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Charles Dickens

6 of 95 portraits of Charles Dickens

© National Portrait Gallery, London

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Charles Dickens

by Herbert Watkins
albumen print, arched top, 1858
7 1/2 in. x 6 in. (190 mm x 152 mm)
Purchased, 1985
Primary Collection
NPG P301(19)

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  • (George) Herbert Watkins (1828-1916), Photographer. Artist or producer associated with 260 portraits, Sitter in 1 portrait.

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This portrait, along with NPG P301(20), represents the dual aspects of Dickens's high-profile career, first as a writer and then, from 1858, as a public reader of his works. They mark the assured celebrity the author had attained by this point in the mid-nineteenth century. While Daniel Maclise's early portrait of Dickens captures a romantic image of the handsome young writer enjoying the first taste of fame, Watkins records the confident stance of the established author who had already become a household name but still had the zeal to embark on a secondary theatrical career.

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Current affairs

After Palmerston's government collapses, the Earl of Derby becomes Prime Minister for second time, again heading a minority government.
The Property qualification for MPs is abolished; one of the demands made by the Chartists, this allowed men who did not own property to stand as parliamentary candidates. Lionel Nathan Rothschild becomes the first Jew to sit in Britain's House of Commons, taking his oath on the Old Testament.

Art and science

The pianist Charles Hallé founds a symphony orchestra in Manchester, the Halle; now Britain's oldest professional orchestra. The Hallé symphony rose to prominence in the mid-20th century, under the tenure of conductor John Barbirolli, during which time they made many recordings, including Ralph Vaughan Williams's Symphony No. 8.


The British Crown assumes control of India from the East India Company.
The Treaty of Tientsin, ending the Second Opium War, gives European powers new rights to intervene in Chinese affairs
The Fenian Brotherhood is founded by John O'Mahony, an Irish emigrant to the United States, to support Irish republican ambitions.

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