A new exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum explores the global appeal of the famous author and the impact of his considerable travels on his life and writing. In an age when a ‘viral’ picture can travel around the world in seconds, it is worth considering how difficult it was for a 19th century writer to have global appeal. Whilst it was possible for writers to achieve fame around the British Empire, to sell books in other parts of world was difficult due to a number of factors.
This exhibition provides evidence that although Dickens is considered a quintessentially British writer obsessed by London, the reality was his work influenced people all around the globe. Unlike many 19th century writers, Dickens travelled extensively across Britain, Europe and America and both wrote about these places but also gave talks and performances creating a new type of international celebrity.
These travels were not without their problems, his criticism of American society in Martin Chuzzlewit and in his travelogue American Notes caused a considerable backlash, remarkably he returned to America many years later and was more popular than ever.
The exhibition features a hand written letter from Dickens to his friend William Macready in 1868 describing his impressions of Niagara Falls.
Part of Dickens appeal was his stories often had universal themes which were used and adapted in many different cultures. The exhibition give some idea of the way that Dickens has been used for inspiration ranging from Manga comics to numerous films, Dickens remains the most adapted writer of all time for TV and film.
The exhibition features a Russian poster for a theatre production based on Dickens, A poster for a production of Edwin Drood starring Claude Rains, and a Dutch translation of Dombey and Son.
One of the highlights of the exhibition is a copy of David Copperfield that went to the Antarctic on the 1910 Scott expedition. Its grubbiness indicates that it was well used by those on the ill fated expedition.
This fascinating small exhibition offers an opportunity to consider Dickens as one of the earliest global celebrities, his fame is not restricted to the past with many Dickens festivals still being held all over the world. Dickens never limited himself but was fascinated by his travels and used his journalistic and creative powers to provide his readers with stories of the world outside of Britain. In a fast changing world, Dickens often provided a record of the effects of major political and social changes in a number of countries.
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Visitors to the exhibition are free to explore the Charles Dickens Museum, The Charles Dickens Museum holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of Dickens-related material, including the desk at which he wrote Great Expectations.
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Charles Dickens Museum website here
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