Curly Locks and Global Fame: Dickens the International Celebrity

This is a bust of Dickens taken when he
was only 30 in 1842 on his first trip to America by the artist Henry Dexter. It’s
quite amazing that people would want to make a bust of Dickens when he was only
30 but this is testimony to the level of his fame when he visited America. Dickens
was the first self-made global media star of the industrial era and this came
home to him when he was in the States because he had no privacy at all. He
experienced all the problems of fame and celebrity that we associate with modern
rock stars like Elvis, the Beatles and those that have come after. And this is
made really obvious by his attitude to people wanting literally a piece of him
on his first trip to America. He was very proud of his hair but in America he
became very worried about people selling on his hair. This paranoia became
remarkably obvious when he was asked for a lock of his hair by the ladies of
Plymouth Massachusetts and he refused citing the fact, half jokingly, that he
didn’t want to create a precedent in case he himself became bald he wasn’t
completely paranoid in these worries because newspapers at the time in an age
before photography would fixate about Dickens’s hair and about his personal
image because people weren’t able to access photographs of him easily so they
go into detail one complaining that his hair was slightly waxy and that it
looked like soap blocks and they were very disappointed about this. Dickens in
turn was very disappointed with America on his first trip. He disliked what he
saw of mass culture the lack of privacy, the crassness, the vulgarity. As he
famously wrote this is not the Republic of my imagination. If you’d like to find out more about how Dickens saw the world and how the world
saw Dickens, come to the Global Dickens exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum
in central London on until the 3rd of November 2019.

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