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Dickens had a Swiss chalet?

Posted by Christopher Shea  March 31, 2010 04:19 PM

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Charles Dickens's Swiss chalet has fallen into disrepair, and local (English) officials are looking for some $150,000 in donations to fix it. The house was a gift from the actor and theater manager Charles Fechter in 1864 and it arrived at Dickens's country house--near Rochester, in Southeastern England--in 94 pieces. Dickens erected the almost cartoonishly Swiss structure (highly ornamented roofline, wraparound second-story porch) across the street from his main house, and it became his favorite place to write. As true Dickens aficionados know, the author wrote his last lines there, Chapter 23 of the never-finished "Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Dickens installed five mirrors in his second-floor writing room, as Michael Slater, a Dickens biographer, noted recently on the blog of Yale University Press, and he told his American publisher that "they reflect and refract, in all kinds of ways, the leaves that are quivering at the windows, and the great fields of waving corn, and the sail-dotted river ...."

The house was posthumously disassembled and relocated to the grounds of the Eastgate Museum, near Dickens's childhood home, but its stewards have had a hard time maintaining it, and it is now closed to the public. If local officials and the Rochester and Chatham Dickens Fellowship can raise the necessary money, they plan to turn it into a cultural center with a writer in residence, working on the second floor.

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