Eight years ago I traveled to London and visited Charles Dickens’ house – 48 Doughty Street, now a museum – for the first time. Dickens’ is one of my very favorite British authors so getting to see the house where he wrote was quite an event for me. My husband and I had already been in Europe 2 weeks and we made London our last stop on the tour, and Dickens’ house was our last historic stop on our very last day. I remember thinking we had plenty of time to see additional sites before heading to the Dickens’ house – or so I thought. Little did I know we would spend over an hour trying to find the ordinary looking house that seemed to blend in unassumingly on a normal looking, Camden area street. When we finally arrived, right at 5pm, the museum hostess said that the house was closing for the day. I explained that I had always wanted to see the inside of the house and that I would only spend 5 minutes if she could spare it.
The young woman, who could see the near desperation in my eyes, was gracious enough to let my husband and I in, when everyone else was shuffled out. 5 minutes – only 5 minutes? Well, we ended up spending about 15 minutes walking through the multi-tiered house where Dickens had lived 1837 to 1839. Although I can’t remember every detail of the house (I don’t think we were allowed to take photos and I was just happy to be there) it was very much like the Victorian images Dickens’ wrote about in his books – simple but elegant furnishings appropriate for that time period. Quite lovely and definitely what I imagined. It was easy to imagine him writing his famous works, including Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby in this house.
After our 15 minutes of browsing the many small rooms (many that were made to look like people – maybe even Dickens – was still living there) we thanked our hostess once more and made out way out the bright green front door. My husband snapped one final photo of me outside the house. And to this day, I look at it and feel a slight melancholy in my heart.
In honor of Charles Dickens 200th birthday on February 7, reread your favorite Dickens novel. Can you guess what mine is?