Circles: Lucinda Hawksley Delivers the Third Munnings Birthday Lecture

October 8th 2019

Alfred Munnings was a keen reader whose imagination was certainly informed and inspired by the writing of Charles Dickens with its richly conceived sense of characters, caricatures, place and atmosphere. On display in the library at Castle House (the museum), are a number of paintings that are imbued with the spirit of Dickens’ writing.

It was these pictures which inspired the invitation to author Lucinda Hawksley, Charles Dickens’ great-great-great granddaughter, to deliver our third Munnings Birthday Lecture on the 141st anniversary of Munnings birth.

Above: Soloman Daisy & Friends (1898) by Alfred Munnings
A scene from Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens

Lucinda’s talk, entitled Dickens and his Circle, told the story of how Dickens’ life, rather like that of Munnings, saw his imagination, creativity and mastery of both craft and art, take him from humble beginnings to widespread recognition and fame.

Lucinda began by exploring the ways in which London exerted its influence on Dickens’ imagination, starting by making its mark on him in those years when he was becoming quite the streetwise kid.


Above: Lucinda Hawksley with Munnings Art Museum Director, Jenny Hand

Dickens, like Munnings, balanced commercial savvy with a personal sensibility and expression of how he saw and represented the world around him and the people who inhabited it. Another point of similarity seems to be how they both were fuelled by great physical and mental and creative energy.

Our audience of seventy sat in rapt attention in the elegant surroundings of Dedham’s Assembly Rooms, listening to Lucinda as she turned the pages of Dickens’ life, telling the story of how it unfolded across late Georgian and Victorian eras as he encountered writers and artists such as Wilkie Collins, Clarkson Frederick Stanfield, Edgar Allan Poe and William Makepeace Thackeray and Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot). Some of these people became lifelong friends and supporters of Dickens and, on occasion, some of those brightly burning early years of friendships would eventually fade. Rather like Munnings, Dickens had a public persona that didn’t necessarily sit neatly with his personal life.

Above all, Lucinda’s talk evoked a sense of how a creative person makes connections of heart and mind; in doing so shaping a body of work that we can recognise as speaking, in various degrees of intensity, to our shared understanding of life.