The Dickens-Keats saturday was on the 31st of March '07. ok theres no such official day, but I'm calling it that on my personal calendar. The initial build up to the planned visit of the dwellings of these two stalwarts of English Literature was that of a wary excitement. Unsure about what to expect, unsure if it will hold your attention... would I get bored? Can I pretend I'm thrilled and get away with it? but being the adventurous soul that I am for anything new, I was going to check it out anyway and lament about it later if I had to.
Was surely disappointed when we got to the Dickens' Residence and I heard that he'd only stayed there for 2 years... but it was the only surviving structure that he'd lived in. Made me fantasize about which apartment would be my surviving residence having changed atleast 10 different homes over my lifetime... and many more I'm sure to move into over the rest of my years. a blue plaque over the door would say... "R K Lived here" 1973 - 20xx and they'd charge ppl 10 quid to see the stuff I owned. Now i better go shopping and buy some cool stuff that ppl can identify with... Charles Dickens was smart that way. Most of the stuff he owned was engraved CD so you probably figure it belonged to him. a pen knife, a watch, a butter knife and all i have so far is just one key chain with my name engraved on it. From now on my personal belongings are going to have either RK or RGK engraved on it for sure.
But the visit brought to life his works and the background for his stories. Oliver Twist was one scary book that I'd read when growing up, but i assumed it was all fiction and such things never really happened. I'm now enlightened and have learned something new about those times. Dickens was a social activist for sure and his writings have helped bring to light the pathetic conditions that existed and the child exploitation that he loathed.
A passage from "The Tale of Two Cities" :
"In a building at the back, attainable by a courtyard where a plane-tree rustled its green leaves, church-organs claimed to be made, and silver to be chased, and likewise gold to be beaten by some mysterious giant who had a golden arm starting out of the wall of thefront hall--as if he had beaten himself precious, and menaced a similar conversion of all visitors. Very little of these trades, or of a lonely lodger rumoured to live up-stairs, or of a dim coach-trimming maker asserted to have a counting-house below, was ever heard or seen.Occasionally, a stray workman putting his coat on, traversed the hall, or a stranger peered about there, or a distant clink was heard across the courtyard, or a thump from the golden giant."
Never did I imagine this to be a golden arm with a hammer that in his time was in a shop in Soho. How do these writers do it? How do they associate these random occurences and bring them together in their work... I guess thats why i'm only relegating myself to writing this blog.
And here's some trivia:
Spot the difference in these two pictures:
To the discerning eye... you got it right... two versions of the same book. The one with the green print is a trial copy that Dickens had printed when he was experimenting with the color scheme for his Christmas Carol. Only about 15 were printed in Green. he eventually went with the one that was blue. So if you come across an early edition in your grandparent's attic, and its got the green color scheme... u own a valuable piece of history... a call to Sotheby's should be the next task on your to-do list.
A fascination for our ancestors?
As with most great men, their favorite mascot seems to be the monkey. Here's Dickens' favorite mascot ... a chinese porcelain monkey that he always had on his desk... so if you get famous or know you're gonna be famous at some point, get a monkey...
A writing instrument from those times... yes the one thing that lends a lot of credibility to the authenticity of those times... the Quill that Dickens used, to write his last unfinished work - The adventures of Edwin Drood.
I have to share my perspective on what I think the Dickens' living room would have looked like if there were digital cameras (with a setting for 'Sepia') in those days for that real authentic look