The house is typical of the era. It has a teal-colored door and a brick facade. Outside the house, mounted on an iron fence, is a sign marking the home as having belonged to Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens’ Personal History
Dickens lived at 48 Doughty Street from March 1837 to December 1839. He was married to his wife, Catherine Dickens née Hogarth, the year before he moved into the home. He’d met his wife in 1834, the same year that she moved to England from Scotland. The two were engaged the next year and married in 1836. It was in 1837 that they moved into the home on Doughty Street. This same year, the first of their ten children were born.
During the time they lived at the home, they had their three eldest children. Their two oldest daughters, Mary and Kate, were both born in the home. Dickens’ younger brother, Frederick, also lived there for a time. Catherine’s sister, Mary, also spent a great deal of time there. Sadly, she died in 1837 but was a lasting inspiration to the author who used her as the basis for several characters, including Little Nell.
While Dickens lived in the home, he wrote The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, and worked on part of Barnaby Rudge. The first of these, The Pickwick Papers, is cited as making the author’s career. It was incredibly popular and spread in fame throughout London and the wider readership throughout England. Bootleg versions of the collection of adventures were distributed and versions made their way to the theatre.
Oliver Twist is another extremely well-known book by Dickens that was written at the Doughty Street home. Today, it is best associated with the line, “Please, sir, may I want some more?” It tells the story of an orphan boy, born in a workhouse, and sold into an apprenticeship. It brought to light some of the most troubling issues of Dickens’ day, including child labor.
He moved out of the house after his three-year lease was up in 1839. He moved on to other homes, all of which were grander than the Doughty Street house. But, this home is the only surviving building Dickens lived in throughout London.
Source: Dickens’ Museum
The Dickens’ House Museum
In 1923, the building was threatened with demolition. The Dickens Fellowship saved it and raised money to renovate the house. The museum was opened two years after it was saved by the Fellowship. The Dickens House Trust was put together to run the home and library. To this day, the house is filled with notable artifacts. These include original letters by the author, his furniture, first editions, and many personal items. This includes the only known piece of clothing still in existence to have been worn by Charles Dickens.
Visitors to the museum are able to wander freely through the house, entering various rooms and exploring the intimate lives of the Dickens. Information about the author, and his family, are provided throughout.
One of the best-known parts of the Dickens’ Museum is the portrait, “Dickens’ Dream” by Robert William Buss. This famed portrait depicts Dickens deep in thought, considering his characters. Buss was the original illustrator of The Pickwick Papers. He started the portrait in 1870, after Dickens’ death.
The Dickens Fellowship
According to the Fellowship’s website, the group was founded in 1902 and is made up of a group of people with a shared interest in Dickens’ life. The head office is now based out of the museum on Doughty street. Membership is open to anyone who shares an interest in Dickens’ life and works.
There are 47 branches around the UK, the United States, Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, India, Japan, Italy, New Zealand, Scotland, and the Netherlands. Each year, the branches organize events and programs. The Fellowship as a whole also publishes a journal, The Dickensian. It was started in 1905. It features letters of literary criticism from writers around the world and reviews of plays, books, and other works that are related to Charles Dickens. As written on their website, the Fellowship states that their aims are to:
[…] knit together in a common bond of friendship, lovers of that great master of humour and pathos, Charles Dickens; to promote the knowledge and appreciation of his works; to spread the love of humanity, which is the keynote of all his works; and to exercise such charitable support as would have appealed strongly to the heart of Charles Dickens.
Interestingly, according to a 2002 BBC article, the Fellowship petitioned to save the Kent marshland on the Hoo Peninsula. It was the setting for the first chapter of Great Expectations when Pip meets Magwitch, an escaped convict who later transforms Pip’s life.
Can you visit Charles Dickens House?
Yes. Of all the places that Dickens lived in London, the house on Doughty street is the only surviving building. It’s open to visitors.
When did the Charles Dickens museum open?
The Charles Dickens Museum opened in 1925 after it was said and renovated by the Charles Dickens’ Fellowship.
When did Charles Dickens live at Doughty Street?
Dickens lived at Doughty Street between 1837 (a year after he was married) to 1839, when his lease was up.