Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 February 2013
What would you give for a recording of Dickens reading? Who would not treasure a scrap of the Inimitable's voice? Dickens himself wanted people to hear him. He revelled in public readings where his voice brought to life Micawber and Pickwick, the death of Little Nell and the hanging of Sikes. Recordings of other nineteenth-century voices exist – Tennyson, Browning and Whitman, among writers – and the tenuous thread of their words reaches toward us as from another world. The crackle of static is like the noise of time itself. Dickens, who was interested in sound technology, would have been one of the first in line to bury his head in a speaking trumpet and bellow, ‘I never will desert Mr Micawber’. But, unless Charles Babbage is right and sound waves leave permanent impressions on the air, we shall never hear the departed voice of one of the pioneers of public readings. Dickens died seven years before the invention of the phonograph, and the sound of his speech has been lost for ever.
Visual recordings of Dickens abound. The novelist lived to see the development of several different forms of photography, and there are memorable drawings, paintings and photographs of the author. In fact, no writer has ever dwelled in a world devoid of visual representation. But until the late nineteenth century, sound was rarely thought of as a suitable medium for recording.
To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure email@example.com is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.
Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.
Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.
To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.