When he agreed to perform a one-man version of “A Christmas Carol” to help raise money for charity, Gerald Dickens thought that would be the end of it.

“I said, ‘This will just be a one-off,’ ” said Dickens, 54, a British actor and the great-great-grandson of the beloved English novelist Charles Dickens.

But that was 24 years ago, and the modern-day Dickens has made a career of immersing himself in his ancestor’s work and touring the United States and Great Britain.

“I got to the end of that first performance and thought, ‘This is crazy not to carry on doing this,’ ” he said.

On Monday, Dickens will bring his stage act to Portland, marking the first time in 149 years that a Dickens has traveled to Maine to perform “A Christmas Carol.”

He will bring the beloved story of Ebenezer Scrooge and holiday redemption to the First Parish Church, a setting with deep ties to Dickens’ time and the author’s friend Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, who worshipped there with his family.

“We thought it would be a wonderful venue, because it’s such a historic location and gives such a historic feel,” said Kate McBrien, the chief curator at the Maine Historical Society, which organized the performance.

The show is bare and depends on few props, Dickens said. The stage is set with a table, a chair and a stool. He said he has performed versions of the show in massive settings, and in private homes for as few as 40 people.

“By designing it that simply, I can perform it anywhere,” he said.

Dickens said he did not always embrace the work of his namesake.

Although he has been acting since he was a boy, Dickens said he purposely avoided performing his great-great-grandfather’s works, even though his childhood home was full of them.

“I wanted to make my own way, and I didn’t think it was a good thing to align myself with Charles Dickens,” he said.

Dickens said his father, who devoured all things related to the author, was careful not to push the lineage on his son.

“He said, ‘One day, you’ll discover Dickens,’ ” Dickens said. “It might be when you’re 30, it might be when you’re 80. Until then, do what you love.”

Now, Dickens has a repetoire of a dozen shows based on his ancestor’s canon.

Dickens said he has been to Portland once before, when he was traveling and performing on a cruise ship that went up and down the East Coast.

When he arrived in the city, it was pouring rain, and Dickens said he dashed straight away into the library to research another tale related to the elder Dickens’ Maine visit, the story of Kate Douglas Wiggin, whose parents bought tickets to Dickens’ reading, but the 11-year-old girl was not permitted to go. Wiggin was lucky enough to encounter Dickens on the train back to Boston and engaged him in conversation. She remembered the experience in a 1912 memoir, “A Child’s Journey With Dickens.”

When Dickens, then 56, first visited Portland, he did not particularly enjoy himself.

He landed in Boston in November 1867, and was scheduled to give 80 readings over five months, a grueling schedule.

From Boston, Dickens ventured as far as Washington, D.C., and Chicago. But winter weather made travel difficult, and after cancellations, Portland was added to his itinerary.

He arrived the Saturday before his Monday performance, but did not sleep well at his lodging at the Preble House at the corner of Congress and Preble streets, suffering fits of coughing that kept him awake during the night.

He found Maine’s March weather inhospitable, and wrote that “life in this climate is so very hard.” He spoke of depression and fatigue. His food at the Preble House was “bad and disgusting.”

The city was also far different.

Many homes and businesses that had been destroyed two years earlier in the Great Fire of 1866 had not yet been rebuilt. Dickens remarked on charred trees and construction.

When he arrived, Dickens was greeted as a celebrity, and his movements around town were chronicled in the newspaper. A girl even snipped a corner of his shawl as he walked to the train station.

“Everyone across America and in England and so much of Europe was reading his novels,” said McBrien. “He was the Stephen King of his time.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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