It’s time to discover the other Dickens

A new exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum in London looks at the life of the novelist’s unfairly maligned wife.

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Possessions and letters from The Other Dickens: Discovering Catherine exhibition Credit: Charles Dickens Museum

A new exhibition at the Charles Dickens Museum in London aims to debunk the myths surrounding the life of the writer’s wife, Catherine Dickens.

The Other Dickens: Discovering Catherine, which runs until 20 November, is guest curated by Professor Lillian Nayder based on her 2011 biography of Catherine, and attempts to redress the reputation of Dickens’ wife after the failure of their marriage. 

“When Charles and Catherine separated, he characterised her as an unnatural mother who shirked her maternal duties. But his claims are readily disproven by Catherine’s behaviour, by the evident affection between her and her children and by Dickens’s own statements to the contrary about his wife,” says Professor Nayder.

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Possessions and letters from The Other Dickens: Discovering Catherine exhibition Credit: Charles Dickens Museum

The exhibition will showcase a combination of rarely seen exhibits, including many personal items and letters, to present an accurate picture of a woman who met Charles Dickens in her teens and whose own character and achievements remain in his shadow, and clouded by Dickens’s claims about her parenting skills and intellectual inferiority.

Working its way through their home, the exhibition will explore Catherine’s childhood in Scotland, her relationship with her sisters, the role she played in Charles’s success, her place in London’s literary scene and her musical and needlework skills. It will also reflect on her experience of motherhood, as well as the effect of the loss of three of her children.

This special exhibition is free with general admission to the Charles Dickens Museum.

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