Thursday, December 22, 2011

The inescapable Charles Dickens

Well, he's everywhere isn't he? Wall-to-wall 200th anniversary celebrations all over the media, so how could I resist? Not that I am a big fan or anything, his heroines are a bit too insipid, his stories a tad too sentimental for my taste and as for his treatment of his poor wife - abominable. I think being force-fed David Copperfield at school has a lot to do with it too.

But having embarked on this Writers' Houses project I could hardly ignore him and I have to say I am rather taken by the story of his Kentish home, Gad's Hill Place, which he had first seen as a young boy, and after which he had always dreamt of owning. In 1856 his wealth enabled him to realize that dream. He enjoyed it for the fourteen years remaining to him until his untimely death from a stroke on June 9 1870.

"It was," said one quote I came across while researching the house, "one of those comfortable old-fashioned mansions which seem to have taken root nowhere but in the most picturesque parts of rural England, and are the brick-and-mortar embodiment of the idea of Home."

There is going to be plenty of garden in this picure and plenty of colour (as a contrast to the wintery tones of Dove Cottage). My first thought was Dickens's purchase of the property coincides with that astonishing burst of colour brought about in Europe by the discovery (or do I mean the invention?) in London of aniline dyes. There are Berlin woolwork samplers of the period that still retain the depth and intense vividness of those mauves, purples, lime greens, carmines and fucshias.

My swatch of clippings for Gad's Hill Place
What a contrast to the old faded sepia photographs of Gad's Hill Place.
And an excellent lead-in to concentrate my mind's eye  ....


  1. I enjoy reading all about your research on these houses. Usually I have to Google to find more information and I learn lots! I look forward to seeing this new one.
    I love Dove Cottage, you captured the wintery feel so well.
    Thank you for your kind words on my blog.

  2. Looking forward to another residential color palette. I thought Dickens' colors would be bleak, dirty and hopeless. Guess not!