Special Collections & Archives

Charles Dickens Theatre Collection

The Battle of Life: a Love Story

The fourth of Dickens' five Christmas novellas, The Battle of Life was first published in 1846, with the earliest performances on stage by Boxing Day of the same year, one of which was staged in Dublin. By February 1847, the play had reached the provinces of Britain and America, but it popularity was short-lived, even during the revivals of Dickens’ work in the decade after his death.

Some opposition to productions of Dickens’ popular works, most notably from the Theatrical Times, may have been one of the reasons that neither the Strand nor the Adelphi produced The Battle of Life. The tale proved far less popular than The Cricket on the Hearth, although Dickens’ early agreement with the Lyceum regarding a theatrical adaptation (he received £100 from the Keeley management for pre-publication proof sheets) does suggest that there may have been some thoughts of the stage in the author’s mind when he penned the tale. This version, written by Albert Smith, was to prove the model on which the relatively few further adaptations were based.

By 1900 there had only been around 30 productions of The Battle of Life. This is one of Dickens’ least known works, along with his fifth and final Christmas novella, The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.
nineteenth century.

Special Collections Holdings

Item type Item information Author Item number

The battle of life, a love story

(Bradbury & Evans, 1846)

Charles Dickens



The battle of life a drama, in three acts (founded on Mr. Dickens's celebrated work)

(J. Duncombe, 1847; first performed at the Surrey Theatre, January, 1847)

Charles Dickens



The battle of life; or, The heart of a sister

(performed at the Britannia Theatre, Hoxton, January 1847)

George Dibdin Pitt



The Battle of Life; The Self Banished Daughter; The Three Hunchbacks and The Italian Boy and the True Son of Erin

(performed at the Theatre Royal, York, April 12 1847)

John Langford Pritchard

Charles Dickens

Edward Fitzball


The battle of life a drama, in three acts (founded on Mr. Charles Dickens's celebrated work)

(J. Dicks, 1890)

Albert Smith

Charles Dickens



The Battle of Life: a love story

(Henry Frowde, 1904)

Charles Dickens



Emlyn Williams as Charles Dickens

(performed at Free Trade Hall, Manchester, February 29 1960)

Charles Dickens

Emlyn Williams


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Last Updated: 20/02/2018