groups had untiringly performed hundreds of adaptations of the colorful novels and short stories of Dickens. Dickens' works lent well to the stage due to their episodical, theatrical, and sometimes melodramatic nature.
These synopses and the illustrations accompanying them provide a significant view of Victorian theater to researchers and historians alike. Performances represented in the playbills include interpretations of The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Master Humphrey's Clock, Barnaby Rudge, Martin Chuzzlewit, A Christmas Carol, The Chimes, The Cricket on the Hearth, The Battle of Life, The Haunted Man, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Our Mutual Friend, Edwin Drood, and various performances and lectures by Dickens himself. The playbills date from 1837 to 1920 and include advertisements for performances at the Royal Lyceum, Royal Victoria, Adelphi, the New Strand, and the Olympic as well as theaters in Edinburgh, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester, and Dublin. The notices include descriptions of plot, performers, music and dance sequels, set design and designers, writers, and directors.