Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

Charles Dickens House

September 9, 2010 · No Comments

Taken from dickensmuseum.com

If you’re a fan of Dickens you must make your way to 48 Doughty Street (it’s only a fifteen minute walk from Arran), and visit the Dickens House Museum. And if you’re not, well, you still should if only because it isn’t everyday that you can see the working milieu of one of the greatest fiction writers ever to live. Evidently, the museum isn’t as large as the other ones we’ve  been too, but what it lacks in breadth it makes up for by its dedication in preserving many of Dickens’ possessions. If, however, you are looking for a contextual study of Dickens and London politics, you may be disappointed. Rather, those interested in the author’s biography would seem to be the ideal viewers. Indeed, one of the more interesting aspects of the house is the presentation of the women in Dickens’ life, and how they affected his work. For instance, an entire room is devoted to his sister-in-law, Mary Hograth, who died prematurely at the age of seventeen in Dickens’ own arms. Apparently, Dickens had a bit of a crush. One of the notes describes how smitten Dickens was with Hograth (her death had impeded the serial publication of the next chapter in Pickwick Papers), how he had viewed her as his little sister, even calling her – very mawkishly – as the manifestation of an angel. If I recall correctly, other information cards described Dickens long love affair with a young woman. This may all sound conspiratorial. I thought so too. But a quick Google search will confirm the points. Besides, the museum is run by the Dickens fellowship, the largest organization committed to commemorating all things Dickens. There are even some attempts at amateur criticism, with some notes trying to draw parallels between Dickens’ life and his art, juxtaposing lines from the novels against real incidents. For an “institution” that is meant to honor the author, I found it commendable that the inclusion of such amorous, if you will, details were given proper exposure. It was clear to me that the museum wasn’t interested in providing another grandiloquent version of Dickens’ life. More precisely, there was an aim to be more objective and encompassing, and less inhibitive. I am no Dickens expert so there very well may be much scholarship on this already, but I thought it would be an interesting paper topic to reinterpret Dickens’ novels through a history of his sexuality (Paging Professor Moffat!).

Again, the museum is small in scope and clearly lacks the sumptuous settings of others. But if you find museums such as the Victoria and Albert exhausting, the Dickens House may prove to be a refreshing alternative.

Categories: 2010 Sean · Museums

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