Dickens toned down domestic violence in ‘Oliver Twist’, say ...

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Dickens toned down domestic violence in ‘Oliver Twist’, say experts

Newly published edition shows how he made the relationship between Bill Sikes and Nancy less brutal

Craig Simpson

Domestic violence in Oliver Twist was toned down in later drafts to leave “more to the imagination”, experts have revealed, as the original manuscript is published for the first time.

Charles Dickens’s classic novel examining crime and poverty in Victorian Britain was self-censored to make it less brutal about the relationship between Bill Sikes and Nancy, with offending words like “damn” also removed from the text. The author’s alterations have been revealed with the first publication of his original Oliver Twist manuscripts, released to mark 150 years since the writer’s death in 1870.

Simon Callow, the actor and die-hard Dickens enthusiast, has penned an introduction to the text – which is littered with corrections and name changes – and writes that the version finally published in serial form toned down the brutality of Sikes. It was noted that the 25-year-old Dickens “moderated Bill’s brutality to Nancy” and cut “violent expressions of emotion” towards the gangster’s moll...

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