London 1851: The Year of the Great Exhibition
Another well-attended occasion was the Great Exhibition, which took place in Hyde Park, London, from 1 May to 15 October 1851. During that time 6 million people visited the ‘Crystal Palace’, designed by Joseph Paxton. Somewhat reluctantly Dickens dragged himself along and while acknowledging the progress that the exhibits on display represented, he thought it a muddle and a major distraction from very real social problems. At the time he was disgruntled: London was ‘a vile place’; his father had died; Robert Peel had died unexpectedly, as did his own infant daughter Dora. And perhaps subconsciously he may have harboured feelings against his old fantastical rival, ‘sassage’ Albert, Victoria’s husband, to whom the triumph of the Exhibition largely belonged. The endpaper depicts the extent of the building; the catalogue is jammed full of choice exhibits.
[Crystal Palace. Endpapers from Eric de Maré's London 1851: The Year of the Great Exhibition.]