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07Dec

Charles Dickens Museum Reopens on Monday 10 December

Charles Dickens' home at 48 Doughty Street in the Bloomsbury area of London, a four-story brick row house where the author lived with his young family, has been a dusty and slightly neglected museum for years. On Monday 10 December, after a 3.1 million pound makeover, it has been restored to bring the writer's world to life. Its director Florian Schweizer says it aims to look "as if Dickens had just stepped out."

Charles Dickens Museum
Sang Tan | Associated Press

Great Expectations

Dickens lived at this house between 1837 and 1839, a short but fruitful period that saw the birth of his first two children. It's the site where he wrote Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist, going in the process from jobbing journalist to rising author whose serialized stories were gobbled up by a growing fan base. Dickens leased the simple but elegant Georgian house, built in 1807, for 80 pounds a year.

The restored museum has all the modern trappings like audio-guides, a learning center and a cafe. There also is a temporary exhibition of costumes from the new film adaption of Great Expectations by director Mike Newell.

Visitors can see the blue-walled dining room where Dickens entertained his friends. Upstairs are the drawing room where Dickens moved guests with readings from his works (visitors can hear actor Simon Callow do the honors on recordings) and the bedroom where his sister-in-law Mary died at the age of 17, a tragedy that may have influenced the many death scenes in Dickens' novels. The rooms are furnished with Dickens' own possessions - his writing desk and chair, his wardrobe and shaving kit, copies of his books annotated in his cramped handwriting. "We're trying to make it feel like a home", Schweizer said.

Charles Dickens

Few authors remain as widely quoted, read and adapted as Dickens is 200 years after his birth. Characters such as Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim, Pip and Miss Havisham, Fagin and Oliver Twist, are known to millions around the world. Dickens wrote more than 20 books, had 10 children, traveled the world on lecture tours and campaigned for social change until his death from a stroke in 1870 at the age of 58. The museum's directors have been criticized for shutting the facility during most of the bicentenary of Dickens' birth— and during the increased tourism that accompanied the London Olympics. The reopening takes place just in time for a Dickensian Christmas. The museum hopes to draw 45,000 visitors a year, a 50 percent rise in visits. Schweizer thinks Dickens' future has never been rosier. "There is a great hunger of Dickens, especially in these times of economic austerity and uncertainty", Schweizer said.

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