Charles Dickens (1812 - 70)

Daniel Maclise,'Charles Dickens', 1839. © Tate, London 2011

Daniel Maclise (1806-1870)

Charles Dickens, 1839

Oil on canvas, 870 x 686 mm

Bequeathed by Rev. Sir Edward R. Jodrell Bt 1888


© Tate, London 2011

Daniel Maclise and Charles Dickens were introduced in 1836 by a mutual friend, the historian John Forster (1812–76). The two men became firm friends, enjoying various social events, holidays, visits to the theatre, and forays around the London slums. They corresponded with each other frequently, however, Dickens destroyed many of Maclise’s letters after the artist’s death so that his personal affairs would remain private. Their close friendship is apparent in Dickens’s eulogy at Maclise’s memorial dinner, held at the Royal Academy on 30 April, 1870:

For many years, I was one of the two most intimate friends and most constant companions of the late Mr. Maclise. […] The gentlest and most modest of men, the freest as to his generous appreciation of young aspirants and the frank- est and largest hearted as to his peers, incapable of a sordid or ignoble thought, gallantly sustaining the dignity of his vocation, without a grain of self assertion, wholesomely natural at the last as at the first. (Dickens's speech at the Royal Academy, published in The Times, reproduced by O'Driscoll, pp. 232-233)

Maclise produced a number of portraits of the Dickens family including one of Dickens in 1839. It was commissioned by the author’s publishers, Chapman and Hall, who had it engraved for the frontispiece to the novel Nicholas Nickelby (1838-9). In the painting, the 27 year old Dickens is shown seated at a writing desk with a manuscript to hand; a successful young writer at the beginning of his career. Maclise also produced illustrations for some of Dickens’ books in the 1840s. These included full-page frontispiece illustrations and title pages for The Chimes (1845) and The Cricket on the Hearth (1846).