One of Charles Dickens’s most popular public readings was the sensational, chilling murder of Nancy by Bill Sikes, from Oliver Twist (first published 1838). This sketch depicts Dickens in the midst of a performance, his face and body animated and twisted. The unknown artist captures the contemporary reports that described how Dickens, when performing this particular scene, became absolutely absorbed – possessed, almost – by the two characters.

© Charles Dickens Museum