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February 7th marked the bicentenary of the birth of one of Victorian England’s greatest novelists, Charles Dickens. ‘Dickens 2012’, the name of the bicentenary, will be marked by a number of events in Portsmouth (Dickens’ home town) and London, the location of the Charles Dickens Museum, which recently reopened after a two-month long refurbishment.

The Museum, located at 48 Doughty Street, is Dickens’ only surviving London residence. Described by Dickens as ‘my house in town’, it is a Georgian terraced home and was on lease to the novelist and his wife, Catherine, for three years from March 1837 onwards for £80.

The house is best described in Dickens’ own words, “It was a pleasant twelve-room dwelling of pink brick, with three stories and an attic, a white arched entrance door on the street level, and a small private garden in the rear. It was located just north of Gray’sInn… a genteel private street with a lodge at each end and gates that were closed at night by a porter….”

48 Doughty Street was the venue of great joy, sorrow and literary achievement in Dickens’ life. Two of his 10 children were born there, his sister-in-law Mary (to whom he was greatly attached) died in his arms in this home (she was the inspiration for Little Nell in The Old Curiosity Shop), and he wrote two of his best loved works – Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickelby – in his three years’ residence there.

The Museum now houses over 100,000 original manuscripts and plenty of artwork including the famed Dickens’ Dream, a portrait of the novelist painted by the original illustrator of The Pickwick Papers. If you are planning a trip to the Museum, do it soon as it will close for another round of refurbishment in April.

– Marylou Andrew

First published on February 5, 2012 in the Adbuzzzz Section of the DAWN National Advertiser.

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