Monday 18 November 2013

Edwin Drood and the National Art Library

It's many years since I had the pleasure of a leisurely look round the V&A in London, and I must admit that I've scarcely been aware of the existence, behind the museum's impressve facade, of the National Art Library. However, I've now made up for lost time by visiting the NAL, although a full visit to the V&A will have to wait till another day.

The highlight of my trip was the privilege of seeing for myself Charles Dickens' manuscript for The Mystery of Edwin Drood. This was a genuine treat - the great man's last, incomplete book, in his own hand (with innumerable corrections) and presented very well in a vast bound tome into which the pages (already pasted in the past) had been inserted. It felt quite poignant, looking at the last words Dickens ever wrote. I also love the page when he is jotting down different possible titles for his book.

The National Art Library houses a good many Dickens works, and I also saw a bound volume of the Drood instalments, plus an impressive new binding for the book that has been created specially by a leading artist. Thankfully, too, there are images of Drood online so everyone can get an idea of what the manuscript is like. But I do urge anyone who can do so to visit the Library itself. Its atmosphere is wonderful, and it deserves to be celebrated.

I did get the chance of a quick look at an exhibition covering Walter Sickert and his paintings of the Old Bedford Music Hall. This is a very good exhibition, if necessarily small. Quite apart from its associations with Sickert (said by Patricia Cornwell to be Jack the Ripper, but on rather slender evidence) the Bedford was very familiar to Belle Elmore, the music hall "artiste" and her husband - Dr H.H. Crippen.


Christine said...

Hi Martin. In my other life I am an art historian and in my view the theory that Sickert was Jack the Ripper is tosh!

Unknown said...

I am so envious of your visit. But, alas, I am stranded on the Redneck Rivera.

And I am intrigued by your segue between Drood and Crippen. Ah, the good old days of London crime!

Have you read Simmons' Drood? What about Larson's Thunderstruck? Both are first-rate.

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Chrissie - glad you think so!
RT - no, I haven't read either of those, but I'm grateful for the recommendations.