We have seen Charles Dickens’ work recreated modernised and revised on screen, stage and parodied on paper. Yet nothing does his work more justice than looking into the past and viewing the work, and the man, in its original form and context.
The supernatural features throughout Dickens’ work and it is this aspect of his writing that the British Library has chosen to focus on in their latest exhibition, A Hankering After Ghosts, which celebrates the bicentenary of the great writer’s birth.
Dickens’ fascination with the supernatural was based more in scientific study than belief. His novels were greatly researched from ‘real’ sources and events of the uncanny are revealed to be the foundations of many of his works. By satirising and suspending the readers’ belief, Dickens was able to terrify and mesmerise.
…Dickens has become the one to haunt us.
Firsts editions and letters are displayed in glass cases and these exemplify the point that the past can be reflected upon but not reached. Although what this exhibition proves is that Dickens’ world does live on: in his works and in the streets of London.
He hankered after ghosts throughout his career, but it appears Dickens has become the one to haunt us. The British Library’s exploration of Dickens’ interest in the uncanny, although not as vivid as the worlds he created, certainly leaves you feeling haunted: you will feel compelled to go and read and experience his words; his world; his wonder of the supernatural.