Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World by Simon Callow

Exuberant and boisterous…

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Charles Dickens Theatre CallowCallow has written a superbly readable and affectionate account of the great man’s life, viewing it from the perspective of how Dickens’ love for the world of the theatre influenced his life and work. Interspersed generously with Dickens’ own words, taken from his correspondence with friends, we get a real feel for his massive personality, his sense of fun, his unstoppable energy and, yes, his occasional pomposity too.

Callow doesn’t shirk from telling us about the less flattering aspects of Dickens’ life – his appalling treatment of his wife, for instance, and the occasional bullying of his poor publishers. dickensBut he also reminds us of the social campaigning and the generosity to family, friends and colleagues. The account is a linear one, so we find out what Dickens was involved in at the time of writing each of his novels and get a feel for the inspiration for each one.

Callow concentrates in considerable depth on Dickens the showman – the many theatrical performances he wrote for, played in and directed in his early life; and then the tremendous and punishing public readings of his own works which came to dominate so much of his later years. Here was an author who gave generously to his adoring public and who thrived on the adulation he was shown in return.

Callow playing Dickens
Callow playing Dickens
I’ve been in love with Dickens the writer for most of my life and now having read this fabulous biography I have fallen in love with Dickens the man! If I tell you that I cried when Dickens died (not an altogether unexpected plot development) then it will give you some idea of how much of the humanity of the man Callow has managed to reveal. I have been left wanting to re-read so many of the novels and stories, not to mention the letters – thank goodness for my copy of The Complete Works.

An exuberant and boisterous biography – a fitting tribute to this exuberant and remarkable man. Highly, highly recommended.

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5 thoughts on “Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World by Simon Callow

  1. Hi! Congratulations on a great website though I do hate you for making it look so much better than mine. I haven’t read Simon Callow’s biography but I am reading Claire Tomalin’s biography of Dickens at the moment. Have you read that? I didn’t see it mentioned on your website so i am assuming you haven’t. It is very good and she is a great biographical writer. Personally, I don’t like Dickens as a writer but next semester at Uni Dickens is part of the curriculum. I am great believer that reading a biography can help a reader understand the biographical subject’s books. Anyway, I decided to read the Dickens biography in the hope it will help me understand the man better and hopefully allow me to like his work. Congratulations on the website. All the best from sunny (ok wet, but I live in hope) West Lothian.


    • Thanks for the kind compliment! I haven’t read Tomalin’s biography, though I’ve been meaning to for ages. I love Dickens but he does seem to be one of these writers that divides opinion. I must say that Uni nearly destroyed him for me though – the anaylsis killed the magic – but I think that’s more to with me than with the course. I hope you find it more enjoyable – do you know which book(s) they’ll be covering?

      We are almost neighbours – I’m just outside Glasgow – also wet!


      • Hi! It is Hard Times. The Dickens’ book of course not my life…then again. Anyway, I will do my best to go into that part of the course with an open mind. Reading Tomalin’s biography is giving me a new insight into the man and I am seeing him a different light. Keep up the good work with the website.


        • Hmm…Hard Times is not one of my favourites, though it has a lot of Dickens’ social commentary and anger in it. But not as much joyousness to lighten it as some of the others. My own favourite is Bleak House – in fact, that’s my favourite book of all time. I hope you enjoy the course though, and would be interested to hear if it changes your opinion of Dickens.


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