“Come in!” exclaimed the Ghost. “Come in! and know me better, man!” The Ghost of Christmas Present invites grumpy old Ebenezer Scrooge in to join the celebration.
I felt called to come and know the Morgan Library and Museum better when I learned the manuscript of Charles Dickens’ beloved ghost story was on display. The trip to New York City was already planned when I learned the Morgan annually displays Dickens’ actual manuscript, complete with his edits and revisions. He had his manuscript bound in red leather for his solicitor and by the end of the 19th Century it was in the hands of Pierpont Morgan, for whom the library is named.
Now when I said an NYC trip was planned, I mean for seven people. Yes, I dragged seven people — including writers, a librarian, a teacher, a couple of actors — to see A Christmas Carol.
What a thrill. We could have stayed all day. There was so much to see.
First of all, the Library, really Morgan’s house, is a grand old place that left us speechless. We didn’t mind one bit wandering through each room to find the manuscript. Along the way we saw letters from Susan B. Anthony and Alexander Hamilton, a copy of the Gutenberg Bible (The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end as I gazed upon this landmark book.) I saw scores written by Bach and Beethoven. (The line from the film Amadeus came to mind: “Too many notes.”) There was so much to see!
And then there were the other exhibits, on display in a modern annex that adjoins the original building. I couldn’t tell you what all was there. I only know Charlotte Bronte was the subject of one. Jane Eyre was one of my favorite novels growing up; how could I miss the chance to see her own handwriting and drawings, her writing desk, her dress with the 18-inch waist, her first editions?
It had been a most remarkable afternoon. We could have stopped there for lunch or tea. And I did stop in the gift shop. But the thing I came away with was the persistence of a young woman who felt compelled to write and the perfectionism of a novelist who kept rewriting his ghost story until it was right.
I left the Morgan in awe.
Ⓒ Text and photos Mary K Tilghman