'A Dickens Christmas' at David Davis Mansion -- Nov. 24th - Dec. 30th

"A Dickens Christmas" .... at David Davis Mansion, Nov. 24th-Dec. 30th ... Open 9am-4pm Mon.-Sat. .... Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day & New Year's Day

Only country musicians and rock stars are as wildly popular today as the English novelist, Charles Dickens, was in his time.  Legions of fans eagerly awaited the publication of his books and stood in long lines to get tickets for his public appearances.  It has been estimated that during his lifetime, almost every literate person in England had read at least one of his novels.

The life of Judge David Davis was connected to an important event in Dickens’s life and especially to the holiday tale, A Christmas Carol

To showcase the charming story behind this connection, the David Davis Mansion will be exhibiting the ways in which Dickens’s novels influenced Victorian America and the family of David Davis, in particular.  Visitors will still see the mansion decorated in its late-Victorian splendor, but they will also discover what A Christmas Carol meant to David Davis and his family.  To commemorate that personal connection, the David Davis Mansion is calling the 2017 exhibit: “A Dickens Christmas.” 

Charles Dickens visited the United States twice—once in 1842 and again in 1867-68.  On his first trip, he traveled around the east coast before heading west to St. Louis and then to southern Illinois, where he stayed overnight in a small inn about 150 miles from the Bloomington home of David and Sarah Davis.  

Partly inspired by American stories of ye “Olde” English Christmas, Dickens returned to England and began writing A Christmas Carol.   Working at a whirlwind pace, he finished the novella in six weeks.  When it was published in 1843, one reviewer called it “the greatest little book in the world.”

Twenty-five years after his first visit to America, Dickens crossed the ocean again and began a highly successful celebrity tour, performing a series of dramatic readings of his most famous novels.  Due to ill health, he had to restrict his travel to eastern cities, such as Boston, New York, and Washington D.C.  The trip was significant because it revived Dickens’s flagging fortunes and energized America’s charitable feelings.

David Davis heard Dickens give dramatic readings of A Christmas Carol and other novels on Feb. 3 and Feb. 7, 1868, in the nation’s capital.  The judge’s delightful description of Dickens’s impact on his audiences testifies to the author’s popularity and gives us a sense of what it must have been like to see and hear the “great man.”   What Davis liked best was the animated way in which Dickens was able to bring to life the characters in A Christmas Carol.

Christmas wouldn’t be the same today without Dickens’s holiday tale. 

It was one of his best-loved novels because he used the narrative of a “ghost story” to popularize what he believed was the true meaning of Christmas—charity, family togetherness, benevolence, happiness, and homecoming.  Dickens even coined the phrase:  “Merry Christmas.” 

The impact of Charles Dickens’s stories on the Victorian celebration of Christmas will be featured during this year’s “Christmas at Clover Lawn,” scheduled for November 24 through December 30 at the David Davis Mansion State Historic Site in Bloomington.  Tour hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday.  The site will be closed Sundays through Tuesdays, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

As you tour the mansion, look for the new decorative features that are part of this year’s “A Dickens Christmas” story---snowballing and street entertainers, blazing fireplaces, roasting chestnuts, Christmas dances, parlor games, holly sprigs and mistletoe, wassail bowls, mince pies, plum pudding, roasted turkey, sentimental pictures of animals, family celebrations, Raphael Tuck Christmas cards, books, toys-for-tots, and Christmas baskets for the poor.

Bathed in the simulated gaslight of the Victorian era, the Davis Mansion will also be festooned with boughs of evergreens, glittering ornaments, antique toys, and Christmas trees in almost every room.  Exhibits of wax angels, scrap paper dolls, lead-weighted candleholders, authentic village scenes (the putz), and a rare collection of German-made ornaments will complete the scene.

Children visiting the mansion will especially enjoy seeing the collections of antique toys and teddy bears and a room filled with vintage dolls.  Visitors will also have a chance to touch, taste, and smell a variety of Victorian Christmas treats. 

Special Note:  The Dickens Christmas theme is a timely one this year because a new biography of Dickens’s life, The Man Who Invented Christmas* was recently made into a movie that will be released in November 2017.  The film’s star, Dan Stevens, plays Charles Dickens. (Stevens was Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey.) The cast also includes Christopher Plummer (as Scrooge) and Jonathan Pryce (portraying Dickens’s father).  According to the movie’s publicist, “The film takes audiences inside the magical process that brought to life Ebenezer Scrooge, Tiny Tim and others, changing the holiday into the merry family event we know today.”   For a link to the movie trailer, see: http://www.bleeckerstreetmedia.com/themanwhoinventedchristmas

*The Man Who Invented Christmas was written by Les Standiford and published in 2008.

Event Properties

Event Date 11-24-2017
Event End Date 12-30-2017

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David Davis Mansion

1000 Monroe Drive
Bloomington, Illinois 61701

Contact Us

Phone: (309) 828-1084
Email: [email protected]

Hours of Operation

Wednesday - Saturday
9am - 4pm