Crossing scholarly bridges written by the Museum’s curator, the actor enters Dickens’ tales and inhabits his characters just as the legendary novelist did during his renowned literary readings over 150 years ago. The effect of sipping a flinty, straw-coloured Bordeaux while watching the performance is magical. The actor’s animated face is reflected, like Marley’s ghost, in glassed-in shelves of priceless first editions, and in the row of high, rectangular windows overlooking the grey-stoned streets of Camden Town.
As “The Sparkler of Albion” dramatizes the death of Little Nell, you might recall that Mary Hogarth died in a side wing of this house. There, spooks rise, spirits howl, apparitions materialize and fade away. No actor has ever had a more accommodating set.
To augment my visit to the museum, I took a walking tour of Dickens’ London. The guide described how Dickens lost his voice the morning of his audition for the Theatre Royale, editorializing, “By all accounts, England lost a great actor.” Ruefully, I shook my head. Dickens wasn’t the only aspiring actor to lose his voice in order to find it in another form; he was just the most famous. Shakespeare has the respect of Londoners; Dickens is loved. Through the literature he left behind, Dickens has become London’s soul.
The Dickens House Museum is located at 48 Doughty Street, in the heart of Bloomsbury. It is open from Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm, and on Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. Last admission is 30 minutes before closing time. It can be reached by the following bus lines: 7, 17, 89, 38, 45, 46, 55, 243, or by the Underground on the Piccadilly Line or the Central Line.
The Goodenough Club is situated minutes from the Museum. The Club offers attractive and reasonably-priced accommodations.
The Dickens Walking Tour takes place each Wednesday at 11 am and every Sunday at 2 pm. It begins just outside St. Paul’s Underground station, exit 2. St. Paul’s is on the Central Line.