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Charles Dickens and his links with Blackburn to be revealed
THE secret history of Victorian literary giant Charles Dickens and his links with East Lancashire – including his last public reading – will be revealed on Thursday.
The Friends of Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery will hear about the novelist’s time in the county in a talk from chairwoman Valerie Miles.
In 1869 Dickens made his second visit to Blackburn and gave a reading of his classic A Christmas Carol at the Exchange Hall on April 19.
Two days later he became ill and he had to cancel a similar dramatic rendition of the book in Preston. The following year Dickens died and it is believed that the reading in Blackburn was his last such appearance.
In 1867, he had also come to the town and legend has it that the booking official demanded to know what line of work the famous author was engaged in.
The 1869 reading of his most popular work was well attended by what was described at the time as “a fashionable audience”.
Mrs Miles will also discuss Dickens’ visits to Preston which are considered to have been fact-finding missions which made the basis of his book Hard Times.
She will also look at where he stayed in Blackburn — the Old Bull Hotel in Church Street in 1869 — and how his national reading tours became even bigger earners for the writer than his books.
She will talk about Dickens’ career as an accomplished amateur actor and how much he enjoyed reading his own works to an audience and whether his impending illness affected the quality of his performance in Blackburn in 1869.
Mrs Miles will also reveal another link between the town and A Christmas Carol.
The famous 1951 film version of the work called Scrooge featuring Alistair Sim in the miserly title role saw the part of his housekeeper played by actress Kathleen Harrison who was born in Blackburn.
Friends press officer Geoff Coulthard said: “We normally get 40 to 50 people to a lecture but we are hoping the lure of Dickens will increase the numbers.
“Valerie is a real Dickens’ fan with a vast wealth of interesting knowledge.
“It should be a fascinating evening.”
The lecture will take place at the Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery on Museum Street near the Town Hall at 7pm.