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Dickens' First Love Was the Theatre


There is no man who figures more prominently in the modern celebration of the Christmas season than Charles Dickens, who popularized the notion of a family-celebrated day full of kindness and joy. Dickens had experienced firsthand the ravages of Victorian poverty, and he wrote the story “A Christmas Carol” as a response to those conditions. Writing it, he reported, was a profoundly moving experience.

Although we are most familiar with our Mr. Dickens because of his novels, it is worth noting that his first love was the theatre. He was 25 when he joined the Garrick Club, a private club located in the midst of London's West End theatre district. Named for the famed actor David Garrick, the club's stated purpose was to “tend to the regeneration of the Drama.” Dickens was known as an enthusiastic attendee of all things theatrical, including the circus. He did, in fact, arrange an audition at Covent Gardens, but illness prevented him from the appointment. He made up for the loss of a life onstage with his highly dramatic book readings, inserting stage directions for himself in the margins.

The Old Cowtown Museum is conducting “A Dickens of a Christmas” on Fridays and Saturdays, from 6 pm to 9 pm, through December 19. Stroll through the streets of a Victorian holiday, complete with crafts, carolers and familiar characters from “A Christmas Carol” going about their holiday business. On Saturdays, you may also enjoy the feast; reservations are required for dining.