It’s always one of the more interesting discussions that inevitably pops up among the cohort when I’m doing one of my Dickens walks.
What would he be writing if he were alive now?
The clues are there from his own lifetime: he serialised most of his work in the various “magazines” he published before they ever saw life in the format of a novel; he loved a sprawling drama packed full of interesting characters that allowed him to make his own commentary on the ups and downs of everyday life; and he was without doubt a commercial animal who, for example, loved giving readings of his work and going on exhausting reading tours (his second one to the USA near killed him).
I’d like to think that he would have been drawn to the type of big-hitting, multi-charactered serial dramas that the Americans can be so good at (The West Wing or The Sopranos for example), or maybe our own home-grown works of serial drama genius such Our Friends in the North (The. Best. Thing. On. Telly. Ever.) or House of Cards.
But the conclusion inevitably reached by my lovely walkers is “soap operas”. And you can see their point; everyday life writ large through the travails of “ordinary” people with a thousand stories to tell on a 2-3 times a week basis. Yep, Dickens would have probably been in his element keeping an early evening BBC or ITV audience on the edge of their seats.
Which was clearly the thinking of the BBC in commissioning Tony Jordan, the Grand Master of TV soaps and serial dramas, to write Dickensian.
As I’ve said in another post, I’m no great shakes as a reviewer so I won’t even attempt that, but isn’t it great fun?! (I have to say “Bucket of the Detective” is my current favourite…).
But what would the man himself have thought?
Whilst he is rightly revered for creating some of the most enduring characters and compelling stories in the English language, he was nothing if not a commercial animal and would never shirk at presenting his tales in the most populist format he could (indeed Anthony Trollope, one of his esteemed contemporaries in the Victorian literary firmament nicknamed him “Mr popular sentiment” – one of several nicknames he garnered during his lifetime, not all of them complimentary!).
So I reckon he would have been all over it. And the spin-offs, the film rights, the merchandising, the licensing and everything else that seems to go with being an international best-selling author these days.
As my own little celebration of Dickens’ return to the spotlight, I’m going to be running my Dickens After Dark walk on a weekly basis while the show is being aired, so if you want to find out more about what inspired the man who inspired the series, please join me!
You will find reviews of the walk on my testimonials page and you can also read what the lovely and talented East End artist Mary Swan though about it when she joined me for an evening stroll round The City.
You can find my current walks schedule and booking details on my Footprints of London page, hope to see you soon!