Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Heimat

Hermann Sudermann's play Heimat (Home) takes place in a respectable, middle-class German home of the 1890s. It also never fails to make that literal home stand in for the larger bourgeois respectability the play critiques.

In the opening stage directions, Sudermann describes the home as being decorated with "Steel engravings of a religious and patriotic character, in tarnished gold frames." Behind the sofa is a portrait of the patriarch's first wife "in the costume of the sixties." Seemingly, not much has changed in the past 30 years.

Well, one thing that has changed is that Lieutenant-Colonel Leopold Schwartze now has a new wife, though he seems to have paid neither of his spouses much attention. He says in the first act, "It's only right that an old soldier should dedicate the little strength left him by the throne to the service of the altar. Those are the two causes to fight for." Other than the emperor and the church, little interests him anymore.

In Act II, Schwartze's estranged daughter Magda, who is in town for a music festival, reconciles with him. Looking around the house she hasn't seen in twelve years, she declares, "Just to think that I am at home! It seems like a fairy tale." The house does not look to have changed a bit, other than that the family dog has died. What has changed is Magda herself. "From that door to the window, from this table to the old bureau, -- that was once my world," she says.

Magda's world has opened up considerably, as she is now a famous opera star. Her father is scandalized that she does not travel with a respectable lady chaperone as dame d'honneur, but Magda does what she likes. Now that she is back home, though, she feels the oppressive pull of the old ways. "The paternal authority already stretches its net over me again, and the yoke stands ready beneath which I must bow," she says. In spite of her misgivings, she decides to stay with her family while in town.

While there, Magda receives an unexpected visitor, the respected Doctor von Keller, who in his student days had known her in Berlin. (Known in the Biblical sense, by the way....) Magda's face turns white when she hears his name, but she receives him, and then reveals that after he abandoned her, she bore a child. She spurns her former lover, saying: "Who are you? You're a strange man who gratified his lust and passed on with a laugh. But I have a child, -- my son, my God, my all! For him I lived and starved and froze and walked the streets; for him I sang and danced in concert-halls...."

Unfortunately, the secret cannot be kept from Magda's father, and when he finds out the truth about his daughter, he resolves to challenge von Keller to a duel. Before he can do that, though, von Keller arrives and agrees to marry Magda. For Schwartze, this would solve everything, but Magda refuses the man, for a second time defying her father. This is too much for the old man to bear, and he perishes, dying of a stroke.

So what is Sudermann's ultimate judgment on the home? Is it a stifling prison that needs to be escaped? Or a salvation that is scorned by the wicked? The play never quite makes up its mind, which is why Sudermann was scorned equally by traditionalists and the avant garde alike. For years, though, many people in the middle loved his plays, particularly Heimat.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Happy Birthday, Sarah Siddons!

Today is the birthday of the actress Sarah Siddons, who was born in Wales on July 5th, 1755.

Her father Roger Kemble was Roman Catholic, and her mother Sarah Ward Kemble (who went by "Sally") was Protestant, so they decided to raise Sarah and the other girls as Protestants, while her brother John Kemble and the other boys were raised Catholic.

Sarah Siddons, who married in 1773, played a variety of roles, including Belvidera in Venice Preserv'd, Calista in The Fair Penitent, Isabella in The Fatal Marriage, and of course Lady Macbeth. Less attention has been given to her performances in another Shakespearean role: Hamlet.

Siddons first played Hamlet in Worcester in 1775. By this time, she had made her first failed debut at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, and was banished to the provinces. Two years later, she repeated the role, this time acting opposite her brother John, who played Laertes.

At that point, neither Sarah nor her brother were particularly famous, but as Siddons performed more frequently in Bath, which was second only to London in terms of the importance of its theatre scene, her reputation grew. She was already a star in Bath when she played Hamlet again in 1781, this time in Bristol. There appear to have been other appearances of Siddons in this role in Manchester and Liverpool around this time, though the exact dates are a bit unclear.

In 1782, Siddons made a second debut at Drury Lane, and this time she was a success. From then on, she was an outright celebrity, and she performed as Hamlet in Dublin during the 1802-3 season, and then again in 1805. When Siddons took on breeches roles in comedies, for instance playing Rosalind in As You Like It, she was ridiculed in the press, but her gift was never for comedy. As the greatest tragic performer of her day, however, she seems to have longed to play what was considered the greatest tragic role in the canon.

