Charles Dickens’ Ohio Visit Subject of New Exhibit

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“The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists”― Charles Dickens

Ohio University Libraries is celebrating the legacy of 19th century English writer Charles Dickens in an exhibit titled Charles Dickens—A Sensation: From London to Ohio, on display through Aug. 28 on the fifth floor of Alden Library.

Charles Dickens is regarded as one of the most prolific writers of his time and is known for writing classic novels such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and A Tale of Two Cities.

Kevin Dennis, a graduate student in adolescent to young adult education, began examining the Mahn Center for Archives and Special Collections’ Charles Dickens Author Collection as a student enrolled in ENG 4940 Research Apprenticeship with associate professor Joe McLaughlin and special collections librarian Miriam Intrator. Since April, Dennis has been working under Intrator’s guidance to curate the exhibit.

According to Intrator, one of the overarching goals of the exhibit is to “show Charles Dickens as a celebrity in the 19th century and his legacy ever-after.” Dennis echoes this sentiment as a goal for the exhibit, which will spotlight Dickens’ travels and influence in the state of Ohio.

“Specifically, I want to show that Dickens’ fame spread from London to Ohio and the rest of America,” said Dennis. “He was the first modern celebrity, and it is important to understand the level and scope of influence that he had on the world. Also, I want to provide an easy access point for Ohioans when it comes to learning about Dickens, and the Ohio-related pieces in this exhibit were selected with that in mind.”

Charles Dickens exhibit, Alden Library
Items from the “Charles Dickens Rare Print Collection” at Alden Library. (Tyler Stabile/Ohio University Libraries)

This objective will be met by including items such as books, playbills, collections of Dickens’ works, public readings, documentation of his travels and legacy in Ohio. The display will also feature a sheet of commemorative Charles Dickens postage stamps and a pop-up version of one of Dickens’ most well known works, A Christmas Carol, a 19th century holiday classic.

“The most notable items in my opinion are the books and materials about Ohio,” said Dennis. ‘American Notes’ details Dickens’ trip through the states and includes an account of his time in Ohio. There are also a number of pamphlets and materials related to the Marion, Ohio branch of the Dickens Fellowship including a program for the inaugural meeting and the hand-written journal of its founder, Dr. Edward Ellsworth Hipsher.”

One of the most unique aspects of the exhibit is the inclusion of an original serial installment of Dickens’ 1840-1841 novel, Master Humphrey’s Clock.

“…We want to ensure that students, faculty, staff, and visitors know how rich our collections are and that we hold some quite rare and wonderfully interesting materials,” said Intrator. “Certainly the original serial installments are a great example.”

Intrator recalls that during the months he spent researching, Dennis came across manuscript material on the Dickens Fellowship in Marion, Ohio. The existence of these documents reiterates the scope of Dickens’ influence locally.

Republished with permission from Ohio University Libraries.