Dickens and the Foundling

11 May 2012 - 28 October 2012

Free with Museum admission. Booking not required.


Between 1837 and 1839, Charles Dickens lived next to the Foundling Hospital estate, in 48 Doughty Street, now the Charles Dickens Museum. Dickens supported the Hospital both financially and through his writing. He rented a pew in its Chapel and referred to the Hospital in his stories, novels and plays.

To mark the 200th anniversary of his birth, six people with an interest in Dickens have selected objects from the Charles Dickens Museum, and placed them within the context of the Foundling Museum. These very personal selections highlight Dickens’ philanthropy, his relationship to the Foundling Hospital and his continuing social relevance.

Selectors are actress, Gillian Anderson; Dickens descendent Mark Dickens; comedian, Armando Iannucci; Camden Councillor, Tulip Siddiq; poet, Lemn Sissay and journalist, Jon Snow. Each month a new selection will be put on display.

Currently on display are items as chosen by Gillian Anderson; a letter from Charles Dickens to the Editor of the Times, objecting to public hangings and an engraving by Nathaniel Parr (1723-1760) after Samuel Wale (1721-1786) titled An Exact Representation of the Form and Manner In Which Exposed and Deserted Young Children Are Admitted Into the Foundling Hospital, 1749.  This print depicts wealthy Londoner’s looking on, while desperate mothers draw lots to determine whether or not their baby got a place at the Hospital.  Anderson comments on ‘the human fascination with morbidity and witnessing of another’s pain’ and how ‘we have not changed so much.’

Jon Snow has selected Dickens’ writing desk, at which he wrote his last, unfinished work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Describing his selections as ‘a kind of physical jig-saw that enables us to conjure more of a sense of who Dickens was,’ Snow has also selected a dress suit worn by Dickens’ for his meeting with Queen Victoria.

Tulip Siddiq has selected a manuscript page from Oliver Twist, written while Dickens lived at 48 Doughty Street.  Siddiq, who grew up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, comments that; ‘Dickens’ social conscience, evident in the novel's pages, also resonated because of the poverty and deprivation I saw around me.’

Dickens & the Foundling is a collaboration between the Foundling Museum and Charles Dickens Museum. The Charles Dickens Museum is now closed for refurbishment until December 2012 to undertake a £3m redevelopment project. This exhibition closes at the end of October 2012. 


Charles Dickens, 1861, engraved by Edward Stodart from a pencil drawing by Rudolf Lehmann, courtesy of Dickens House Museum, Broadstairs 

Page from Autograph Manuscript from Oliver Twist (1837)


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