‘Nobody’s Fault’: Little Dorrit, Andrew Davies and the Art of Adaptation

Author: Valerie Purton

Little Dorrit, adapted by Andrew Davies, directed by Dearbhla Walsh, Adam Smith and Diarmuid Lawrence, produced by Lisa Osborne, starring Tom Courtenay, Claire Foy and Matthew Macfadyen, broadcast in 14 half-hour episodes on BBC1 from October to December 2008.

‘In the Preface to Bleak House I remarked that I had never had so many readers. In the Preface to its next successor, Little Dorrit, I have still to repeat the same words’ wrote Dickens in 1857.1 Andrew Davies could not repeat these words in 2008: his adaptation of Little Dorrit, designed to build on the phenomenal success of Bleak House two years earlier, had lost half its audience by the end of the sixth episode and, despite excellent performances and production values, signally failed to emulate the popular success of its predecessor. The reasons behind that failure raise important points both about this particular novel and about theories of ‘adaptation’.

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