May 1st, 2012

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Dickens and London, Museum of London

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Cut and pasted from the Museum of London Website:

Dickens and London, Museum of London
Until 10 June 2012

Celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens with the UK's first major exhibition on the author for over 40 years.

Recreating the atmosphere of Victorian London through sound and projections, you'll be taken on a haunting journey to discover the city that inspired his writings. Paintings, photographs, costume and objects illustrate themes that Dickens wove into his works, while rarely seen manuscripts including Bleak House and David Copperfield – written in the author’s own hand – offer clues to his creative genius.

During your visit you'll discover how Dickens' childhood experiences of London, working in a blacking factory while his father was locked away in a debtor's prison, were introduced into the stories he wrote. The great social questions of the 19th century, including wealth and poverty, prostitution, childhood mortality and philanthropy, are also examined, all of which set the scene for Dickens' greatest works.

Highlights of the exhibition include an audio-visual experience bringing to life the famous painting of Dickens' Dream at the desk and chair where he wrote his novels, and a specially commissioned film by one of the UK’s leading documentary filmmakers, William Raban, which explores the similarities between London after dark today and the night time city described by Dickens over 150 years ago.

For the full details follow the link:

Raks's Reaction

I just LOVED this exhibition.

I have never read a Dickens book but I am obviously aware of his novels and stories through the countless film and TV adaptations of his work that I have seen over the years. I may never have read Great Expectations or Oliver Twist or A Christmas Carol but I certainly feel as though I have!

This exhibition was also just as much about London in Dickens's time as it was about Dickens. As we all know, London, the City and its history, are one of my key obsessions.

One of the best things about the exhibition for me was the fact that, for the first time, I got to read Dickens's work. Key extracts from his work were taken and painted onto the backdrop so that you got to read Dickens's words and hear his "voice" as it were. I particularly liked the snapshots of some of his most memorable characters right at the start of the exhibition. What I realised was that, as with Conan Doyle, I just fell in love with Dickens's style of writing, his wit, his turn of phrase. It made me prioritise reading "Edwin Drood"; my original intention was to read it as some point over the course of the year; this exhibition made me want to start reading it right away! It has gone straight to the top of my "books to read" pile.

I loved the paintings and the drawings depicting London Life in Dickens's day. I was particularly struck by the images of the underclass, whether the homeless, the chimney sweeps, the street children. The illustration below really spoke to me:

"Houseless and Hungry" by Luke Fildes, published in The Graphic magazine, 4 December 1869. It depicts the plight of many Londoners in Dickens's time.
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Other key things that I learnt:

- Dickens used to spend hours and hours walking the streets of London at night. Yours truly does the same!
- When Dickens was out and about, he spent a lot of time observing people and the minutiae of London life. He paid particular attention to what people were saying, the stories they were telling, how they were telling them, and how they spoke. Yours truly does the same!
- Dickens went to the theatre every night. Yours truly tries to do the same! Dickens went to the theatre because he saw it as a "fairyland" where he could escape from the cruel and harsh reality of everyday London life
- Dickens, like some of his fellow philanthropic Victorians, had a lot of Christian charity and compassion for the poor and the destitute (the underclass). Yours truly tries to do the same! He featured the underclass's stories and their histories quite prominently in all of his work.

Maybe I am the next Dickens!
Before anyone says anything, I am joking!

I am highly highly highly recommending this exhibition. Get on down to the Museum of London now!

If you can't get to London the book accompanying the exhibition, "Dickens's Victorian London", featuring over 200 archive photographs illustrating Victorian London as seen through the eyes of Charles Dickens, can be bought here:
I have the book now; it is excellent.