Received, a Blank Child: Dickens, Brownlow and the Foundling Hospital

27 September 2012 - 16 December 2012, 10:00 - 17:00

Free with Museum admission. Booking not required.

Charles Dickens knew the Foundling Hospital from a young age, having lived and worked nearby. He supported the institution, helped a young mother petition for a place for her child and rented a pew in the Hospital’s chapel. Dickens’ relationship with the Foundling Hospital brought him into contact with John Brownlow, the Secretary. Brownlow, himself a foundling, worked for the institution for over half a century. He was the Hospital’s first historian and created a fictional work, Hans Sloane (1831), to help publicise the charity.

In 1853 Dickens published an article about the Foundling Hospital, Received, a Blank Child. The emotive title was taken from the wording used on the entry form for children accepted into the Hospital’s care. Dickens also used the institution and its children as inspiration for his fictional work, creating the foundling Tattycoram in Little Dorrit and No Thoroughfare (1867), his last stage play co-written with Wilkie Collins that concerned the imagined history of a child from the Hospital.

This exhibition explores the facts and fictions that link the life and work of Dickens and Brownlow, illuminating the life of the Hospital during the Victorian age. Objects include letters from Dickens relating to the Foundling Hospital that have never previously been on public display.

Received, a Blank Child opens on Thursday 27 September 2012.


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