- Poems by Charles Dickens (Alma Classics Ltd., 2013 edition).
This is a reprinted edition of a collection first published in 1903, "edited with commentaries by F. G. Kitton." It consists mostly of song lyrics and light verse taken from Dickens's plays, librettos, and books, along with a few "political squibs" and one or two poems written for friends. Kitton's commentaries are interesting and informative, although rather limited in scope -- one can't help wishing that as long as Alma Classics was reprinting the volume, they could have added some updated material on the poems, along with the new biographical sketch at the end.
As for the poems themselves, they are, well, average. The rhyme and meter are fine, the word choices are fine, and the political poems in particular are flavored with the biting wit that social and political issues tended to bring out in Dickens. But it's deeply ironic that, for a writer whose prose was often so lyrical and beautiful as to seem downright poetic, Dickens proved to be merely adequate at the task of writing actual poems. Despite the occasional flashes of cleverness or insight, there's little here that is truly inspiring or memorable. The collection is worth reading for the Dickens completist, but ultimately it has to be admitted that, as a poet, Dickens was one heck of a novelist.
- Oliver!: A Dickensian Musical by Marc Napolitano (Oxford University Press, 2014).
Everything you ever wanted to know about Oliver! the musical, and much that you might never have thought to ask, is packed into this book. Napolitano, an assistant professor of English at West Point, delves deep into the history of the beloved show. He examines the impact of Dickens's original novel on British culture in general, trends in post-WWII British theater, the development of the British musical in particular, and then how all of this tied together in the creation of "the most popular and successful English musical from the golden age of Broadway." It's fascinating to follow the process of the musical's development, as scenes, songs, and characters were written, altered, and replaced, and then to see the huge impact that the resulting show had, not just in Britain, but all over the world. This is an academic work, and much of the time it reads like one, but even non-academics will find it interesting if they have any interest at all in Oliver Twist, or musical theater, or both. And now that there's talk of a new film version of the show, it's particularly timely and compelling.