Charles Dickens adapted Sikes and Nancy from the grislier material in Oliver Twist. It became the most notorious of his legendary Public Readings; a masterpiece of high Gothic melodrama. Audiences were shocked into silence. Women would scream and faint. ?I shall tear myself to pieces,' Dickens vowed before one performance. He surely did, it is now thought that the strain of ?The Murder' hastened Dickens's early death.