Home | Books | Charles Dickens As I Knew Him: The Story of the Reading Tours in Great Britain and America (1866-1870)

Charles Dickens As I Knew Him: The Story of the Reading Tours in Great Britain and America (1866-1870)

“Dickens was my great hero – my “Chief” – in the pleasant bygone days when we were “on the road” together – by day and by night, week after week, month after month, right through the English and American tours”


One of the most famous and best-loved English writers of the nineteenth century, Charles Dickens is the author of such familiar tales as Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Christmas Carol, and The Pickwick Papers.

He is less well-known, however, for the several Reading tours he undertook in the years prior to his death, breathing life into his works for his readers from Glasgow to Washington, DC.

Charles Dickens As I Knew Him intimately reveals the Dickens behind the writer, depicting a man devoted to his work and determined to satisfy his audience despite severe and ongoing health problems.

Told from the perspective of his manager, George Dolby, Dickens is shown as a man of many facets, whose seeming serious nature was often interrupted by moments of levity, and whose intense passion in reading his works captivated audiences in multiple countries.

Yet Dolby’s tale is woven through with the overhanging menace of Dickens’s illness and eventual death.

The devotion Dickens poured into his final two Reading tours – in America, and then in England, Scotland, and Ireland – so severely damaged his health that it soon became clear that nothing but giving up the tours would have any hope of restoring his vigour.

But Dickens was determined: for himself, for his audience, and for his publishers, he insisted upon continuing until he was at death’s door.

Dickens’s end is a matter of history, but Dolby’s account of the final years of the writer’s life offers a glimpse into a side of a great man not often seen.

Praise for Charles Dickens As I Knew Him

‘Dolby was Dickens’ sometime manager and this is as intimate, as vivid, as deeply moving (and sometimes as deeply funny) as anything ever written about the great man.’ – Simon Callow, author of Charles Dickens

George Dolby (1831-1900) served as Charles Dickens’s third manager, scouting out and organising the author’s second Reading Tour to America as well as his Farewell Tour throughout England, Ireland, and Scotland. Prior to working with Dickens, Dolby was a Theatre Manager.

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