Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and quiet home!
— Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers
Charles Dickens is everywhere. I think he has been mentioned in every tour I’ve taken, and London is rightly proud of this literary giant. Next year is the 200th anniversary of his birth, so multiple celebrations are being planned in London. The Dickens Museum is located only a short walk from our flat. It’s an old-fashioned museum, without the high-tech interactive exhibits found in newer museum exhibits. Yet a visit here provides a wonderful glimpse into Dickens’ life. I especially enjoyed tagging on to a group tour that was led by a knowledgable volunteer.
Charles Dickens lived in this house from 1837 to 1839. He wrote Oliver Twist and other works in this study:
The museum recreated what his drawing room may have looked like during Christmas in Victorian times. A few items in the room actually belonged to Dickens, such as the chair in the right corner.
Many of Dickens’ works were published as monthly serials. They were wildly popular, and readers eagerly awaited each month’s installment. Dickens did not write the stories in advance, but created them as he wrote each month.
Besides writing, Dickens also loved acting. He was a member of a theater troupe and performed for Queen Victoria. He also enjoyed doing spirited readings of his works, acting out the characters he loved. He visited the US to do some of these readings and met notable American authors, such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Washington Irving, on these visits.
Dickens and his wife had 10 children, but eventually separated after he started having an affair. Ralph Fiennes recently visited the Dickens Museum as part of his work on a new movie, The Invisible Woman, about Dickens’ affair.