A tale of one man and his city…
7 December 2011
Dickens and London, a new exhibition exploring one of the world’s most influential authors, will open at the Museum of London on 9 December 2011.
There has not been a major exhibition on Charles Dickens in the UK since 1970. 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.”
The official book of the exhibition, ‘Dickens’ Victorian London’ by Alex Werner will be published by Ebury Press, £25 on 5 January 2011. Advance copies of the book will be on sale at the Museum of London when the exhibition opens.
As part of the Dickens and London exhibition, the Museum of London will also feature three costumes from BBC One’s new three-part drama, Great Expectations. Starring Gillian Anderson, Ray Winstone, David Suchet and Douglas Booth, Great Expectations forms the centrepiece of the BBC's celebration of Dickens as we go into the bicentenary of his birth, in 2012. Great Expectations is due to broadcast on BBC One this Christmas.
To coincide with the opening of the Dickens and London exhibition, the Museum of London is launching a new iPhone and iPad graphic novel app which will take users on a journey through the darker side of Charles Dickens’ London. Drawn from a selection of his short stories, Dickens: Dark London will be published monthly throughout the run of the exhibition to echo how Dickens himself released his writings. The first edition of Dickens: Dark London will be available free of charge from 9 December 2011. Each following edition will be available to download monthly for £1.49 on iTunes.
From 7 December 2011 to 10 February 2012, the acclaimed creative director and set designer, Simon Costin, will be designing a playful and contemporary window installation inspired by the Dickens and London exhibition. The display will create a fantastical vision of a wintery London in the mid 19th century - a magical and sprawling blackened cardboard city. The model will explore winding alleys, shop fronts and at night, hundreds of tiny LED lights will illuminate to make the murky windows of the city and street lamps glimmer.
The installation will also feature stylised versions of Victorian ‘window tappers’. These were once small mechanical toys, which were wound up and would tap against the glass of a shop window to attract the attention of passers by.
Simon Costin work is widely celebrated. He collaborated extensively with the late Alexander McQueen, becoming his Creative Director, and has also worked with clients including Hermes, Lanvin and Stella McCartney.
The Museum of London has commissioned artist Suki Chan to produce a work that responds to the nocturnal world of Charles Dickens’ London and draws parallels with our modern city. The commission will be displayed in the museum’s entrance and will open on 7 December 2011, two days prior to Dickens and London and is entitled Sleep Walk, Sleep Talk.
Dickens and London opens at the Museum of London on 9 December 2011 and runs until 10 June 2012. Tickets are on sale now.
Dickens and London press pack (3.7Mb pdf)