Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was first published in serial parts in the periodical Bentley’s Miscellany, from 1837-39. It was an instant success. Sensationally exposing the workhouse, criminality and the poverty of London’s slums, it made its way onto the stage the same year, in many different adaptations.
These proved popular, especially in the north of England. However, because of the criminality of the characters, productions were often – ineffectively – banned by the Lord Chamberlain (whose office censored stage productions in Britain from 1824–1968). By 1850, over 40 productions had been staged.
Eventually, in April 1868, a specially licensed adaptation by the writer and critic John Oxenford (1812–1877), an acquaintance of Dickens, was passed by the Lord Chamberlain for performance at the New Queen’s Theatre in Long Acre, London. This is the programme for that long-awaited performance, which – accompanied by W S Gilbert’s (1836–1911) operatic burlesque La Vivandière – played to full houses.