Today in Portsmouth, we are celebrating the life of one of our most popular authors Charles Dickens.
Every stage of his life is re-imagined through our fantastic Dickens collection; from his family’s early beginnings in Portsmouth; the formative years as a young author; as a mature respected writer; lecturer and family man living in Doughty Street in London where he wrote Oliver Twist, The Pickwick Papers and Nicholas Nickleby; to the established and internationally acclaimed ‘greatest novelist of the Victorian era living at Gads Hill, in Rochester Kent.
One of the most unassuming yet captivating objects in the collection is a green velvet chaise longue. It is now known as ‘the death couch’ and upon which Charles Dickens died on this day in 1870. Dickens at the time of his death was living at Gads Hill Place in Kent with his family. He had been working on Edwin Drood which was to become his final novel.
On the 8th June he suffered a stroke and had been moved to the chaise longue were he remained until he died the following day.
So, how did this object end up in Portsmouth? In 1909, shortly after the Charles Dickens Birthplace became a museum, this piece of furniture and other personal effects were donated by Georgina Howarth, Charles Dickens sister-in-law, to build up the collection.
Today that same collection consists of over 1500 objects, illustrations, photographs, letters and personal effects re-telling the story of a man whose legacy is still strong today.
150 years after his death he remains one of the most well-known and most-read English authors, with his stories consistently adapted for the screen since the invention of cinema. He was the author of fifteen novels, and also wrote short stories, essays and articles on social reform. He created some of the best-known fictional characters of his time such as Oliver Twist, Ebenezer Scrooge and Miss Haversham. In addition to writing he brought his characters to life in his charismatic and exuberant public readings, which gained him international repute. He was admired by many literary peers including William Wordsworth , Leo Tolstoy, Jules Verne and Roald Dahl.
In honour of his life and the current situation we are living through, we have chosen a light-hearted quote from him that is more relevant than ever…
'There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour.' Charles Dickens FRSA (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870)