The following is a guest post from Head of Acquisitions & Processing Denise Gallo.
It’s not often that the Music Division dedicates a blog to a literary giant, but today we wish a happy 200th birthday to Charles Dickens, one of the greatest British authors of the nineteenth century. When he penned his novels, myriad readers enjoyed them in serial form in newspapers and periodicals. I wager that few Americans today have not seen one or two of the following titles on high school and college reading lists: David Copperfield, Oliver Twist, and Bleak House. If you’d been assigned to read Great Expectations, will you ever forget the image of Miss Haversham’s dusty old wedding cake? And if you’ve ever said “Bah, humbug!” during the holidays, thank Dickens for A Christmas Carol.
It’s hard not to find some link to just about everything somewhere among the Music Division’s holdings. Today, we can point to a treasure derived from Dickens: Oliver! This wonderful musical, with music and lyrics by Lionel Bart, opened in London’s West End in 1962. The next year it was on Broadway in a production by David Merrick, whose collection we hold. There among the scores of Merrick’s legendary shows are two boxes of materials from Oliver! We had to take them out today and look at them in honor of “Boz” – Dickens’ pen name.
Dickens visited the United States twice and actually has a connection to Washington, D.C. where on his first trip in 1842 he visited with Pres. John Tyler. We’re happy to link him to the Music Division today. So, in the words of one of the liveliest tunes in Oliver!, Mr. Dickens, “Consider yourself at home” here among us who love your works and all the treasures they inspired.