The A Hankering after Ghosts: Charles Dickens and the Supernatural exhibition at the British Library covers the fascination that Charles Dickens had for the macabre. With more than a few ghostly goings on throughout the course of Dickens’ work, it’s clear that there was a distinct interest in the supernatural, and the exhibition digs under the skin of this to reveal some great insights into where they came from and what they actually meant.
Dickens and the Supernatural needs to be taken in the context of being a small and free exhibition at the British Library and within that it was a great little find. Running throughout late winter 2012 it gave a different slant on the legacy of Charles Dickens’ work.
With a timeline construction feel to it the series of displays charted Dickens’ initial thoughts on the supernatural, his scientific take on it all and his burgeoning fascination with mesmeric influences. Though he was clearly very interested in the use of spiritual forces in his writing he was also a staunch believer in the power of science to explain any incident, which stands a little apart from his words in A Christmas Carol.
The best bit about the exhibition is that there were a good few snippets of information about Dickens that makes you understand him a little bit more. For example, his interest in mesmeric forces of the mind as a scientific phenomenon – the notion that people can have an animal attraction over each other and that he could harness it himself – gives us a whole new side of the writer to analyse from a literary stand-point when you look at the characters at the heart of his stories.
It also went some way to show the influence that he had during his life as he would often invite people to write into his weekly periodicals with their ghost stories to try to explain them from a scientific standpoint. He was also, apparently, well known for his criticism of spiritualists, doing all he could to debunk their claims to be in touch with the dead.
While the A Hankering After Ghosts: Charles Dickens And The Supernatural exhibition at the British Library lacked the visual interaction that could have made it much more engaging, it was still an informative and entertaining display. Part of the Dickens 2012 series of events to celebrate the 200th birthday of the great writer, the exhibition closed on the 4th March 2012.
A Hankering after Ghosts: Charles Dickens and the Supernatural exhibition review: 3.5/5