A City Observed: Signs from Dickens’s London
2nd August - 15th November 2014
I am always wandering here and there from my rooms in Covent-garden, London now about the city streets… seeing many little things, and some great things, which, because they interest me, I think may interest others.
Our new exhibition, A City Observed, explores the impact that hand crafted Victorian Shop signs had on the writings of Charles Dickens and his representation of Victorian London.
Throughout his life, Dickens enjoyed taking long, rambling walks through the city’s streets. As a journalist, these strolls resulted in vivid descriptions of the urban environment. As a novelist, walking exposed him to all manner of real-life London – its people, places and even the street furniture which he then transported onto the pages of his stories.
This exhibition focuses on three shop signs from our collection that reveal Dickens’s extraordinary ability to capture his surroundings to memory before mixing them into the visual landscape of his writings. The Dog and Pot, the Little Wooden Midshipman and the Goldbeater’s Arm signs are the perfect examples of small city details that Dickens noticed and drew to the attention of his readers.
Focussing on the character and history of these street signs, advertising shops and other places of business, the exhibition reveals Dickens’s extraordinary ability to observe and recount in detail the London cityscape and bring to life that detail in the pages of his novels.