The Famed and the Forgotten - Oxford University English Graduate Conference

  • Jonathan Buckmaster (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


“,,,of every dramatic library we ought to see it, Joe-king apart”: Dickens’s Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi Reappraised

In this paper I examine Dickens’s forgotten biography of the famed pantomime clown, Joseph Grimaldi, which he ‘edited’ from another author’s manuscript and published in 1838. It is one of the most unpopular and unread texts by one of the most popular and most read authors, a fact that should pique the interest of any literary scholar.
In the first part of this paper, I examine the history and reception of this text to date. By evaluating evidence from its earliest reviews to the most recent biographies of both Dickens and Grimaldi, I piece together the reasons that made the Memoirs a rare commercial failure for its author at the time and have consigned it to obscurity ever since. As I demonstrate, this investigation has turned up a number of (regularly perpetuated) misrepresentations and misconceptions that are characteristic of this process of literary diminution.
In the second part of the paper I try to salvage this work from the critical bonfire, by making a case for its merits. This argument considers the Memoirs within the context of Dickens’s other work at the time – particularly his essay ‘The Pantomime of Life’ – and offers the conclusion that rather than an anomalous self-contained piece, the Memoirs represents an important stage in the development of Dickens’s ideas on theatricality and performance.

Period10 Jun 2011
Event typeConference
LocationOxford, United KingdomShow on map