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Chapter 10 of Days of A Christmas Carol Past, My Thirty Year Relationship With Victorian Ghosts

Lord Frederick Fanfiction

By Rebecca MortonPublished 5 months ago Updated 5 months ago 4 min read
Chapter 10 of Days of A Christmas Carol Past, My Thirty Year Relationship With Victorian Ghosts
Photo by Andrei Damian on Unsplash

Five years before Les Miserables, and one year before Cats, the biggest show from London to open on Broadway wasn’t a musical. It was an eight-and-a-half- hour stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby.

My dad didn’t write the adaptation, nor did he direct it, but he may as well have when I remember how emotionally invested I was in that show. Without my involvement in productions of A Christmas Carol, I don’t think I would have cared much about such a long piece of stage drama. And if I hadn’t cared, I never would have written an award winning play.

The Royal Shakespeare Company brought “Nickleby” to Broadway in the autumn of 1981. Audiences could either see the show in two parts (four hours on two consecutive nights), or they could watch the entire show on a Saturday with a dinner break at the four-hour mark.

My dad went to see the show on a Saturday, with a ticket bought for him by the cast of a play he had directed. They had all chipped in, as the ticket was so outrageously expensive. It was around one hundred dollars. Imagine!

I didn’t get to see the show until it was aired on TV for four consecutive nights on PBS in January of 1983. A high school sophomore, I already considered myself an expert in Dickens novels and Shakespeare plays, so I anticipated this pre-taped television event like teenagers anticipated The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in February, 1964.

I had read Great Expectations and David Copperfield the year before, and had seen stage productions of Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth and Hamlet, all directed by my dad. I thought “Nickleby” would be interesting. I was wrong. IT WAS A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE!

Poor, twenty-something Nicholas, his mother, and sister travel to London after the death of Nicholas’ father. They are looking for the father’s brother, Ralph (often said to be a prototype for Ebenezer Scrooge), who is not kind to them, and only associates with them when he can use them for his own personal gain.

Roger Rees’ performance as Nicholas is powerful and spellbinding. He goes through every emotion for the eight hours as if he is doing it for the first time. Also amazing is the supporting cast who all play multiple roles.

Most noteable are Emily Richard as Kate, Nicholas' shy yet strong sister, and David Threlfall with a heart-wrenching performance as Smike, a malnourished and much abused young man whom Nicholas rescues from a cruel boarding school.

Another actor who only appears halfway thorugh the show, meaning four hours in, is Nicholas Gecks as the shallow dandy, Lord Frederick Verisopht. Verisopht (like “very soft”, get it?), is a drunken playboy who’s interested in Kate. My small, strange circle of girlfriends in high school were very interested in this startlingly pretty gentleman.

We could never remember his character name, as we chatted between classes about the one we took to calling, “the man in the orange scarf”. SPOILER ALERT: We were devastated after Orange Scarf Man was killed in a duel at the beginning of Part Four.

The Lord Frederick Verisopht duel was just as dramatic as the duels in Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, even with no singing or dancing. More absorbing than the duel itself is the moment when Verisopht arrives at the field before the others, just before the duel.

His thoughts in the novel are a Hamlet-esque soliloquy in the play, as he notices the beauty of the morning and the field and is in disbelief that this could be his final moment. Be still my teenage heart!

I could not let Lord Frederick die on that field.

I took to writing scenes in my spare time in which Lord Frederick is, to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “not quite dead!”

I had never heard of fan fiction in 1983, but I was writing it. I kept reviving Frederick over the next few years by way of poems, short stories, and eventually a play, which I finished writing in 1991.

Of course, I changed the name of the aristocratic English gentleman, and made him one of many different characters in a play revolving around a twelve-year-old orphan girl. It is a play, as they say, “for family audiences”, and it eventually was presented as a staged reading at a small theater outside Philadelphia in 1993.

In 1997, after I got married and moved to Indiana, I submitted the play to the Midwestern Playwrights Festival at the University of Toledo. It won third prize out of about one hundred submissions!

It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t become obsessed with Nicholas Nickleby, and that wouldn’t have happened without my long history of involvement with stage productions of another Dickens story, A Christmas Carol. I’m sure of it.

As Clarence the angel says in the film of another magical Christmas story, It’s a Wonderful Life, “One man’s life touches so many others.” In my case, one story, written by one man and adapted to the stage by another, has touched my life in so many ways, some of which I am only beginning to realize.


This chapter was originally published on


About the Creator

Rebecca Morton

My childhood was surrounded by theatre people. My adulthood has been surrounded by children! You can also find me on Medium here:, and now I have a Substack newsletter at

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