A professor from a leading German university has been putting Wisbech Grammar School pupils in the picture about a novelist who saw the world with the eyes of an artist.
Dr Patricia Plummer, who holds the chair of postcolonial studies at the University of Duisburg-Essen, explained the strongly visual quality of Charles Dickens’s imagination to a mixed audience of 80 pupils and members of the public last week.
The academic, who has been visiting the area to research the Victorian novelist’s manuscript of ‘Great expectations’ at the Wisbech & Fenland Museum during a sabbatical that she is taking, argued that Dickens has contributed to the interactive quality of text and images that is seen today in the graphic novel.
Early illustrations accompanying his works, such as Miss Havisham’s cobweb-covered wedding cake and Oliver Twist asking for more, have gone on to shape later film adaptations.
Dr Plummer, who has recently been lecturing on the topic in Arles during the 50th anniversary year of the French town’s twinning with Wisbech, said that Vincent van Gogh – who enjoyed one of his most productive periods during his time in Arles – claimed that there was no writer who was so much a painter and a black-and-white artist as Dickens.
Contemporaries likened the crowded canvas created by the Victorian writer to a sun picture – an early phrase for a photograph – and a daguerreotype image, and he helped to make the illustrated novel extremely popular.
His own picture was also very familiar to the nineteenth century public and he was the most photographically famous person in his day outside the royal family.