June marks the anniversary of the death of Charles Dickens (1812-1870). To mark the occasion, we take a look at an object from the Decorative Art collection which was inspired by his work.
The blue-printed plate made by Doulton has a central portrait of Dickens with the profile of St Paul’s Cathedral in the background. Around the rim are many of his best known characters, including Fagin and Bill Sykes from Oliver Twist, Sam Weller and Mr Pickwick from the Pickwick Papers.
The works of Charles Dickens are, understandably, well represented in the collections at Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. He was born in Portsmouth to John and Elizabeth Dickens. Soon after being sent to school in 1821, his whole family, apart from Charles, were sent to the Marshalsea prison because of his father’s bad debts, an episode that was to inform the experience of Little Dorrit whose father was similarly detained. Charles’s father was the inspiration for the character of Mr Micawber in David Copperfield. Charles spent three years working in Warren’s blacking factory and endured appalling conditions as well as loneliness and despair. Although he returned to school, the experience became fictionalised in two of his best-known novels, David Copperfield and Great Expectations.
Dickens began his literary career as a journalist, becoming parliamentary correspondent for The Morning Chronicle in 1833. In 1836 he published the highly successful Pickwick Papers with illustrations Hablot Knight Browne, known as Phiz, who died in 1882 and is buried in Brighton’s Extra-Mural Cemetery. Dickens himself spent time in Brighton and wrote Dombey and Son while staying at the Bedford Hotel.
Stella Beddoe, Senior Keeper and Keeper of Decorative Art