When she did play Hamlet, it was neither in traditional breeches, nor in a regular skirt, at least when she appeared in Dublin. We know this because a theatre fan named Mary Sackville Hamilton created watercolor sketches of some of Siddons's costumes. After seeing Siddons perform Hamlet in Dublin, she sketched out a costume for the noble Dane that was neither male nor female. We can still see legs, but a long black cloak creates the illusion of a skirt. The result is a costume that conveys androgyny rather than a single clear gender.

Reviews of Siddons's Hamlet were mixed. She studied fencing meticulously in order to get the duel scene right, and critics were surprised at how good she was in this scene. Once critic remarked that he "was never better pleased than by seeing her" in the role. An anonymous diarist recorded: "Mrs. Siddons enters with wonderful judgment into the various feelings of this very difficult character." However, the biographer Percy Fitzgerald wrote that "the general effect was that of a burly ill-formed man."

For whatever reason, Siddons never attempted to perform the part in London, but it seems to have been one she personally enjoyed. For that reason, I leave you with a sketch of her costume in that role, courtesy of the British Museum.


Tuesday, June 30, 2020

A Clown for All Seasons

Joseph Grimaldi was one of the great clowns of the early nineteenth century. His life story would have been fascinating no matter who recorded it. As luck would have it, though, his memoirs were put together by the greatest English writer of his day: Charles Dickens.

In 1838, the publisher Richard Bentley came out with two volumes of Memoirs of Joseph Grimaldi that had been "Edited by 'Boz'," with the Boz in question being none other than Dickens. The cover page is perhaps misleading, since "Boz" had already "edited" The Pickwick Papers and was currently at work "editing" both Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby. In those cases, "edited" meant wrote from scratch. However, Grimaldi did leave a manuscript behind recalling his life story, so in this case, Dickens actually did just edit it (though he took a strong hand in the job).

A "clown" in Grimaldi's day was one of a number of stock characters on the British stage derived from commedia dell'arte, including "Harlequins, Pantaloons, and Columbines," as Dickens notes in his introductory chapter. These characters appeared together in the elaborate shows known as pantomimes that were staged every year around Christmas, often lasting until Easter. As a boy, Dickens had loved these shows, which is why when he was given a chance to edit Grimaldi's memoirs, he was "in a perfect fever" to undertake the job. Changing Grimaldi's first-person narrative into a third-person biography, Dickens was able to utilize the actor's personal recollections while combining them with his own writing style.

According to the account in the Memoirs, Grimaldi's father was a native of Genoa who became both a dentist and a dancing master in England, as well as playing the role of clown himself. His son, young Joe Grimaldi, was born in 1779, the same year the famous actor David Garrick had died. He made his debut on the stage of the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane at the age of one year and eleven months. He also began to perform at Sadler's Wells in 1783, appearing in the "arduous character of a monkey." He would frequently appear onstage with his father, and on one occasion, his father was so angered, he beat the boy in earnest right in front of the audience. As the memoir relates, "This was all taken by the audience as a most capital joke; shouts of laughter and peals of applause shook the house."

The artist George Cruikshank provided illustrations for the Memoirs. One of these shows a famous incident where Joe was playing a monkey and his father was supposed to swing him around by a chain. According to the story: "One evening, when this feat was in the act of performance, the chain broke, and he was hurled a considerable distance into the pit, fortunately without sustaining the slightest injury; for he was flung by a miracle into the very arms of an old gentleman who was sitting gazing at the stage with intense interest."

Grimaldi's father died in 1788 and was buried in the churchyard of Exmouth Street Chapel. While he provided handsomely for his two children, the executor of his will, Joseph Hopwood, invested all of the family's money in his own business and subsequently went bankrupt. The family was left destitute, and it was up to young Joey to support the family as a child actor. The following year, his younger brother set sail as a cabin boy on a ship and disappeared.

As a teenager, Joey fell in love with Maria Hughes, who also happened to be the daughter of his employer at Sadler's Wells. On the very day that Grimaldi delivered his first love letter to her, there was a tremendous accident at the theatre, and a heavy platform fell on him, injuring his shoulder. The next day, Maria rushed to his bedside, much to the delight of Joey. Eventually, he obtained the consent of her parents, and the two were married at St. George's in Hanover Square.

