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The Magic of Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol

If you want to get your pupils excited about Charles Dickens, then here is the perfect way to do it.

The Magic of Charles Dickens and A Christmas Carol is a talk specially designed for schools, and in particular English students, as an entertaining introduction to this great writer.

It is a little known fact that Dickens was also an expert magician ("the best conjurer I've ever seen - and I've paid to see several", wrote one famous contemporary). So intertwined with the presentation are some Dickensian conjuring tricks to illustrate, and make memorable, some of the points talked about.

Dickens first became interested in conjuring at around the same time he was writing A Christmas Carol. And there are several references in this famous short story that can be directly related to his love of magic. So as well as talking about the writing, publishing, social content and enduring legacy of this wonderful book, it is also tied into his favourite pastime of this period.

Besides A Christmas Carol and his other short stories, some of the other subjects covered include:

Dickens the Novelist

This of course is what Dickens is best known for. But the sheer length of his books can be a little off-putting to pupils. So an explanation is given of how they are written in serial form, effectively being the boxed DVD sets of their day.

Dickens the Magazine Editor

Dickens was the editor of two magazines, Household Words and All the Year Round. These not only included the serialisaton of the novels A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times and Great Expectations; but also contained numerous articles from famous friends and contemporaries of Dickens such as Wilkie Collins (author of The Woman in White and The Moonstone).

Dickens the Letter Writer

His letters are not only an entertaining read on their own; but also throw light on his novels. These range from apologising to his wife’s chiropodist for depicting her unfavourably in David Copperfield; to confessing that a character in Bleak House was an exact reproduction of one of his friends - and then pretending it wasn’t when writing to the friend himself.

Dickens the Performer

His love of public performing was fundamental to Dickens’ life. As an actor (in plays he would produce, direct and often take the main part!), a distinguished speaker, a master of public readings of his books (arguably they contributed to his early death) and, of course, as an amateur conjuror.

Dickens the Comedian

Armando Iannucci, in a recent BBC documentary, made the case that Dickens’ was Britain’s greatest comedian. And there are many examples of his comedy writing, particularly in his earlier novels such as the Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby, demonstrating his gift for telling jokes in just a couple of lines.

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