Dickensiana Pincushions part 2: The Marchioness arrives

Louisa Price is the curator at the Charles Dickens Museum

By Louisa Price

In the autumn of last year, curatorial volunteer Maureen England wrote a blog post about five curious pincushions in the Museum’s collection.

Dickensiana Pincushions

Dickensiana Pincushions, Charles Dickens Museum Collection

Following the post, we were contacted by an individual in the Netherlands who had a Marchioness figure. We were delighted to hear from him. For us, this is what the blog is all about: an opportunity to hear from people who may learn something about what they own and help us expand our knowledge of our own collection.

We felt the figure would go well alongside the others in our collection and her current owner agreed. The Marchioness packed her bags, boarded the bus (or UPS truck…) and made her way over to 48 Doughty Street in London.

Dickensiana Pincushion: The Marchioness

Marchioness pincushion, Charles Dickens Museum Collection

And here she is! Leaning under the weight of her stuffed middle, but still in remarkably good condition.

In The Old Curiosity Shop, Dickens describes the Marchioness on an errand out on the streets of London. The little pin cushion fits well his description:

As carrier- pigeons on being first let loose in a strange place beat the air at random for a short time before darting off towards the spot for which they are designed so did the Marchioness flutter round and round until she believed herself in safety and then bear swiftly down upon the port for which she was bound. She had no bonnet - nothing on her head but a great cap which in some old time had been worn by Sally Brass whose taste in headdresses was as we have seen peculiar - and her speed was rather retarded than assisted by her shoes which being extremely large and slipshod flew off every now and then and were difficult to find again among the crowd of passengers. Indeed the poor little creature experienced so much trouble and delay from having to grope for these articles of dress in mud and kennel and suffered in these researches so much jostling pushing squeezing and bandying from hand to hand that by the time she reached the street in which the notary lived she was fairly worn out and exhausted and could not refrain from tears.

The Old Curiosity Shop, Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness, by Phiz

The Old Curiosity Shop, Dick Swiveller and the Marchioness, by Phiz

We are pleased that we now have a female character amongst our strange collection of character pincushions from novels such as David Copperfield and Martin Chuzzlewit.


Museum Blog

This blog takes you behind the scenes at the Charles Dickens Museum, giving fresh insight on everything from discoveries new and old in our collection, to exhibitions, events and learning initiatives.

You’ll be hearing from a variety of Museum staff and volunteers, as well as guest curators, academics, artists and Dickens enthusiasts. Why not join the debate and let us know you thoughts on the latest blog by using our hashtag #CDMBlog

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