This week I visited the ’Dickens and London’ exhibition at the Museum of London which runs until 10th June 2012.
It celebrates 200 years since Charles Dickens’s birth. This excellent exhibition gives you an insight not only into Dickens’s work but also a flavour of Victorian London. There are photos, paintings, clothes and artefacts of the time depicting the squalor, drabness and its extremes of wealth and poverty.
On display are his writing desk, chair, quill pen and some of his manuscripts all painstakingly written in small script with crossings out and amendments in the margins.
For me the most intriguing aspect of the exhibition was to learn that he was an insomniac. He walked the streets of London all night, taking in the sights and sounds of the city and creating his stories. He documented what he saw and heard forming his characters from observations and overheard conversations during his nightly meanderings into the metropolis.
In the exhibition there is a film by William Raban showing modern day London filmed at night featuring today’s homeless (‘houseless’ as Dickens called them) individuals as they roam the city streets in the early hours echoing Dickens’s path, capturing the despairing mood of the dispossessed. The film has a commentary of Dickens’s haunting words which are still relevant today.
A thought provoking exhibition, my overwhelming impression was that Dickens was profoundly affected by the plight of the disaffected citizens of Victorian London, and that writing was a cathartic release for his emotions.