In 1799, things couldn't have been going better for Grimaldi. He had a successful career, a wife he adored, and what was more, the couple was expecting a child. Unfortunately, it was not an easy pregnancy, and after many difficulties, Maria died, leaving Joey with neither child nor wife. Maria's body was buried in the Hughes family vault at St. James's Church, Clerkenwell. Two months later, the Christmas season demanded another pantomime, and Grimaldi had to once again go onstage and play the clown.

Eventually, Joey did remarry. After he injured his foot onstage, a certain actress identified in the Memoirs as "Miss Bristow" tended him in his illness, and the two ultimately wed, spending more than thirty years together before the lady died. This was Mary Bristow, who married Grimaldi on Christmas Eve, 1801, and within a year bore him a son, Joseph Samuel, known as J.S. In 1803, Grimaldi's family life was momentarily turned upside down when his brother mysteriously returned from a life at sea, though Joey had long given him up for dead. Strangely, however, the brother appeared for only one evening, and then vanished again forever.

During the early part of his career, Grimaldi performed at Drury Lane, as well as minor theatres like Sadler's Wells. In 1806, however, he gave up Drury Lane to appear at the rival patent house at Covent Garden. His first appearance at that theatre was not as a clown, but as Orson in the Romantic melodrama Valentine and Orson by Thomas Dibdin. Grimaldi frequently appeared in melodramas and other entertainments as well as pantomimes, though it was always as a clown that he was best remembered.

Two years after he joined the Covent Garden company, the theatre burned down, and the company had to perform in smaller venues until it could be rebuilt. When the new building opened in 1809, its manager (John Kemble) tried to raise ticket prices, which had remained fixed by tradition for many years. The result was a massive protest known as the O.P. Riots. The Memoirs describe the disturbances as "the great O.P. Row" and note that "noises made by the audience utterly overwhelmed every attempt that the actors could make to render themselves audible." A few audience members even "brought live pigs, which were pinched at the proper times, and added considerably to the effect of the performances."

Given the impossibility of performing dialogue in such an environment, Kemble asked Grimaldi to perform in a pantomime version of Don Juan. Grimaldi took the role of Scaramouch, as he typically did in Don Juan, and the first night he performed the piece, there was great applause when he entered and very little disturbance afterward. Kemble thought he had finally found a way to win over the audience, and asked Grimaldi to play the same role the next night. However, on the second night of Don Juan, the disturbances recommenced, and they did not let up until Kemble agreed to lower the prices.

In 1812, Joey was invited to dine with nobility at Berkeley Castle, and it was there that he first met Lord Byron, who had usually patronized Grimaldi's benefit performances at Covent Garden. Byron praised the famous clown in such lofty terms, that at first he thought the lord was being facetious. Later, Byron gave Grimaldi an engraved snuff box, which the actor cherished for the rest of his life.

Joey's son was getting older now, and eventually the elder Grimaldi took on the role of Don Juan while J.S. played Scaramouch. In 1823 Joey's health took a turn for the worse, and he was forced to stop performing. J.S. became the company's principle clown, which greatly pleased his father. Unfortunately, upon finding success, J.S. "abandoned himself to every species of wild debauchery and riot," according to the Memoirs.

After years of hard living, J.S. died. The coroner said that "his body was covered with a fearful inflammation" and he had been found in "furious madness, rising from his bed and dressing himself in stage costume to act snatches of the parts to which he had been most accustomed." Two years later, Grimaldi's wife Mary died as well.

The concluding chapter Dickens provided for the Memoirs recounts how Grimaldi himself passed away on May 31st, 1837. The cause of death was apparently natural, and the coroner's jury declared that he "had died by the visitation of God." He was buried at St. James's Chapel on Pentonville Hill. The graveyard where his body was laid to rest is now a public space known as Grimaldi Park.


Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Convent

The French playwright Olympe de Gouges considered her plays to be dramas, though writing around the same time as the French Revolution, she introduced many sensationalistic elements that came to be adopted by the incipient new form known as melodrama.

