London’s Dickens Museum reopens after makeover



THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published — Thursday 20 December 2012

Last update 20 December 2012 3:52 am

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

LONDON: Charles Dickens’ London home has gone from “Bleak House” to “Great Expectations.”
For years, the four-story brick row house where the author lived with his young family was a dusty and slightly neglected museum, a favorite for Dickens scholars but overlooked by most visitors to London.
Now, after a 3 million pound ($ 4.8 million) makeover, it has been restored to bring the writer’s world to life. The house reopened this month, and its director says it aims to look “as if Dickens had just stepped out.” “The Dickens Museum felt for many years a bit like Miss Havisham, covered in dust,” said museum director Florian Schweizer, who slips references to Dickens’ work seamlessly into his speech. Miss Havisham is the reclusive character central to the plot of “Great Expectations.”
Now, after a revamp code-named — inevitably — “Great Expectations,” the house is transformed.
Or, Schweizer said recently, quoting that novel: “I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape.” Few authors remain as widely quoted, read and adapted as Dickens is 200 years after his birth. Characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, Pip and Miss Havisham, Fagin and Oliver Twist, are known to millions around the world. And no writer is more closely associated with London than Dickens, whose accounts of Victorian workhouses, debtors’ prisons and the urban poor embarrassed the establishment into acting to alleviate poverty.
He lived all over the city in his impoverished youth and increasingly affluent adulthood, but the house at 48 Doughty Street in the Bloomsbury area of London is his only home in the city to survive.
Dickens lived in the house between 1837 and 1839, a short but fruitful period that saw the birth of his first two children. It’s the site where he wrote “Nicholas Nickleby” and “Oliver Twist,” going in the process from jobbing journalist to rising author whose serialized stories were gobbled up by a growing fan base. Dickens leased the simple but elegant Georgian house, built in 1807, for 80 pounds a year.
The restored museum has all the modern trappings, including audio-guides, a “learning center” and a cafe. There also is a temporary exhibition of costumes from Mike Newell’s new film adaptation of “Great Expectations,” starring Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes.
But at its heart it is a house — the home of a proud young family man. Visitors can see the blue-walled dining room where Dickens entertained his friends, complete with original sideboard and a portrait of the 25-year-old author looking, it has to be said, pretty pleased with himself.
“It’s rather Byronic,” Schweizer said. “Not the Victorian sage with a beard that we think of.”
Upstairs are the drawing room where Dickens moved guests to laughter and tears with readings from his works — visitors can hear actor Simon Callow do the honors on recordings — and the bedroom where his sister-in-law Mary died at the age of 17, a tragedy that may have influenced the many death scenes in Dickens’ novels.

The rooms are furnished with Dickens’ own possessions — his writing desk and chair, his wardrobe and shaving kit, copies of his books annotated in his cramped handwriting.
“We’re trying to make it feel like a home,” Schweizer said. “As if Dickens had just stepped out.”
The museum does not skip over the darker periods of Dickens’ life.
On the top floor, the former servants’ quarters hold a set of bars from Marshalsea prison, where Dickens’ father was imprisoned for his debts, and jars from the boot-polish factory where 12-year-old Charles was sent to work.
The experience of financial insecurity marked Dickens for life, and drove his workaholic quest for success. He wrote more than 20 books, had 10 children, traveled the world on lecture tours and campaigned for social change until his death from a stroke in 1870 at the age of 58.
The museum’s directors have been criticized for shutting the facility during most of the bicentenary of Dickens’ birth — and during the tourism bonanza that accompanied the London Olympics.
The museum hopes to draw 45,000 visitors a year, a 50 percent rise on pre-refurbishment levels. Schweizer thinks Dickens’ future has never been rosier.
“There has always been interest. I think the bicentenary has taken it to a whole new level,” Schweizer said. “There is a great hunger of Dickens, especially in these times” of economic austerity and uncertainty.
As evidence, he held up a London newspaper proclaiming news of the Duchess of Cambridge’s pregnancy under the headline “Kate Expectations.”
“People still get all the references,” he said.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Users of WhatsApp were a joyous lot on Saturday as the call facility finally became available on the popular messaging service in the Kingdom.The facility, which is for free now, through WhatsApp was earlier banned in Saudi Arabia and only me...
RIYADH: A Border Guard soldier died on Saturday in a missile attack from across the Yemeni border in Dhahran Al-Jonoub in Asir.The man, identified as Pvt. Abdulilah Abdullah Hamoud Al-Shahrani, was patrolling the border in the area when the attack to...
RIYADH: Custodian of Two Holy Mosques King Salman takes pride in his religion and his country, according to Prince Sultan bin Salman, Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) chairman.“King Salman lives his life in a confident and re...
RIYADH: Justice Minister Walid Al-Samaani and Khaled Al-Muhaisin, the president of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (Nazaha), are scheduled to meet soon to clear resolve differences between Nazaha and Supreme Judicial Council (SJC). According...
JEDDAH: Starbucks has clarified that the ban on women’s entry at one of its Riyadh stores is only temporary and that the coffee shop will be opened to them soon after a separation wall is erected.Starbucks reportedly said that members of the Committe...
RIYADH: The Saudi government is strongly supporting the development of organic farming and institutional capacity building as part of an ambitious plan to expand the Kingdom’s shift toward organic agriculture, which will be good for the country’s nut...
RIYADH: An attempt to smuggle in 2.4 million amphetamine pills was foiled along the coast of Tabuk.An Interior Ministry spokesman said the traffickers fled from the coast after they were chased by Border Guard patrols.The spokesman said a suspect boa...
RIYADH: King Saud University (KSU) closed the booths of five companies which participated in the recently concluded five-day Career Week because of lack of interest in employing applicants.Career Week, held under the auspices of Custodian of Two Holy...
RIYADH: The Kingdom has been developing Oroug Bani Maradh as a protected area for eco-tourism in the heart of the Empty Quarter.Aside from a number of live flora and fauna, there’s are non-domesticated animal species in the wildlife sanctuary located...
JEDDAH: Two women and three children, including an infant, lost their lives in separate fire incidents on Friday.A woman and two children died when their tent caught fire at Al-Issawi, 35 km into the desert, on Friday. The operations room of Civil De...
RIYADH: Arrangements are being made at the Ministry of Health to open a new portal for the Zika virus on its website.Faisal Al-Zahrani, the ministry spokesman, said that the new portal will give adequate details and updates about the virus which has...
ARAR: A Saudi father has urged his two sons to immediately surrender, after their names recently appeared on the list of suspects who participated in the terror attack on the Special Emergency Forces Mosque in Asir in August last year.Salem Yaslam Al...
JEDDAH: The Ministry of Education has called on schools to implement a national anti-drug plan and given a four-month period to implement the plan and report the results.Educational directorates, according to a recent circular, have issued a directiv...
NAJRAN: School of Dentistry students at Najran University expressed disappointment with group failure of 13 students, accusing the faculty members of being unfair with their examinations.The university spokesman, Dr. Zuhair Al-Omari, said the eighth...
JEDDAH: Pakistan and Kashmir expatriates observed Kashmir Solidarity Day at the residence of Pakistan Consul General Shehryar Akbar Khan on Friday.Abdul Aziz Al-Jiffry, professor at King Abdul Aziz University, was the chief guest.The event was meant...

Stay Connected

Facebook