Nicholas Nickleby was the third novel by Charles Dickens, first published serially in 1838–39. As with earlier works by the author such as The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, an independent stage adaptation was quickly produced.
This playbill comes from the Theatre Royal Adelphi, London, advertising Jane Lomax in 1839. On the reverse, the continuation of the playbill advertises Nicholas Nickleby. The illustration comes from the author’s presentation copy of the biography The Life of Dickens from 1872–1874 by John Forster (1812–1876).
Such adaptations appeared without Dickens’s involvement or approval. After what would now be called theft of intellectual property, when the prolific playwright William Thomas Moncrieff (1794–1857) stole characters and plots from The Pickwick Papers for a stage drama, Dickens responded by satirising him as ‘Mr Crummles’ in Nicholas Nickleby, described as having dramatised 247 novels ‘as fast as they came out – some of them faster’. Moncrieff responded by dramatising Nicholas Nickleby.