When people talk about British History I think about stories of Oliver Twist and Alice in Wonderland and how they inspired a generation of curiosity that resonates to the present day.
Oliver Twist is one of the earliest books I read as a child, gifted to me by my grandmother. The story of Charles Dickens is one I find most fascinating and so the chance to visit the birth place of one of his most beloved stories; the tale of an orphan boy named Oliver is one I most certainly could not pass up.
The story itself is drawn from the local life outside of number 48 Doughty Street. Dickens was a prolific supporter of disadvantaged children because he himself was raised in similar circumstances; with a father imprisoned for debt, Dickens had to go to work in the shoe blacking houses to help the family pay the debt.
Dickens’ initial ambition was to be famous; an actor, but a spurned marriage proposal to an initial love interest prior to his eventual wife Catherine, would change his ambitions because at the time actors were thought not to have good enough earning potential. Writing proved to be his ticket into a world of sophistication.
The young Dickens family lived for two years in 48 Doughty Street, along with Catherine’s sister and his younger brother Frederick. There was death in the house and scandal that still lives within in the form of a snake ring that Dicken’s wife gifted to a sister or a friend who was rumoured to be involved with Dickens at the time. That ring still resides in their marital bedroom along with the mirrors where Dickens would often rehearse his performances whilst reading his works, that often led to many people fainting, and his commode. Look out for the references to A Christmas Carole, only the best Christmas Story. It was not written in this house but Frederick is said to be the inspiration for Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew; Fred.
In the house you will see the room, the chair, where it all happened, the room where he performs his many plays and the scribbles in his copy of Oliver Twist set through the house for an exhibition. The expert tour guides give you an insight into the life of one of the most celebrated writers and inside tidbits about his life; his flamboyant way of expressing his dissatisfaction and David Copperfield was said to initially start out as a auto biography, but Dickens was dissuaded from making it so.
His is a story and a life truly most fascinating and a wonderful British piece of history.
During advent you can go to a reading of A Christmas Carol in the museum; definitely something worth doing.