If you have been following me for a while, you will know that I am living in the great city of London. I am lucky enough to have found a place in the beautiful Bloomsbury area and, although my flat is falling apart little by little, I am a short walk away from amazing sites. To encourage me to actually take time and explore Bloomsbury, I am starting this series called Literary Bloomsbury.
I thought it would be apt to start with a retelling of my visit to the Charles Dickens Museum. In the risk of repeating myself, if you’ve been following me for a while, you will also know that I’m a tad obsessed with our friend Dickens. Therefore, visiting the house where he wrote Oliver Twist seemed like a compulsory addition to my London experience. So last Sunday, I took my camera and my slightly-ill self to 48 Doughty Street to enjoy what ended up being an amazing time. In this post, I am going to share with you some of the highlights of the visit in the hope that, if you ever get the chance to visit London and specifically Bloomsbury, you add this museum to your list of things to do.
From the outside, the museum just looks like any houses in Bloomsbury. The only indication of its location is this sign outside the door. Because of the simplicity of the exterior, it does really feel like you’re stepping inside someone’s house. After the museum shop and a beautiful highway filled with artwork relevant to Dickens’ life and some of his letters, you enter the dining room.
The dining room has to be one of my favourite rooms. The decoration is so 19th century, it’s amazing. I didn’t manage to take a good picture of it but there is a really great picture of Mr Pickwick’s address to the Pickwickians and I had a little fan-girl moment in front of it. I actually fan-girled throughout the visit and got a lot of stares. I guess not many people love Dickens quite as much as I do. The plates have on them a drawing of the people that used to sit at this table, including Thackeray (see proof below). I would have loved to have been a part of these dinner parties. Apparently, Dickens was a big entertainer. He also enjoyed acting out his work in front of his friends. But more on that later.
Following the dinning room, you enter the morning room. At this point, I think I should mention that you can find many of Dickens’ old manuscripts throughout the museum. I couldn’t take good pictures as they were under glass (and because I’m a pretty crap photographer) but it was very special for me to see original copies of Oliver Twist or Great Expectations.
This room is where Dickens’ wife Catherine spent most of her time. The decoration is very feminine and there are a number of portraits of Dickens’ daughters.
Upstairs is the drawing room where Dickens would read extracts from his novels. They were actually playing a tape of someone reading from some of his books. I had a huge nerd-alert moment in front of his armchair; I may have almost shed a few tears.
The most impressive room of the museum for me has to be Charles Dickens’ study, featuring his very own desk. It was a very eerie experience to look at the exact spot where Dickens came up with so many of what I and many others consider to be masterpieces. I am glad I went just for that.
Also, that desk is objectively gorgeous. I wish this sort of design was still a thing but considering the size of my current room, this is not even an option.
I’ve skipped a few rooms because I could go on and on and no one wants that. I am just going to tell you about the last two rooms because there are both very deserving of a mention. First of all, half of the nursery is taken over by a display to illustrate Dickens’ time at the workhouse when he was a child. His dad did not manage his money properly and Dickens was forced to move into the workhouse. This period of his life had a huge impact on him as a person and a writer. The bars from the workhouse are placed in the middle of the room between the display and the children’s beds as if to amplify the difference between Dickens’ childhood and his children’s.
Finally, the Servants’ bedroom is covered in quotes from a variety of Dickens’ works. I thought this was a perfect way to sum up the visit and I loved reading excerpts from my favourite novels.
There is also an exposition on Dickens’ life following the visit but to be honest, I was extremely tired by that point and just skimmed through it and ended up in the museum shop. The shop is gorgeous and I couldn’t help buying myself a few goodies. Also, the girl working there was really lovely and helpful which is always a great bonus.
And that is it for this first edition of Literary Bloomsbury. I see a post on the British Library in the “near” future.
Tl;dr: Go to the Charles Dickens Museum; you won’t regret it!