Dickens goes to war: David Copperfield at His Majesty's Theatre, 1914

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


As a powerful symbol of education, culture, and "Englishness," Dickens had a busy time during the First World War. He was available as a cultural icon whose spirit and authority could be invoked for uses beyond the literary. In Britain, very few questioned the mobilization of Dickens in this way; the novelist's worth was self-evident. This was also the view of theater managers up and down the country who, worried about the slump in attendances, rediscovered Dickens's cultural (and commercial) value. This article focuses on a specific instance of how Dickens was put to work in the theatre during the War. In 1914, at His Majesty's Theatre in London's West End, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree produced a lavish version of David Copperfield, adapted by Louis Napoleon Parker. The production was a hit, running for four months. Herbert Tree's star status was part of its appeal, but this version of David Copperfield can also be seen as an important piece of wartime propaganda. Dickens's work could be extended to a specific cultural and historical moment and reach out beyond its original boundaries. Thinking about this particular adaptation thus invites us perhaps to consider some of the strategies involved in dealing with the literary legacy of an author and his work
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-203
JournalDickens Studies Annual
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


  • Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, theatre, adaptation, Herbert Beerbohm Tree, First World War


Dive into the research topics of 'Dickens goes to war: David Copperfield at His Majesty's Theatre, 1914'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this