Her first successful play Black Slavery (originally titled Zamore and Mizra) reflected her strong abolitionist views. Though it was written before the revolution, the Comédie-Française did not stage the work until December of 1789, when the revolution was already in full swing. Pro-slavery partisans heckled the play, and it closed after only three performances, though de Gouges later claimed the hecklers had not prevented the theatre from selling tickets. The piece inspired numerous imitations, leading the author to attack those she felt had plagiarized her.

In 1790, the revolutionary government in France began dissolving convents and monasteries, seizing their property to pay the nation's debts. There had also been allegations of young women being forced to take the veil as nuns, and the government had officially banned the taking of new religious vows even before it started closing convents. It was in this environment that de Gouges wrote The Convent, or The Forced Vows. The three-act play premiered on October 4, 1790, and continued to be performed off and on until 1792, the year she published the piece with an accompanying preface.

The Convent centers around Julie, a novice brought up in a convent and preparing to take her final vows. Julie attracts the romantic attention of a young chevalier who sees her when visiting the monastery with his father, a marquis. The chevalier bribes a gardener named Antoine to help him gain access to Julie so he can determine if she reciprocates his affections. His plan is to dress up as a Capuchin friar, but before he can don his robes, he is forced to flee the stage to avoid being seen by his father, the marquis. It is due to the marquis, we learn, that Julie is being asked to take her vows in spite of moral qualms. Something is afoot...

In the second act, Julie begins to confess to an older nun, Sister Angélique, the reason for her reluctance to take the veil. Just as she is about to reveal her secret, though, the abbess enters to brow beat her into going through with taking her vows. It turns out that the marquis has paid for Julie to be brought up in the convent, and if she refuses to become a nun, that money will disappear. The abbess sends Sister Angélique away, and welcomes a Capuchin friar to convince the girl to take her vows, not realizing that the friar is the chevalier in disguise.

Julie admits to the friar that she has fallen in love with a mysterious man she has seen in the company of the marquis. Elated, the chevalier reveals himself, but he is discovered by the abbess and his father. The marquis threatens to disinherit his son and even have him imprisoned, something powerful aristocrats definitely had the power to do prior to the revolution. Just in the nick of time a Commissary arrives with a contingent of soldiers, determined to get to the bottom of the matter. Saved by the revolution!

Act III begins with two nuns worrying what might happen if their convent is dissolved by the authorities. If that happens, one of them worries: "vows will no longer be pronounced, and each one of us will be what we will, or what we can... it will expose us to unusual temptations." Another nun seems to look forward to those temptations, though, and they exit dreaming about the men they might marry if their vows are dissolved (with the exception of one nun who seems to enjoy the flagellations practiced in the convent). All of this would have seemed very topical in 1790, when many nuns were being cast out into the world, and some did indeed marry.

The resolution comes when Sister Angélique reveals that she is Julie's mother, and sister to the marquis. It seems she married against her brother's wishes, and the marquis killed her husband in a duel. Overcome with guilt, the marquis cries out, "Oh! Lacerating remorse! Barbarous prejudices! To what excesses have you led me...." He begs his family to forgive him, and the lovers (in spite of being first cousins) are able to marry with their parents' consent.

Unfortunately, de Gouges did not experience a similarly happy ending. In 1793, King Louis XVI was executed, just two days before the premiere of de Gouges's play The Entrance of Dumouriez in Brussels at the Théâtre de la République. She considered the performance a disaster. By de Gouges's account, "actors allowed themselves to take only a few scraps of my play, to dilute them into a sort of medley, half farce, half pantomime."

In spite of de Gouges's enthusiasm for the revolution, she was not radical enough for some, and many people suspected she harbored royalist sympathies. In reality, she aligned herself with the moderate Girondins, but after Charlotte Corday assassinated Jean-Paul Marat, even being a moderate was enough to get you killed.

Three days after Corday was guillotined, authorities arrested de Gouges. She managed to smuggle some of her writings out of prison, but couldn't avoid the fate of so many who perished during the Reign of Terror. On November 3, 1793, de Gouges died on the guillotine.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Decameron

Like a number of people enduring the quarantine of the present plague, I've been working my way through reading The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio. I knew that the book's hundred tales had made a profound impact on literature in general, but I hadn't realized how important they were to the theater.

The framing device of The Decameron concerns seven women and three men who flee Florence during the Black Death. Outside of the city, with little else to do, they begin telling stories. Each of them tells a story on the first day, and over the course of ten days, they recite a total of one hundred stories, ten stories for each teller.

