Not yet 30 when he first traveled to America, Dickens cut a romantic figure: long-haired and clean-shaven, with a taste for flashy clothing and jewelry, he looked like a Victorian rock star--and Americans quickly caught Dickensmania. Crowds lined the streets, hoping to catch a glimpse of him and snip off a lock of his hair or piece of bearskin jacket.The Boott Gallery in Lowell has an exhibit (from which the quote and the graphic are borrowed) running until October 20, "Dickens and Massachusetts: A Tale of Power and Transformation." The Boott Gallery is in the Lowell National Historic Park.
Feted at fancy dress balls and formal dinners, Dickens also made a point of touring American prisons, hospitals, mental institutions, orphanages—and, on a memorable February day, the model textile mills that had recently opened in Lowell, which offered a powerful contrast to the harsh conditions found in most English factories.
Masterpiece is airing several Dickens' works this season. Earlier this month was Great Expectations [F DIC], and starting April 15 is The Mystery of Edwin Drood [F DIC].