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Dickens and London Exhibition Opens in London

The Museum of London has opened Dickens and London an exhibition on view 9 December 2011 until 10 June 2012.

Dickens and London will be the largest exhibition marking the 200th anniversary of his birth in 2012. It will reveal that Dickens was the first great novelist of the modern city and the age of mass culture. Original and rarely seen manuscripts of his most famous novels, including Bleak House and David Copperfield, will be on show.

The display examines the central relationship between Dickens and London – the city that he described as his ‘magic lantern’. Often walking the streets at night, Dickens would build in his mind the settings, plots and characters of his novels. Evoking the atmosphere of the streets of Victorian London and the river Thames, visitors will follow in Dickens’ footsteps and be taken on a memorable and haunting journey, discovering the places and subjects which sparked his imagination.

The great social questions of the 19th century will be investigated including childhood mortality, prostitution, and wealth and poverty. They will be set against the new features of the modern industrial age such as steam boats, railways, the electric telegraph and the penny post. The display will end with a specially-commissioned film, The Houseless Shadow, by William Raban, one of the UK’s leading documentary filmmakers. It will explore the continuities between London after dark as it is now, compared with how it was described by Charles Dickens over 150 years ago.

Key objects on display will include:
• Dickens’ writing desk and chair;
• the only surviving costume of the famous clown, Grimaldi;
• Dickens’ bank ledger;
• Luke Fildes’ painting Applicants for admission to a casual ward;
• excavated items from Jacob’s Island;
• manuscript pages describing the East End opium den featured in Dickens’ last, unfinished novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood and William Powell Frith’s celebrated portrait of Dickens, both lent by the V&A.

Alex Werner, Head of History Collections at the Museum of London and lead curator of Dickens and London, said: “Dickens is the first author to describe the modern city of the 19th century and its profound impact on society and, in particular, on ordinary people. London was Dickens inspiration. He knew its alleys and streets better than anyone. His writings remain relevant today especially for the rapidly developing mega-cities around the world today, which face many of the problems and challenges that impacted on Victorian London 150 years ago.” –

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