Over a (mostly) sunny bank holiday weekend, I spent a day in Portsmouth to pay a visit to the Charles Dickens’ Birthplace Museum. I do love a good museum trip, especially one of a prominent literary figure! Similar to Jane Austen’s house in Chawton, it was all small rooms and creaky floorboards. Actually, smaller rooms with nothing but creaky floorboards! The house is furnished in the Regency style his parents would have furnished the house in, with a few Dickens-owned articles including his snuff box (made from a deer foot, would you believe) and the couch where he died. 😦
The house may be more of a time capsule for the early 19th century, as it was his parents’ house (they moved elsewhere a year after Charles was born), there are enough things from Charles’s later years to make it worth a look around. Access to the museum is through the kitchen (now the gift shop), still with the original Victorian range cooker and shelving unit that can’t be removed, as it’s built into the wall. Upstairs leads to the other rooms, which include a decorated parlour, dining room and bedroom that offer an atmosphere of the time period. The exhibition room (with the couch), is dedicated to displays and information relating to Dickens’ work and illustrators (with crazy rap star nicknames like ‘Kyd’ and ‘Phiz’ (to match Dickens’ pen-name ‘Boz,’ apparently.)
Despite its size though, we managed to spend a good hour there, possibly more considering the time we took in the gift shop (and I do love a good gift shop!) As it stands, I’ve only read one Dickens novel. Great Expectations – from either secondary school or college, with the standard knowledge of Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol that film and TV provide. As it was Dickens’ first published novel, I wanted to get a copy of The Pickwick Papers from the gift shop (alright, it was mostly because of the cool sounding title) but where books are concerned, I refuse to buy those with real-life people depicted the cover. I just find them kind of tacky. So, a little disappointed, I scoured the shelves for something else (I was NOT leaving without having purchased a book), and decided on The Old Curiosity Shop. As far as wanting to read more classics go, it definitely goes some way to filling the quota.
I believe there are other parts of Portsmouth with links to Dickens, but within the town itself, we ventured as far as Guildhall for a quick pic of the first large-scale public statue of the man himself, which was unveiled in 2014 for his 202nd birthday. Intriguing to know what else the city has to offer regarding his life and works (especially as it’s right on the doorstep), his birthplace museum is definitely the place to start for anyone wanting to get a feel for the time period of his life and writing, or who is thinking of exploring the work of one of England’s best-loved writers.
Check out the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum Here