Friday, January 20, 2012

Dickens in Doughty Street

Charles Dickens lived in this Georgian terrace in Holborn, at number 48,  from 1837 to 1839, with his wife Catherine and (possibly more artistically significantly) his sister-in-law Mary. Two of his novels, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby were written here and his career was taking off.

But in the midst of success came tragedy when 17-year-old Mary died suddenly after a night's illness, possibly of heart failure. Just how attracted the 25-year-old Dickens had been to Mary during life is debatable. After her death, in his arms Little Nell style, it became nothing short of what might be called an unhealthy obsession:

"From her lifeless fingers Charles took a ring which he was to wear in memory of her his entire life. He dreamt of her every night for months after her death."

As Dickens himself said:"She died in my arms, and the very last words she whispered were of me ..."

Mary Hogarth is buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. On her headstone is inscribed the epitaph he composed: "God numbered her among his angels".

Mary was the prototype of the saintly and virginal (some might say insipid) young women who populate so many of the novels of Charles Dickens.

So here he is, in later life with one of his dogs, revisiting the scene of his early years, the place where the angelic Mary had lived and died and there in the window are his younger self and the object of his obsession...
I don't think it is a coincidence that it is very much a rose-coloured image - though I have refrained from giving Mr Dickens a pair of spectacles!


  1. The house turned out really well - I love all the little details like pigeons of the roof, curtains and balcony bars, fence, green door and flowers... But even more I like the whole story behind it. You have thought about everything!

    I have not only seen a nice collage, but also learnt something new about Dickens and where his inspiration was coming from.

  2. It's wonderful! I agree with everything decorartuk says. So much detail and such an interesting story.

  3. ...the doormat, the iron grating, figures in the lower windows(?), and especially himself and his dog in front of the house!! Yes, I too love the details! This piece is just beautiful!

  4. Hallo all and belated thank yous - I haven't been around much, computer-wise for the past week.
    Still thinking about this house and the possibility of doing Mary's funeral cortege - well, plumed black horses and a hearse anyway - but placed on the back burner right now ...