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Dickens at 200: 1812–2012

An exhibition in Special Collections

curated by
Jaime Margalotti

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Not only have Dickens’s books and characters remained Western cultural touchstones for over 150 years, the author himself is recognizable popular icon. Even Dickens name has become an adjective, with “Dickensian” first appearing in 1881 and included in the Oxford English Dictionary since 1895. In addition to reading and purchasing the books, fans have sought out artwork and expressed their admiration through writing. With the 20th century’s growth of consumer culture and appeal of collectibles, Dickens and his fictional universe have appeared on everything from coffee mugs to action figures.

Elisha Bartlett.

Simple Settings, in Verse, for Six Portraits and Pictures from Mr. Dickens’s Gallery. Boston, Ticknor and Fields, 1855.

F. Bret Harte

“Dickens at the Camp,” poem inThe Piccadilly annual of entertaining literature: retrospective and contemporary: Charles Dickens, Longfellow, Theodore Taylor, J. Russell Lowell, Dudley Costello, Mark Twain, W.M. Thackeray, Albert Smith, Bret Harte, Orpheus C. Kerr, Blanchard Jerrold, Robert Brough: with pictures by W.M. Thackeray, Holman Hunt, G. du Maurier, J. Morten, Lawless, Eltze, Messonnier, H.G. Hine, Lawson. London: John Camden Hotten, [1870].

Charles Dickens and Mamie Dickens.

The Charles Dickens Birthday Book. New York: T. Whittaker, 1880. Alice Dunbar–Nelson papers.

This blank day–book with daily quotes from Dickens was compiled and edited by his eldest daughter; with five illustrations by his youngest daughter.

Charles Dickens.

Certificate of Purchase from “Dickens’s Old Curosity Shop” laid in The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. with illustrations by Phiz. London: Chapman and Hall, 1839.

In The Old Curiosity Shop, Little Nell and her Grandfather live in the shop until he loses it to the villainous Daniel Quilp. The 16th century building in London which claims to be Dickens’s inspiration still stands, although it is currently an upscale shoe store.

“Charles Dickens,” Royal Doulton painted black transfer commemorative plate (D6306), [1908–1937].
On loan from Lucie Melvin.

Charles Dickens cards from Authors Card Game by Whitman, [1960s].
On loan from Lucie Melvin.

Maria G. Pisano

O–livre Twist: in a New and Special Adapted Version. Plainsboro, N.J.: Memory Press, [2001].

In her description of this altered version of a children’s paperback version of Oliver Twist, Pisano explains that the work is “a response to book censorship. When books are censored, culture and history are erased. The work takes the destruction of a book to the extreme, literally altering it through pulping and creating a package that no longer has legible meaning.” Oliver Twist is a sufficiently well–known tale that the obliteration of the book and the few remaining visible words are able to make an impact of the viewer.

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