Victorian popular culture: Prose, stage and screen

  • Jonathan Buckmaster (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventParticipation in conference


From Stage to Page: Dickens’s Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi and ‘The Pantomime of Life’

While Charles Dickens cannot be regarded as an understudied author, his edited memoirs of the pantomime clown Joseph Grimaldi can certainly be regarded as an understudied, or even neglected, text. Taking their cue from Dickens’s ostensibly dismissive attitude of the text, very few critics have considered The Memoirs in their work. Apart from brief mentions in biographies of Dickens, the principal critical engagement is that of Grimaldi’s biographer Richard Findlater, who dismisses The Memoirs as ‘a literary misalliance’ and ‘among the most disappointing reminiscences in our theatrical literature’.
However, this paper will attempt to redress the balance, by reconsidering The Memoirs in the context of Dickens’s theatrical sensibility. Through a close reading of The Memoirs alongside Dickens’s essay ‘The Pantomime of Life’, which was published in Bentley’s Miscellany the previous March, this paper will demonstrate how The Memoirs represents a practical examination of the nature of role-playing and the theatrical model of actor and audience in life and art. Furthermore, I shall draw The Memoirs a small step closer towards the Dickens canon by suggesting how he was interrogating similar themes in his other, more popular works of the same time, The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist.

Period23 Jul 2010
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map