Charles Dickens is the quintessential London Victorian author. Much of how we imagine Victorian London to be is conjured up in the pages of his novels. Come with me and visit the house where he created those stories, the Charles Dickens Museum.
48 Doughty Street
Even the name Doughty Street somehow sounds Dickensian. Step inside to hear the story of a man who was the son of a man thrown into debtors prison and ended up as the grandest literary lion in town. 48 Doughty Street is home the Dickens moved into with his new young wife, it is easy imagine the young Dickens family noisily occupying the house.
Charles Dickens’ Desk
The thing that you want to see most of all in an authors house is where they did their writing. You need to be able to envision them scribbling away furiously or staring into space seeking inspiration. What the Dickens did they do before they had Twitter to procrastinate with?! Feast your eyes on the desk where Dickens wrote Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby.
Elsewhere the house is furnished with period pieces but not those that the great man would have used. No matter the spirit of his age is evoked brilliantly. The dining room the table is set for a dinner party with each place setting having a picture of the guest, meanwhile hidden speakers provide a background babble of Victorian street noise.
Shadows of Dickens invite us to climb the stairs to explore the house. Once upstairs the rooms are furnished as you would expect but that walls are adorned with quotes from Dickens. Everywhere there are piles of books that invite you read them on the cover.
My image of Charles Dickens has always been of a rather portly man. His court dress is on display at the Charles Dickens Museum and shows him to have actually cut rather a dashing figure.
Christmas at the Charles Dickens Museum
Charles Dickens pretty much invented Christmas as we know it. Christmas isn’t Christmas without at least one rendition of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Come Christmas the Charles Dickens House is decorated in high Victorian style. Stepping across the threshold of 48 Doughty Street in December is to enter Christmas past. Sprigs of holly and candles are everywhere you look. The drawing room boasts a magnificent Christmas tree. Presents containing toys for the Dickens children crowd around the base of the tree. Check the museum website for details of special Christmas events both online and in real life.
Dickens Christmas by Candlelight
Covid means that in 2020 the Candlelit tours will be via Zoom.
For the full Dickensian Christmas experience you can visit in the evening when flickering candle light illuminates your way. Even as I walked along the Bloomsbury Streets before getting to the candlelit house it felt as if I’d entered a time warp and that Mr Dickens might walk around the next corner.
Technicolour Dickens: The Living Image of Charles Dickens until 25th April 2021
Charles Dickens didn’t just write good prose he was also very good at publicity. He embraced the new fangled technology of photography and as a result we know exactly what he looked like. This exhibition looks at the many ways he was depicted, from black and white drawings, full blown portraits right through to modern digital interpretations.
How to get to the Charles Dickens Museum and other essential information
- 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX
- Check website for Covid opening times, booking essential
- Open: January – November, Tuesday – Sunday 10am – 5pm. December open every day except Christmas Day and Boxing Day
- Admission: Adults £9.50
- Housemaids Christmas Tour £12 per device
The Charles Dickens Museum has a delightful cafe which can be visited even if you are not seeing the rest of the house, it is one of my favourite London Museum Cafe’s. Nearby you can find the Foundling Museum, London’s first childrens charity and public art gallery. If you enjoy visiting houses check out my post about London’s Historic Houses.