Food Glorious Food: Dinner with Dickens

Catherine and Charles Dickens moved into 48 Doughty Street, their first family home, in 1837. Eager to make their mark on society, they began to invite family, friends and interesting people, such as the author Elizabeth Gaskell, and writer and historian Thomas Carlyle and his wife Jane, to dine with them.

Literary London was abuzz with accounts of dinner with Dickens; the table display, the food, the guests and their conversation. Some accounts describe the servants who opened the door, or passed round the food but nobody mentioned the cook and housemaids, whose day had been spent labouring in the sweltering kitchen.   

Food was important to Dickens, not just as sustenance but for its moral and emotional meaning. Dickens wrote about food in his stories to insist that rich and poor alike had the right to share and enjoy food and drink; and that children deserved the security of proper meals provided by a kind and loving person. Dinner With Dickens shows how food fuelled Dickens’s imagination and represented his sense of social justice. 

This family friendly exhibition invites visitors to experience the house as either a servant or a guest, with puzzles, smell jars and soundscapes to engage all the senses. You will discover how a dinner party might be prepared and what Dickens and the people in his life (both real and imaginary) had to eat. As you explore the house you will be able to see special objects, such as Dickens’s own grand sliver fruit bowl, and read private letters to his guests. Every room tells its own story of dinner with Dickens, and shows how his appetite for shared food was sharpened by his own experience. 

Food Glorious Food: Dinner with Dickens has been funded by a National Lottery Project Grant from Arts Council England. With special thanks to guest curator Pen Vogler. We are grateful to Andrea Galer, The Royal College of Nursing, AC Silver, Bryan Douglas and a private lender for loans to this exhibition.

 Arts Council England
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