On 1st February I visited the Charles Dickens Museum in London, prompted by my recent discovery of his novels as audiobooks.
Somehow, while living in Bangalore, I was drawn to literature set in London. Does this happen to other expats? Was it homesickness? I just didn’t want to read about the tropical environment, or the drama or hardships of Indian life, when I could see it all too clearly around me.
So I escaped into the audiobooks, and was then surprised by how funny Dickens could be, and how many good-hearted characters he created – including Twemlow, Jenny and Boffins (in Our Mutual Friend), Wemmick (in Great Expectations) and Caddy Jellaby (in Bleak House). “Dickensian” doesn’t just mean poverty and grotesque villains.
Anyway, it took me two attempts to see the Dickens museum, as it was closed on my first visit. I don’t know what they were filming – maybe you’ll spot me on TV one day grumbling as I walk away. When they finally let me in, I was only mildly interested in Dickens’s furniture and household effects. But don’t let me put you off – the museum has re-created the 19th century interiors really well. I was more keen to see some examples of Dickens’s own writing, like this copy of Nicholas Nickleby, annotated by the author for public readings.
..and these facsimile pages from A Christmas Carol.
One of the more moving exhibits is this barred grille from Marshalsea Debtors Prison where Charles Dickens’s father was imprisoned.
If the books or the new movie “The Invisible Woman” kindle your interest in Charles Dickens, this is what you need to know:
the museum is on Doughty Street, London WC1;
the closest tube station is Russell Square;
my entrance ticket cost me £8, and
you can click here to see the museum’s own website.