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Dickens of a Year - 1848
Wed 26 July 2017, 13:05 – 14:00 BST
Gabriel Woolf, actor
Esteemed actor Gabriel Woolf’s present a one-man show based on one of the most famous literary inhabitants of the Parish of St Marylebone. Dickens lived in nearby Devonshire Terrace, and his son was baptized in the church. Gabriel Woolf writes:
CHARLES DICKENS was such an extraordinary man, so restless, so energetic, so prolific, that any attempt to compress his entire life into a single programme is doomed- it would burst at the seams. Another approach had to be found. At the start of 1848 a small specific incident occurred that had far-reaching effects on him; a casual question about his childhood released what were, for him, traumatic memories, repressed until then. He examined them, on paper, for the first time, and within a year employed them in the only therapy he knew - he used them to create a fictional masterpiece, “David Copperfield”. I decided to look closely at this year and found it teeming with all the other elements of his nature. He was always writing - Dombey and Son, A Christmas Story, a Sarah Gamp Monologue, David Copperfield - more than enough for a year - and letters and more letters. But look what else: together with Angela Burdett-Coutts, he planned, opened, and helped run A Home for Fallen Women, with mixed results: and in his spare time, on the flimsiest of charitable pretexts, the showman in him gathered together a band of theatrical amateurs, famous writers, cartoonists and editors, and rehearsed them, bullied them, managed the company, and dragged them off to perform all round Britain, himself among them, performing nightly. He chose the music, compiled the playbills - even sent instructions on how to make the tickets! Only to listen to his furious activity is breath-taking, but it also to be both highly entertained and puzzled. Why was he so anxious to fill every second? His two days “off’ that year were dedicated, first, to a 20 mile ride in the pouring rain and, second, to a twenty-two mile walk. To quote Wordsworth, he seems “more like a man who flees the thing he fears, than seeks the thing he loves”. The exciting narrative of these full days is only surpassed by the triumphant narratives of his own books; the variety of scenes and activity may tend to make the mind reel but they are certainly never boring. This microcosm of Dickens’ life is far more full than most people’s entire lives. Little wonder he died from driving himself beyond his limits. But what a legacy he left us all.