A woman named Pampinea gets the storytelling rolling by challenging everyone on the first day to tell a tale about whatever pleases them best. Panfilo tells the first story, about a scoundrel who is thought a saint, and then Neifile tells a tale about the debauchery in the Pope's court in Rome. It is the third tale, told by Filomena, however, that caught my attention, since it relates the same story as Ephraim Lessing's Nathan the Wise.

In Boccaccio's version, the story is set in Alexandria, rather than Jerusalem, but the general idea is the same as in Lessing's play. Saladin, the Sultan who ruled the Islamic world during the twelfth century, is looking to borrow money from a wealthy Jewish merchant. Testing him, Saladin asks which religion is truly authentic: Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. Knowing that there is no safe way to answer with any of these three, the merchant comes up with a parable to tell that gets him out of the predicament.

Lessing's version makes Saladin more sympathetic, and uses the merchant's parable as a general plea for religious tolerance. Still, many of the elements of the play are present in the tale Filomena delivers in The Decameron. This story is not the only one, however, that later provided fodder for drama. On the second day, Filomena challenges everyone to tell a story about someone who after suffering many misfortunes, finds unexpected happiness. Hmm... that sounds like a Shakespearean Romance.

And in fact, Filomena's own tale on the second day provided much of the plot for William Shakespeare's Cymbeline. Shakespeare did not necessarily read The Decameron directly, since some details in the play aren't in the original, but do appear in a Dutch version of the story called Frederyke of Jennen. The outline of the plot is still there, though. A man foolishly makes a wager on his wife's chastity, and then a villain hides in a trunk that gets carried into the lady's room. Creeping out at night, he examines the room, takes a ring of hers, and examines an unusual mark on her breast. Proof positive that he vanquished her virtue!

Of course, that's not how the story ends, either in Boccaccio or in Shakespeare. After hearing what sounds like incontrovertible proof of his wife's infidelity, the husband orders a servant to kill her. The servant doesn't have the heart to commit the deed, and instead of murdering her, he gives her a set of male clothes so she can escape unseen and reports the murder to her husband. In the climax of the tale, the lady reveals herself to her husband and exposes the villain. Shakespeare's innovation was to combine the tale with the legend of a British king who appears in Raphael Holinshed's Chronicles, along with some events from the anonymous Elizabethan play Rare Triumphs of Love and Fortune.

Filomena's tale on the third day contains some wonderful humor as she describes a woman getting a friar to unknowingly arrange trysts between herself and her lover. Molière incorporated elements of the tale in his play The School for Husbands. The ninth story of the third day is given by Neifile, and it provides the ultimate source of Shakespeare's All's Well That Ends Well. Again, the Bard appears to have used an intermediary source, probably William Painter's Palace of Pleasure. Shakespeare also seems to have invented the role of the braggart coward Parolles, which is arguably the best role in the play.

On the fourth day, the stories concern those whose love ended unhappily, but these tales did not provide the inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. Instead, Filomena's tale became the basis of the poem "Isabella, or the Pot of Basil" by John Keats. The fourth tale of the fifth day also apparently provided material for Lope de Vega's play The Nightingale of Seville, though I haven't read that one.

Other dramatists who have retold tales from The Decameron include Thomas Middleton, Apostolo Zeno, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Perhaps during our present quarantine, Boccaccio will inspire more plays. Now if we could only open the theaters to let them be performed....

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Budget Priorities

The COVID crisis has had profound effects on New York City, the state, and the nation. There is plenty the federal government could do to protect arts organizations, but with NYC looking into its budget for the coming year, it's time to talk about budget priorities for the city.

As an adjunct professor at City College, I have had to struggle to help my students adjust to online learning. The City University of New York is chronically underfunded, and New York City primary and secondary schools are in dire shape as well. Now, this virus has put additional strains on our educational institutions and our students.

Perhaps nothing is a better investment in our nation's future than spending on education. We need to be spending more money on education, not less, and every dollar cut from education probably leads to huge amounts of money we'll have to spend later on down the line. Already, employers are complaining about having to train graduates on things they should have learned in school, and I don't think there's any serious doubt that our current mass incarceration problem is fueled in part by inadequate educational opportunities.

