Stream a 24 Hour Playlist of Charles Dickens Stories, Featuring Classic Recordings by Laurence Olivier, Orson Welles & More

Chil­dren, cast off your fin­ger­less mitts and gath­er round the mer­ci­ful­ly cold hearth for some old timey, sea­son­al­ly inap­pro­pri­ate lis­ten­ing.

Spo­ti­fy has pulled togeth­er 67 Charles Dick­ens audio clas­sics into a mas­sive playlist for your sum­mer­time lis­ten­ing enjoy­ment–near­ly 24 hours worth. That should last the long cross-coun­try dri­ve to see grand­ma.

Big goril­las like Oliv­er Twist and Great Expec­ta­tions fig­ure promi­nent­ly. Sir Lau­rence Olivi­er, prepar­ing to step into the part of Mr. Micaw­ber, calls David Cop­per­field “a nov­el which I think must be almost the most famous ever writ­ten.”

Still true half a cen­tu­ry lat­er? Imma­te­r­i­al. Olivier’s use of “I think” and “almost” leaves room enough for a sort of genial, gen­er­al agree­ment.

Some of the intro­duc­tions give unin­ten­tion­al­ly hilar­i­ous added val­ue, such as host Frank Craven’s attempt to con­tex­tu­al­ize a Lux Radio The­ater pre­sen­ta­tion star­ring Orson Welles as Syd­ney Car­ton in A Tale of Two Cities excerpt. The author’s work was often pub­lished in ser­i­al form, he tells lis­ten­ers:

Records tell us of how crowds thronged the wards of New York City to receive news of their favorite hero­ine or hero. For already, the names of Dick­ens’ char­ac­ters were house­hold words, as much, I imag­ine, as Lux Toi­let Soap is a house­hold word through­out Amer­i­ca today, and for very much the same reason–the abil­i­ty to find approval among peo­ple of all kinds of ages and every walk of life, not only among women who are anx­ious to pre­serve their love­li­ness but with every mem­ber of the fam­i­ly, young and old. Lux Toi­let Soap is quick to make friends and to keep them. 

How dis­ap­point­ed the spon­sors must’ve been that in the whole of A Tale of Two Cities, there’s not a sin­gle ref­er­ence to soap. (For the record, Oliv­er Twist has one and David Cop­per­field has two…)

Less­er known treats include Emlyn Williams, a Welsh actor who spent three decades per­form­ing as Dick­ens in a tour­ing solo show, read­ing “Mr. Chops,” a tale of a cir­cus dwarf, ill used by soci­ety. Dick­ens him­self per­formed the sto­ry on his pop­u­lar lec­ture tours. More recent­ly actor Simon Cal­low mined it for a one man show. Stur­dy mate­r­i­al.

The 24-hour playlist (the first one above) will be added to our list of Free Audio Books. If you need to down­load Spo­ti­fy’s free soft­ware, grab it here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Charles Dick­ens’ Life & Lit­er­ary Works

8+ Hours of Clas­sic Charles Dick­ens Sto­ries Dra­ma­tized, Star­ring Orson Welles, Boris Karloff, Richard Bur­ton & More

Charles Dar­win & Charles Dick­ens’ Four-Hour Work Day: The Case for Why Less Work Can Mean More Pro­duc­tiv­i­ty

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

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