Preview The Morgan Library’s Massive Charles Dickens Exhibition

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Charles Dickens would have turned 200 years old next year. To celebrate the bicentennial of the great Victorian novelist, The Morgan Library hosts Charles Dickens at 200, an exhibition of Dickens’ novels and stories, his letters, books, photographs, original illustrations, and caricatures as well as other personal effects. Organized by Declan Kiely, the Robert H. Taylor Curator and Department Head of Literary and Historical Manuscripts, the exhibit runs through February 12, 2012 and presents an ongoing series of gallery talks, lectures, and film screenings.

Among the offerings on view at the library are a portrait of Dickens at age 29 just a few months before he made his first trip to the US; an appeal to fallen women “anonymously” written (by Dickens) encouraging London prostitutes to enter a home Dickens created; a watercolor of Hungerford Stairs, which shows Warren’s Blacking Factory where Dickens worked as a 12-year-old boy wrapping boot-blacking bottles — a traumatic experience that worked its way into his novels; and many personal effects from seals to playbills. Following is a small sample of illustrations and effects you’ll see at this vast exhibit, which captures the art and life of the peerless literary superstar.

Charles Dickens’ ink pot. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

Alfred Bryan (1852-1899). Caricature of Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray. Undated Charcoal and colored chalks, on blue paper. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Gift of Miss Caroline Newton, 1974. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

Jeremiah Gurney (1812-1895). Charles Dickens, 1867. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Purchased for The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection as the gift of the Heineman Foundation, 2011. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

George Cruikshank (1792–1878). Oliver Asking for More. Original watercolor drawing for Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, 1866. Mostly watercolor, over graphite, with pen and gray ink, on paper. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. 2005. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

Charles Dickens (1812–1870). The Great International Walking Match of February 29, 1868. Boston: Privately printed, 1868. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

Dickens was an avid walker (walking 20 to 30 miles a day). On February 29, 1868, he organized “the great international walking match” between his friends, though he couldn’t participate due to a bad foot. Dickens made the race official by issuing this document and having his friends sign it with a given made-up monicker. The winner of the walking race won dinner.

Charles Dickens’ brass seal with ivory base. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

Robert Hindry Mason (active 1858-1872). Charles Dickens, 1863. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Purchased for The Dannie and Hettie Heineman Collection as the gift of the Heineman Foundation, 2011. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

William Hogarth (1697–1764). Gin Lane. Publish’d according to Act of Parliament, Feb. 1, 1751. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Peel collection. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

Dickens was a huge Hogarth fan. In his home, he hung 48 prints. Hogarth’s Gin Lane in the exhibition, reflects Dickens’ concern for public health and well-being. His main illustrators also worked in a Hogarthian style.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870). A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Autograph manuscript signed, December 1843. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber

George Cruikshank (1792–1878). Fagin in the Condemned Cell. Original watercolor drawing for Charles Dickens’s Oliver Twist, 1866. Mostly watercolor, over graphite, with pen and gray ink, on paper. Courtesy The Morgan Library & Museum, New York. 2005. Photo credit: Graham S. Haber