Closely related to education are our public libraries. In the past, I have been a frequent user of multiple branches of the New York Public Library, including the Epiphany Branch, which (when it was open) provided a meeting space for a the Friends of Dickens New York. In addition to providing books, DVDs, and other resources, libraries provide lifelong learning opportunities and community events that are vital to public life. Yet the public has been cut off from our libraries during this current health crisis. In order to come back and provide these essential services in the future, libraries are going to need more funding, not less.

In spite of our current COVID intermission, the arts are what make New York City a vibrant place to live. Whether it's the free outdoor performances by the Public Theater and Classical Theatre of Harlem, or the many other programs offered throughout the city, the arts are why people come here, and they contribute to the social and economic vitality of New York. Sometimes, politicians see the arts as "extra" and "discretionary" while continuing to fund deadbeat cops who contribute nothing to our community and frequently abuse and harass us in our own neighborhoods. It is time for that to stop.

The New York Police Department currently has a budget of $6 billion, which is far more than it needs. In spite of the outrageous actions by certain police officers, I know that there are many good, honest cops out there who really do have our community's best interests at heart. However, we cannot turn a blind eye to the huge amount of waste, corruption, and abuse in the NYPD. Once upon a time, we had a few bad apples. We refused to get rid of them, and now the whole bunch is spoiled. Our refusal to reform the NYPD has left us with an agency that today serves nobody but itself.

Members of the city council have found $1 billion in the NYPD's budget that could be cut and reallocated to other programs. Honestly, while $1 billion sounds like a good start, I think that if they kept digging, they could find plenty more to cut, and not compromise the safety of New Yorkers one bit. As a matter of fact, we would probably be making New York safer, since many of the criminals who rob, beat, and murder us in this city often wear badges.

Unfortunately, the mayor has continued to support a bloated and corrupt NYPD that attacks peaceful protestors while allowing crimes committed by those within its own ranks to go completely unchecked. It's time to cut back the wasteful spending on policing and save the programs that actually make a positive difference in the lives of New Yorkers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Dickens 150

Today is the 150th anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens. I marked the day with the #Dickens150 conference... and a little time traveling.

Originally, I was going to be attending the wreath-laying ceremony at Westminster Abbey today, and a fellow time traveler even made herself a new dress for the occasion. Well, COVID-19 put an end to that plan, but I am grateful to Lydia Craig and Emily Bell for putting together a virtual conference to commemorate the event.

The trans-Atlantic conference began early in the morning, London time, and I was unable to get out of bed in time to catch the earliest presentations, but I did manage to see Pamela Gilbert, Sean Grass, Eric Lorentzen, Natalie McKnight, Lillian Nader, and and Pete Orford have a (virtual) roundtable discussion on Dickens and contagion.

Next was a second virtual roundtable on "Futures in Dickens Studies" with Malcolm Andrews, editor of The Dickensian, Dominic Rainsford, editor of Dickens Quarterly, and two of the co-editors of Dickens Studies Annual (McKnight again, and Edward Guiliano). Orford then returned for an interesting keynote on Dickens's last novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

There was a choice of panels afterward, but I of course went to the one on "Theatrical Dickens" with papers on Dickens's own plays, the musical version of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, new adaptations of A Christmas Carol, and a burlesqued version of Our Mutual Friend called OMFG. I've written my own adaptation of A Christmas Carol, and have comedically abridged Dickens novels in Dickens Condensed, so I was eager to hear what the panelists had to say.

After a break, there were a number of lightning talks, including my own on melodrama and The Old Curiosity Shop. Unfortunately, I had a technical difficulty, and initially I was digitally locked out of the panel I was supposed to chair on Dickens, adaptation, and influence. Eventually, I got in, but someone else had to introduce Gina Dalfonzo, the founder of Dickensblog, who spoke on H.G. Parry's The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep. Mary Ann Tobin also gave a talk on Matthew Pearl's novel The Last Dickens, and Matthew Redmond spoke on Dickens in Little Women.

The virtual conference closed with Lucinda Hawksley interviewing director Armando Iannucci, whose new film The Personal History of David Copperfield still hasn't had its U.S. premiere, but will hopefully be available to us in the States this autumn.

In spite of some technical problems, the virtual conference went very well. I'll be attending another virtual conference on Bernard Shaw next month. I'll miss seeing people in person, but such is life in 2020.