Dickens – His Christmas Carol And More
Tiny Tim, Bob Crachit, Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens devotees welcome these fictional creations as old friends year-after-year. Now for a holiday treat and until February 22, 2012 you can see them and many other beloved Dickens’ characters in a fascinating exhibit at the Morgan Library & Museum to honor the 200th anniversary in 2012 of Charles Dickens birth. Here you also find the entire range of Dickens’s works—manuscripts, photos, letters, art work and artifacts from his diverse output.
The Morgan has one of the world’s greatest collections of Dickensenia, second only to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. At the Morgan, you also meet Dickens the spiritualist, Dickens the philanthropist and Dickens, the hypnotist.
Declan Kiely, Morgan’s curator of literary and historical manuscripts, is commemorating the author’s birth by focusing on less well-known facets of his life. Even if you think you know what there is to know about Dickens and wouldn’t dream of saying “please, sir may I have more,” like Oliver Twist, more is welcome here. The show adds considerably to the enjoyment to the author’s work.
There are manuscripts of three of Dickens’s Christmas stories, including the famous “A Christmas Carol”. One section is entirely devoted to “Our Mutual Friend.” In 1865; Dickens crawled back into a train wreck to retrieve the manuscript of an installment of his novel, on display here.
We meet many curmudgeons in his novels, but in life he was preoccupied with injustices of his era. With Angela Burdett-Coutts, who, the exhibit tells us, was the wealthiest heiress in Victorian Britain, he created a shelter for wayward women. Through letters here, we learn he purchased dresses for the women at wholesale prices and tried to make their life as cheerful as possible.
A section of the show deals with Dickens pride in his ability to hypnotize his wife and friends, in addition to others nagged by afflictions. Dickens fascination with the theater resulted in his collaborating with friend novelist Wilke Collins on a play, “The Frozen Deep.” Invited to perform for the queen, Dickens replaced his family troupe (he thought it was vulgar for his daughters to appear in such a performance) with professionals. Falling in love with one of them, Ellen Lawless Ternan, he separated from his wife in 1858.
Dickens’s two American visits are covered here. On his first trip, be was enthusiastic as he started out in 1842, but later changed his mind, describing Americans as ill mannered. His vengeance was to create “Martin Chuzzlewit,” in which America is barbaric, diseased and filled with corruption. Looking for a gift? The Morgan published a new facsimile edition of “A Christmas Carol” to complement the exhibit.#
The Morgan Library & Museum, 225 Madison Ave at 36th St.. 212-685-0008.