Walking through the very rooms where Dickens ate, read, slept, lived with his wife, watched his beloved sister-in-law die, and, most excitingly, where he wrote, one absorbs the life and times of Charles Dickens. Wandering through the creaky rooms of the beautiful Victorian home is a delightful way to spend part of your day, and here are 5 reasons to give you a little extra incentive to visit.
A true gem of the museum sits sturdily in the form of Dickens’ impressive writing desk and chair, which, for many a Dickens-lover, represents the root of their favourite stories and characters. Dickens wrote the end of his first novel The Pickwick Papers as well as Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby from this desk in his Holborn house, and he used it to write his other masterpieces from homes elsewhere. The scratches in the wood symbolise the timelessness of the books themselves, which are etched into the hearts and minds of so many readers. Now roped off as a result of over-keen visitors, the desk is a beautiful piece of Victorian craftsmanship with which another Victorian craftsman created his art.
On Halloween guests are invited to enter the museum, which is sprinkled with candlelight. The opportunity to experience a Victorian home after dark, complete with ghosts and dress-up, is enhanced by the opportunity to do so with a bar, warding off the spirits with spirits. Fire imagery is a constant feature of Dickens’s works, and entering this gothic atmosphere flecked with fire transports visitors to Dickens’ time and his novels.
The spooky magic of Halloween is topped only by the museum’s magical moments at Christmas time. Charles Dickens invented the modern concept of a white Christmas, complete with lights and cozy fireplaces, in his novel A Christmas Carol. What better way to celebrate the beauty of the holiday than in the home of the man who created it? This Christmas the museum is bringing in Smoking Apples Theatre Company to perform a puppet show of A Christmas Carol and other tales of Christmas Past in a magical display fit for any Dickens-lover or holiday-lover. The program will also see the return of Professor Michael Slater’s annual reading of A Christmas Carol, and this year he will be venturing into the darker aspects of the holiday with ‘Ba Humbug Tuesdays’. The holiday programme also includes a one-man performance of A Christmas Carol by Dominic Gerrard. To top off these interactive and festive events, the museum will hold a special late opening on Christmas Eve to welcome all festive visitors.
While the holiday events provide fun for the whole family, the museum also specialises in programmes specifically for children. Schoolchildren can come and churn butter using Dickens’ wife Catherine Dickens’ original recipe in an authentic Victorian butter churn; complete a scavenger hunt throughout the house; and dress up in Victorian servants’ clothing to get a sense of the Upstairs Downstairs dynamic that existed in all posh Victorian homes. There is also a Little Dickens children’s group that meets for activities, fostering a long-term interest in the museum and the era. Through hands-on learning, these programs are designed to instill an interest in history, reading, and Dickens’ commitment to social change.
Overall, the museum offers something to pique everyone’s interest. It’s not exclusive to academics or Victorian literature buffs. On the contrary, its cultural events and programmes are designed for a wide variety of visitors, including children and families. Dickens’ ability to immerse readers in the streets of Victorian London are part of what has made his works timeless, and the museum succeeds in doing the same, by bringing visitors into the fold of a man whose ideas and imagination resonate to this day. For more information on events and visiting the museum, visit http://www.dickensmuseum.com/.
The Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty St, London WC1N 2LX, +44 20 7405 2127