A little piece of context

Incidentally, this weekend I took Dickens Journals Online up on its offer of a members discount and visited the Dickens and London exhibit at the Museum of London, which I thoroughly enjoyed (thank you, DJO). The first thing I saw upon entering was this painting of Dickens by William Powell Frith in 1859 (the calendar in the background gives a more specific date of 11 March), when Dickens was in the process of writing A Tale of Two Cities – in fact the papers on the table are manuscript copies of the early chapters. Just thought I’d share.

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About Pete Orford

I'm an English lecturer at the University of Buckingham, with a research background in both Dickens and Shakespeare; I am also a father of three, with a research background in dinosaurs and moshi monsters. I'm Chief Investigator for The Drood Inquiry (www.droodinquiry.com).

5 thoughts on “A little piece of context

  1. I hope not! At least, I can’t see any wine smeared round his lips in this picture, and there’s a definite lack of “blood” on the wall…

    I can’t remember the exact quotes that accompanied this painting at the exhibition, but in essense, Frith was proud of the picture and the way it showed Dickens at the top of his game, while Dickens himself felt he looked too stern, like he was annoyed about the neighbours or some such. It interested me to think of the different perceptions of Dickens at the time he was writing ATOTC, as great and lofty author on the one hand, compared to Dickens’s own rebellion against this idea.

      • Thanks Holly! The exhibition also had the chair in which Dickens sat while writing ATOTC (no, not the gadshill chair, although that was there too, but a rather smaller version from his London pad). For me though, the highlight was the Monty Python-esque animation of Buss’s “Dickens’ Dream” – I may never again be able to read Dombey and Son without seeing Paul jumping up and down upon the bed!

  2. Wow! I’m so jealous there’s an actual “Dickens and London” exhibit close enough for you to see. Thanks for sharing this painting. Frith is a very interesting artist, who from what I know lived a double private life (not too dissimilar from someone else we know and blog about!). The dual nature of Dickens is also interesting as you mentioned, his public persona and his private opinions of himself and his works. I can see why he would have been a little self-conscious about this painting, especially given the harsh view he maintained of himself and his works.

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