The Charles Dickens Museum provides evidence of Dickens’s enduring influence on the celebration of the festive season when every year, Dickens’s home is dressed for a Victorian Christmas.
Food is often an important ingredient in Dickens’s stories and a new exhibition entitled Food Glorious Food: Dinner with Dickens investigates Dickens’s relationship with food and explores the epic menus of dishes and drinks served by the Dickens family to their many guests. The exhibition also examines how Dickens’s childhood memories of hunger led to him being a generous host of many dinner parties for some of the most influential and interesting members of Victorian society.
In the London townhouse into which Dickens moved with his growing family in 1837, the exhibition uses many of the family rooms to illustrate the influence of food in many Dickens novels.
In the upstairs exhibition gallery is a series of letters which provide first hand accounts by Dickens’s dinner guests that illustrate the experience of enjoying dinner with Dickens. Fellow novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell writes a letter giving a detailed description of a dinner at Dickens’s home.
Upstairs in the nursery is a reminder that the hardship of Dickens’s own childhood and the poverty influenced his writing most notably in Oliver Twist.
The exhibition examines some of the excesses of Victorian dining and often strange recipe combinations. The full dining table showcases a number of culinary delights that were often featured in novels.
A visit to the kitchen downstairs provides some insight into some of the ‘food scandals’ of the Victorian age, food was adulterated to extend its reach which led to acorns passing as coffee, plum leaves for tea leaves and the wholesale watering-down of milk and beer. The often ‘toxic’ ingredients sold indicate that food safety was in its infancy and became one of Dickens causes to fight for reforms.
A visit to the Charles Dickens Museum in the festive season is always a pleasure and a reminder of the enduring influence of Dickens on modern Christmas celebrations. The fascinating Food Glorious Food: Dinner with Dickens exhibition gives a wider perspective on how food provided links to Dickens childhood and inspired some of the most memorable scenes in his novels.
Whilst at the museum, you can find out about the campaign to raise £180,000 in order to secure the portrait of Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) by Margaret Gillies for the nation, bringing it into the Museum’s permanent collection and placing it on public display. The portrait was thought to have been lost for more than 150 years until it was rediscovered in South Africa in late 2017. If you would like to donate, find a link here
Address: Charles Dickens Museum, 48 Doughty Street, London WC1N 2LX
Exhibition dates: 28 November 2018 – 22 April 2019
Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended
Visitors to the exhibition can also explore the Charles Dickens Museum, The Charles Dickens Museum holds the world’s most comprehensive collection of Dickens-related material, including the desk at which he wrote Great Expectations.
For more information or to book tickets, visit the Charles Dickens Museum website here
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